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world transportation

Transportation is defined as the movement of people, goods and commodities from one place to another either by land, water or by air. In other words, transportation is the movement of people, goods and services from place to the other.



The types of transport are grouped into three main classes. These are:

  • Transport by land.
  • Transport by water.
  • Transport by air.



Land transport is the movement of people and goods from one place to another on land. Land transport is further sub-divided into two. These are road transport and rail transport.

  • Road Transport: Road transport involves the use of motor cars, buses, motor cycles, Lorries and trucks to move people and goods from one place to another. It is the most common means of transport. There are different types of roads and these vary according to size and functions.


Advantages of Road Transport

  1. It is the most common means of transportation.
  2. It provides door-to-door services i.e. it can get to anywhere within the country.
  3. It makes goods available where they are scarce.
  4. Roads facilitate the movement of people within a short distance.
  5. It feeds water, rail and air transportation.


Disadvantages of Road Transport

  1. Roads are very expensive to construct and maintain.
  2. Roads are difficult to construct, especially in highlands and swampy areas.
  3. The volume of goods and passengers carried by roads is limited.
  4. Roads are more prone to accident than any other means of transportation.
  5. They are more prone to damage, especially wash-outs caused by heavy rain.


Limitations of Transportation by Roads

Major physical factors that may hinder the development of roads in Tropical Africa include:

  1. Presence of highlands and other rugged relief.
  2. Presence of swampy areas.
  3. Soil erosion caused by heavy rain.
  4. Presence of many rivers.
  5. Lack of finance to construct and maintain the roads.



  1. Roads should be constructed on lowlands, passes or gap around mountainous areas with gutters or culverts.
  2. Construction of flyovers in marshy areas.
  3. Construction of bridges across rivers.
  4. Fund should be made readily available to maintain the roads.


  • Rail Transport: Rail transport is the slowest and the cheapest means of transport by land. Rail transport consists of locomotive and coaches which run on two metal rails. The speed and goods carried by train depend on the width of the railway gauges. The gauge of a railway is the distance between two rails. Types of gauges include: narrow gauge adapted to hilly areas (107cm in width) is commonly used in Nigeria, standard gauge (143cm in width) on which the fastest rail move (This is common in U.S.A and China), the broad gauge (160cm in width) is adapted to lowlands areas.


Reasons for construction of Railways

  1. To open up new areas for major crop production e.g. Jos-Maiduguri.
  2. To tap resources such as agricultural, mineral, forest etc. for example rail network like Minna, Koura Namoda rail network.
  3. To supply raw materials e.g. East African Railway.
  4. To link important cities and facilitate movement of people e.g. Abidjan-Ouagadougou.
  5. For the purpose of administration.
  6. For postal services.


Advantages of Rail Transport

  1. Railway is the most convenient means of transporting bulky goods (raw and manufactured goods) to and from industrial areas.
  2. It is very cheap in the transportation of people and goods from place to place.
  3. It has the advantage of transporting goods and passengers over long distances unlike roads.
  4. It helps to open up new land which is potentially good for mining and agricultural crops.
  5. Underground railway provides the most convenient means of carrying passengers in urban areas.
  6. It is a free natural route to use.
  7. Maintenance cost is low.
  8. It is relatively safe to use.
  9. Refrigerated vessels can carry fresh and perishable cargo over long distances.


Disadvantages of Railway Transport

  1. It involves high cost of construction and maintenance.
  2. It is very slow and therefore not suitable for perishable goods.
  3. Constant stopping in each station and changing of passengers waste a lot of time.
  4. Rail transport depends on roads to feed it with passengers and goods at different stations.


Limitations or problems of Rail Transport

  1. Rail transport is too slow.
  2. It has very low patronage and high competition with other forms of transport.
  3. Lack of spare parts.
  4. Lack of technical know-how and poor maintenance.
  5. Inadequate financing or funding.
  6. It is not flexible.
  7. There is always derailment due to excessive flooding.
  8. It has poor time schedule.
  9. It has poor standard coaches and narrow gauges with single tracks.
  10. There is the problem of poor management.
  11. Terrain or steep gradients affect construction.
  12. Unstable government policy.


Ways of improving railway transport in Tropical Africa

  1. Deliberate effort should be made towards the expansion of the rail network. This will generate growth in the economy.
  2. Effort geared towards improvement of the efficiency of the rail network should be undertaken.
  3. Government should make capital available to railway authorities, this will enhance efficiency.
  4. Training and retraining of personnel should be undertaken from time to time.
  5. There should be regular maintenance of rail facilities e.g. track, coaches, and engines. This will increase efficiency.
  6. Development of international rail transport system should be embarked upon to spur international trade.
  7. There should be improved management techniques: new innovation in management should be encouraged.
  8. Adoption of standard gauges is very important, so as to enhance operational efficiency.



Water transportation involves the use of water bodies like rivers, lakes, oceans etc. to move people and goods from one place to other using canoes, boats, ships and other vessels.

Water transportation is also sub-divided into:

  • Inland navigation.
  • Ocean navigation.


  • Inland Navigation or Waterways: This involves transportation by rivers, lakes, lagoons, etc. to move people and goods within a given country using boats, canoe and other smaller vessels.


Advantages of Inland Navigation

  1. Inland navigation is very cheap.
  2. Low valued goods are transported cheaply.
  3. It may shorten the distance between places.


Disadvantages of Inland Navigation

  1. Rivers at times flow into areas of limited commercial value.
  2. Most rivers have cataracts and rapids which impede navigation.
  3. The volume of water in rivers changes with seasons and this prevents all-year-round navigation.


  • Ocean Navigation: This involves the transportation by oceans and seas using ships, ocean vessels, oil tankers, etc. to move people and goods from one place to another either within a country or between countries. Ocean transport is very good in the transportation of bulky goods over long distances.


Advantages of Ocean Navigation

  1. It is the cheapest means of transport between countries.
  2. The ocean is free for all nations to use.
  3. It is used to move bulky goods from one country to another during international trade.
  4. Cost of construction and maintenance is low and only restricted to ships and ports.
  5. It is useful in transporting goods over long distances.
  6. It is relatively safe.
  7. It is also used in the transportation of passengers.


Disadvantages of Ocean Navigation

  1. It is the slowest means of transport as it takes a very long time to get to its destination.
  2. Cost of acquiring a ship is very high.
  3. Cost of port construction and maintenance is high.
  4. Lack of technical know-how in ship maintenance.


Limitations or problems of Water Transportation

  1. Presence of waterfalls, rapids and cataracts limits the use of rivers.
  2. Presence of floating vegetation (i.e. water weeds) such as water hyacinths.
  3. It is only useful in countries with coastlines and ports as against landlocked countries with no oceans or seas.
  4. Seasonality of most rivers is a problem.
  5. Most rivers have narrow gorges and ports may be silted up or frozen.
  6. Most rivers are short and contain shallow water.
  7. Water transport is too slow for passengers and perishable goods.
  8. There is limited capital to construct seaports.
  9. The problem of sea sickness during navigation.
  10. Capital intensive in dredging of harbors and waterways.
  11. Silting of river mouths, coupled with sand spits and sand bars at ports.


Solutions to the problems of Water Transportation

  1. Rivers should be dredged regularly.
  2. There should be improved technology and installation of navigation aids which are modern and the use of ice breakers.
  3. Construction of canals to by-pass waterfalls and cataracts.
  4. Ships should be equipped with refrigerated holds.
  5. Water weeds should be put under permanent control.
  6. Medical facilities on board should be improved.
  7. Loans should be granted to construct and maintain seaports.
  8. Canals should be constructed to reach landlocked countries.


World’s major Ocean (Shipping Routes)

The following are some of the major ocean trade routes:

  1. The North Atlantic route: This is the busiest and the most important route that links two most populous and heavily industrialized parts of the world i.e. Western Europe and Eastern part of North America. About 1/10 of the world’s shipping trade and about half of the world’s major ports are located in this region.
  2. The Panama Canal route: This is a domestic route between the east and west coasts of the U.S.A. The canal has also improved the trade of the Caribbean countries like Mexico, Cuba, and Jamaica etc.
  3. Trans-Pacific route: This route is the longest in distance and has increasing significance in view of the rapid economic development of the West – U.S.A, China, Japan, Australia, etc.
  4. The Cape route: This is the oldest route. It serves Europe through South America to Colombo.
  5. The South Atlantic route: This is an important east-west route between South America, Europe, West Africa and South Africa. The largest volume of trade is between Eastern Brazil and Argentina.
  6. The Mediterranean – Asiatic route (Suez canal route).
  7. The North Pacific route.


Differences between Rail and Water Transport

  1. Rail uses locomotive and coaches while water uses ships, boats and canoe.
  2. Trains run on two metal rails while water routes are natural and free.
  3. Rail is faster than water transport.
  4. Water courses may go through areas not economically viable but rail lines are always constructed to link areas of economic importance.
  5. Water transport uses ports while rail uses railways stations.
  6. Water transportation is cheaper in term of construction and maintenance.



Transport by air is the fastest and the most expensive means of transportation. Air transport involves the use of helicopters, jets, airplanes and rockets to move people and light goods from one place to another by air. Air transport could be chartered flight or regular flights. Chartered flight involves the hiring of aircraft for specific purposes and is usually operated by companies while Regular flight involves the flight of aircraft through regular routes and on fixed schedules.

Regular flights can operate in two major ways:

  • Internal (local) Air Transport: This involves the movement of aircraft within a country e.g. from Warri to Abuja. Such aircraft usually lands and takes off from local (domestic) airport.
  • International Air Transport: This involves the movement of aircraft from one country to another. Such aircraft normally lands or takes off from international airports e.g. Murtala Mohammed and Aminu Kano International airports.


Advantages of Air Transport

  1. It is the fastest means of transportation.
  2. It uses direct routes.
  3. It can reach any place provided there are landing facilities.
  4. Airplanes can cross mountains, dense forests and large oceans with great ease and speed.
  5. Urgently required Medicare supplies, machine parts, express mails are easily dispatched by airplanes.
  6. It can carry valuable and perishable cargo.
  7. It is very comfortable.
  8. No cost is incurred in establishing air routes.
  9. It is best suited for passenger traffic.


Disadvantages of Air Transport

  1. It is expensive to operate and maintain, especially the aircraft and airport facilities.
  2. Lack of space in the aircraft restricts their use for flight.
  3. It is very expensive in terms of charges or fares paid by passengers.
  4. It is easily affected by bad weather which makes visibility very poor.
  5. There is the problem of safety, as incidence of plane crashing and hijacking is becoming very rampant.


Limitations or problems of Air Transport

  1. There is limited capital to construct airports and purchase aircraft.
  2. There is inadequate indigenous skilled labour for construction and maintenance of airports.
  3. There is the problem of inadequate spare parts.
  4. There is limited trading between countries in the sub-region.
  5. Weather hazards e.g. harmattan, line squalls may limit air transportation.
  6. There is problem of low patronage due to low income of the people.
  7. There is also the problem of poor management and inadequate security.
  8. Low level of technology.


Solutions to the problems of Air Transport

  1. Inter-regional trade within the region should be improved.
  2. Educational system should be changed to favour technical and scientific skills.
  3. Loans should be sourced locally or from abroad.
  4. Spare parts should be procured or sourced locally.
  5. There should be improvement in technology and standard of living.
  6. Efficient management should be adopted.
  7. Improved weather forecasting.
  8. There should be training and retraining of personnel.


The major international Routes

  • The North Atlantic Route: This is the busiest and most important air route in the world. It links the two most populated industrialized regions in the world i.e. Western Europe and North America. This route handles more than 50% of the world’s air traffic. The most important airports along this route are London, Frankfurt, Rome, and Paris. In North America, it includes New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
  • The Far East Route: This route links Europe and North America to Far East. The major airports along this route are Tokyo (Japan), Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in Asia, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia.


Advantages of Air Transportation over other means of Transportation

  1. It is faster than any other means of transportation e.g. road, rail.
  2. It is used for time saving transportation.
  3. It covers longer distances than others e.g. road, water.
  4. It is more secured to transport valuable items than road.
  5. It guarantees better access to remote areas than others.
  6. Air routes do not require maintenance.
  7. It is an important means of military movement than roads, rail or water.


Differences between Air and Water Transportations

  1. Air transport is faster than water transportation.
  2. Air transport costs more than water transportation in the haulage of goods and services.
  3. Water transportation is best suited for carrying of bulky goods than air transport.
  4. Air transport is more used for movement of human beings, perishable and precious goods than water transport.
  5. Air transport can be used to reach the remotest, the farthest and most uninhabitable places on earth but water transport is limited to water bodies only.
  6. Water transport is interrupted by hazards of rapids, falls and fog while air transport is disrupted by visibility alone.



This system of transportation involves the use of hollow pipes in the transportation of water, crude oil (petroleum) and gas. This system is safer than using tankers or trailers in the transportation of these liquids.


Roles of Transportation in Economic development

Transportation in general (whether by road, railway, water or air) plays an important role in the economic development of all nations. The roles of transportation in economic development include:

  1. Movement of goods and services: Transportation ensures the movement of goods and services from point of origin to their destination point in urban and industrial areas e.g. air transport moves mails, perishable goods, high valued goods, military equipment, etc.
  2. Movement of people: Transportation equally ensures the movement of people (passengers) from one part of a country to another, either for work or for other purposes.
  3. Specific purposes: Air transport could be used for mineral prospecting and air surveying for map making.
  4. National and international trade: Transportation enhances trade between two countries and also between different regions in a country. Through water transport, Nigeria is able to transport her petroleum to U.S.A and Britain and get cars and machinery from these countries.
  5. Opening up new lands and areas: Through various means of transportation, new areas are opened and even some inaccessible places are brought to limelight for proper recognition and development.
  6. National integration: Through different means of transportation, different regions in a country are brought in constant touch with one another. This enhances national integration and interaction between different people in a country.
  7. Diffusion of ideas and technology: Through transportation, new ideas and technology are transferred from one country to another.
  8. Access to natural resources: Through transportation, different natural resources are discovered and exploited in a country.
  9. Development of tourism: People from different parts of the world visit tourist centres through different means of transportation.
  10. Employment: All means of transportation employ lots of people, thereby, enabling them to earn a living.
  11. Generation of revenue: All means of transportation obtain license from government and pay taxes which enable a country to get revenue.
  12. Linkages between areas of production with areas of consumption: Through transportation, the area of production is easily linked with areas where the goods are consumed.
  13. Increased production: Transportation enables people to increase their production either in agricultural, mineral or industrial goods.


How slow pace of Transport development contributes to poor economic development in Tropical Africa

Poor transportation can limit the economic development in a particular country in the following ways:

  1. Poor rate of mobility: Poor transportation does lead to poor rate of mobility, especially in developing countries.
  2. It limits industrial growth: Poor transportation does limit industrial growth as raw materials, services and unfinished goods are not easily transported to the points of their need.
  3. Poor level of trade: It also leads to poor national and international trade.
  4. It limits diffusion of ideas and technology: Poor transportation also limits the diffusion of new ideas and technology or innovations.
  5. Poor national integration: Poor transportation encourages poor national integration. It leads to difficulty in the administration of a country which can lead to less sense of belonging among the citizens of such country.
  6. Inadequate exploitation of natural resources: Poor transportation can limit effective exploitation of natural resources in the area.
  7. Inability to open up new lands: Poor transportation can lead to inability to open up new lands for development purposes.
  8. It discourages investors: Investors are usually discouraged where there is poor development in transportation.
  9. It causes inflation: Middlemen can capitalize on the situation to inflate the prices of goods, at the area where they are demanded, either for processing or for consumption.
  10. Slow development: There will be slow development in all sectors as various means of transportation remain under-developed.


Problems of World Transportation

Problems which can limit or hinder transportation can be grouped under physical and human factors:

Physical Factors

  1. Presence of Highlands: This limits the construction of roads, railways and airports in an area.
  2. Distance: The longer the distance between two places, the more the transport, energy, time and cost of transportation.
  3. Presence of marshy areas: This also limits the development of roads and railways. This can only be overcome through the construction of fly-overs.
  4. Presence of many rivers: This is also a problem in the development of transportation by road or railway. The only solution is to construct bridges across such rivers.
  5. Soil erosion: Owing to heavy rainfall, the roads and railway tracks are often washed away. The solution is to construct culverts or good gutters.
  6. Poor visibility: This is a peculiar problem to air and ocean transportation due to the formation of fog in the atmosphere.


Human Factors

  1. Lack of capital: Owing to lack of capital, roads, railways, airports, etc. are often difficult to construct and maintain.
  2. Lack of technical know-how: Poor knowledge of the operation of these means of transport does lead to wastage and deterioration of transport facilities.
  3. Inadequate spare parts: Spare parts in most cases in developing countries are not always available to replace worn-out parts.
  4. Low patronage: Owing to low patronage of these means of transportation, partly due to low income and low volume of trade, government is not always encouraged to construct roads, railways, etc.


Ways of enhancing Transport Development in Tropical Africa

  1. Expansion of the road network to rural areas.
  2. Improvement on the efficiency of the rail network.
  3. Improvement on the air transport facilities.
  4. Sourcing of necessary funds.
  5. Improvement on intercontinental transport system.
  6. Training of transport personnel.
  7. Sourcing of spare parts for ships, aircraft, vehicles, etc.
  8. Construction of bridges and flyovers in riverine and marshy areas.
  9. Regular maintenance of transport routes.

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