ITF in Focus: Connectivity and inclusive growth in emerging economies: the role of regional freight transport


19 May
09:00 to 10:30
Hall 3, Level +1

The session focused on the importance of improving connectivity in emerging economies to answer unmet demand while being inclusive and not leaving any region, country or population behind.

Radu Dinsecu started by sharing a road sector perspective on the importance of this topic. The road is probably the most flexible and accessible mode of transport connecting the most remote areas. The current situation is dramatic for emerging economies facing a driver shortage crisis combined with disruptions of supply chains caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, closely followed by the ongoing war in Ukraine. Regarding transport operators, the fuel price increase has cancelled their small margins in many regions, supporting rapid inflation growth.

The situation of the maritime sector is similar. As pointed out by Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid, current international sanctions have increased dwell times in ports for document processing. It adds delays in a market suffering supply interruptions and a rebound in activity following the pandemic, creating congestion. Relying on one mode of transport is not possible anymore, and this lack of resilience is clear the current succession of crises. Efforts must be put into improving infrastructure and connectivity between maritime and hinterland transport.

Concerning rail, Philip Van den Bosch confirmed the importance of modal interconnectivity for enhancing the strength of the network and supporting regional development. From a sustainability perspective, the societal impact of modes should be better accounted for in transport costs, and we must play on the strength of each mode.

From a systemic perspective, Binyam Reja pointed out that the current crises have highlighted how the world is interconnected, as the impact of disruptions spread worldwide. It also shows the lack of resilience of the network and the value of shorter supply chains. An immediate outcome of this situation is growing inflation, hurting the poor first, multiplying the impact on emerging economies.

In Asia, the huge ongoing freight demand increase underlines the importance of efficient transport and transport nodes. James Leather insisted that responses to bottlenecks in the current system are at an early stage, and new routes must be defined to efficiently carry the expected volumes.

The panel then discussed potential improvements to enhance connectivity. Infrastructure development is key. This includes digitalisation and smoother border crossing and administrative formalities (e.g. including more use of e-CMR, e-TIR and TIR conventions, e-Visas, e-Permits), the adoption of standards, predictable policies all over the world and improving the physical and digital connectivity and interoperability between maritime and inland transport. Special attention must be paid to traffic bottlenecks (mostly border-crossing points), which could be reduced by levelling playing the field in terms of taxation and incentives. Most importantly, stakeholders must regularly talk to each other, and a regional development planning approach should be adopted.

The current supply chain crisis has highlighted opportunities for emerging economies with the development of new commodity flow routes to diversify sourcing. It is essential to take advantage of international connectivity to boost local connectivity while considering the negative externalities in discussion with a broad range of stakeholders.

Approaches identified to achieving sustainability objectives in the future included increased use of low carbon fuels (LNG, CNG, biofuels), more efficient logistics, use of high capacity vehicles, new vehicle technologies, driver training, and digitalisation. Building inland transport systems with a rail backbone, promoting multimodality through hub and spoke networks was also suggested. Regionalising trade flows to reduce the length of supply chains was expected to improve sustainability as well as resilience. Implementing taxes on polluting vehicles was seen as central to financing sustainable solutions and planning for decarbonisation.

Decarbonisation is essential but not the only objective; we should target pollution and road safety. Achieving a net zero-emission future will only be possible if we act at the whole system level.


Philip Van Den Bosch

Senior Freight Strategy Advisor

International Union of Railways (UIC)

James Leather

Chief of the Transport Sector Group

Asian Development Bank (ADB)

Binyam Reja

Global Practice Manager & Acting Global Director for Transport

World Bank

Radu Dinescu


International Road Transport Union (IRU)

Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid

Secretary General

Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals (FEPORT)

ITF in Focus session: Connectivity and inclusive growth in emerging economies: freight transport