Esoma Online Revision Resources

Transport and Communication - Geography Form 4

By the end of the session you should be able to;

a) differentiate between transport and communication.

b) Identify modes of transport

Definition of transport and communication


This is the physical carriage and movement of goods and people from one place to another.


This is the whole process of transmitting or exchanging information between persons.

Modes of Transport

The modes of transport refer to the way or manner in which goods or people move. These include;

  • Land transport
  • Water transport
  • Air transport
  • We shall discuss each of the modes starting with land transport

    Human and Animal Transport

    Human beings carry light goods on their heads, backs, shoulders or their hands.
    Domesticated animals like oxen, horses, camels, donkeys can carry goods on their backs known as (pack animals) or pull loaded carts as draught animals.


    Human and animal transport has the following advantages;

    1. It is affordable
    2. Readily available
    3. It is safe
    4. Environment friendly, no pollution
    5. Complementary to other means


    However they have few disadvantages.

    1. Insecurity of goods
    2. Low speed, therefore causing delays
    3. Limited carrying capacity
    4. Can obstruct other road users especially in urban areas.

    Land transport

    Road transport

    This is the most widely used mode of transport. There are various classes of roads according to their quality and level of development. They are:

  • All weather roads
  • Dry weather roads
  • Motorable track
    1. Advantages of road transport.

      1. Flexibility; facilitating door to door service.
      2. Convenience: Road transport can be used at one's convenient time.
      3. It is fast especially on short distances
      4. Road construction and maintenance is cheaper than railways
      5. Road links with other means of transport like sea, air and railway.
      6. Roads can be used while still under construction.

      However road transport experiences some disadvantages as follows.

    2. Traffic congestion and jams
    3. Uneconomical due to limited carrying capacity compared to railway

      1. They are prone to accidents due to poor state of the vehicles or roads.
      1. Road transport can be affected by weather, heavy rains and foggy conditions lead to poor visibility and earth roads become impassable during wet season
      1. Vehicles cause air pollution by emitting exhaust fumes.

      Inter-continental highways

      Railway transport

      In railway transport people use trains which move on laid out rails. The use of railways is less extensive in Africa as shown on the map.

      The railway transport offers the following advantages;

      The large capacity and low transport cost compared to roads especially in the movement of bulky goods.

    4. Reliability and efficiency. This arises from fixed schedules used by trains some developed countries have electrified railway systems which move people very fast.
    5. Economical in terms of space. Rails occupy a narrow land space.
      1. Smooth flow of the traffic without congestion or jam. This is so because only one train moves on a track at a time.
      2. Comfort. This is realized during the transportation of people where the accommodation is provided for passengers.
          1. Trains are less prone to accidents than motor vehicles.
          2. Continuous service- railway transport is not easily affected by weather conditions.
          3. Low maintenance cost once built railways do not require frequent repairs or re-relaying.

          Despite the many advantages of railway transport,there are few disadvantages of Railway transport:

          1. Low speed: railway transport is generally slow and unsuitable for perishable goods.
          2. Uneconomical: Initial construction cost is high.
          3. Inflexibility: It is inflexible since once the rails are laid they remain fixed therefore door to door service is not available. They also operate on fixed schedule.
          4. Uneven distribution of railway line: the railway transport is selective in favour of economically productive regions and unlike roads.
          5. Varied railway gauge: Interconnection between countries using different gauges is impossible leading to transshipment of goods
          1. Terrain:Railway lines have to be built in relatively level ground as trains cannot climb steep slopes and negotiate corners.
          1. Trains can only move on rails after completion of construction work unlike roads.
          2. Dependant on other means of transport since door to door services cannot be provided and the journey is usually completed by road.


          Pipeline is a means of moving of mainly fluids and gases through pipes. These pipes are manufactured to prevent corrosion and leakages. Pipeline transport is least distributed in the world. In Kenya, the oil pipeline extends from Mombasa through Nairobi to Kisumu and to Eldoret.


          The pipeline system has the following advantages.

          1. Constant supply; they allow continuous flow and supply with minimum stop over or congestion and therefore the fastest means of transporting fluids.
          2. Reliable and convenient. Highly inflammable products like petroleum are secure from fires and theft especially those laid underground.
          3. Low operating costs. The cost of operating and maintaining is low, minimal labor is required therefore less expenses on salaries and wages.
          4. Unaffected by the weather. Pipelines are not vulnerable to bad weather conditions like heavy rains, storms, fog and extreme temperature changes.
          5. Limited pollution. Pollution which is very rare may occur in case of leakages from the pipes.
          6. Flexibility. Pipelines can be laid on both water surface and land.

          The following are the disadvantages of pipeline transport.

          1. Selectivity: Pipeline can only be used for only one type of fluids at a time.
          2. Leakages:In case of any leakage, heavy losses are incurred which may lead to environmental pollution
          3. Permanence: Re-routing of the products is impossible and other means like roads have to be used.
          4. Insecurity; This may be experienced in case of internal or external sabotage.
          5. Heavy initial capital outlay: This is incurred in purchasing special pipes, pumping machinery.

          Water Transport

          Sea Waterways.

          Sea water transport involves movement of people and goods connecting countries and continents with sea ports all over the world.

          Main Vessels

          The main vessels used in sea transport include liners and tramps.Liners are ships which operate along fixed routes on fixed time schedules and have a fixed rate of freight charges.
          There are two types of liners, passenger liners and cargo.Some cargo liners carry specialized goods and have special design especially oil tankers.


          The sea transport has been modernized with the development of refrigeration facilities which enable transportation for perishable goods for longer distances.On the other hand containerization where goods are packed in standard steel metal containers sealed at the port of origin and unsealed at the destination is a mile stone in shipping industry. This is because containerization saves;

          1. A lot of time in loading and offloading of containers.
          2. It is economical in terms of space because it allows tight packing of containers.
          3. The safety and security of the goods is ensured.
          4. They are easy to handle in loading and offloading.

          Sea Routes

          The well marked sea routes are influenced by the availability of ocean terminals for refueling; the main trading activities among various regions and absence of physical barriers like coral reefs which may hamper safe shipping.  The major concentration of these routes is concentrated in the northern hemisphere due to high degree of industrialization, intensive trading, high population and development of port.

          Major World Sea Routes

          There are six major world sea routes.

          1. Panama Canal sea route: Connects the pacific and Atlantic ocean between North America and South America.
          2. Cape of Good Hope sea route: Connects western coast of Africa, south east Africa, Newzealand and Australia.
          3. North pacific sea route: The eastern coast of Asia and Western North America.
          4. North Atlantic sea route: links or connects Western Europe to eastern North America.
          5. Mediterranean Asiatic sea route: It connets Europe to Africa through the Mediterranean Sea and the Far East countries.
          6. Trans -Atlantic sea route: Connects Europe to eastern South America.

          The second category of water transport is the use of inland water ways.


          Rivers that are navigable permit smooth movement of vessels e.g. boats. Some navigable rivers are;

        1. Parts of river Congo
        2. River Nile from Uganda to Khartoum
        3. River Ogowe in Gabon
        4. Upper sections of river Niger
        5. Let us discuss why some rivers are unnavigable in Africa.

          • The presence of waterfalls and rapids on some rivers under navigation.
          • Shallow sections along some river courses make the river unnavigable.
          • Narrow deep sections of the rivers make them unnavigable.
          • Presence of rock outcrops hinder movement of vessels in some parts.
          • Most of the rivers suffer from seasonal fluctuation of water regime as they pass through some regions which receive low rainfall.
          • Some rivers have floating vegetation or swamps which make navigable channels very narrow.


          Some of inland water ways are found on lakes.Lake Victoria forms the largest water way in East Africa serving Kenya Uganda and Tanzania in the movement of goods and passengers.Other lakes that are significant in inland transport include Lake Tanganyika, Malawi and Albert. They serve the eastern Africa and other parts of Africa.

          Canal Transport.

          A canal is a water channel that cuts through land for boats or ships to travel along examples of canals are;

        6. Suez Canal which joins the Mediterranean and the Red sea.
        7. Panama Canal linking Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean.
        8. There are also some canals constructed alongside some rivers to bypass waterfalls and sudd. for example Jonglei canal joins the town of Bor to Malakal thus bypassing the Sudd.

          One of the successful cases of inland water ways is seen on the great lakes and St. Lawrence sea way.

          St Lawrence Water way

          The great lakes and St. Lawrence River form an integrated river and lake water in north America. St Lawrence Sea way is the world's longest and busiest inland waterway stretching for over 3680km. The inland water way was developed through the cooperation of Canada and U.S.A. The two countries set out to remove the natural shortcomings which interfered with navigability by:

        9. Constructing canals to join lakes
        10. Constructing dam to solve the problem of rapids and waterfalls.
        11. Deepening shallow sections of the sea way to accommodate large fishing vessels.
        12. Rocky islands and bottlenecks were blasted.
        13. Providing icebreakers during the winter season.
        14. Installing the radar system to allow navigation during foggy weather.
        15. Locks were also constructed to raise water levels in the lakes at intervals.After completion, the St. Lawrence Seaway stretched from port Duluth near Lake Superior to the mouth of St. Lawrence River in the Atlantic Ocean. The St. Lawrence Seaway had strong impacts on the economics of U.S.A and Canada.
        16. The role of the Seaway in the Economies of Canada and USA

        17. Increase the volume of trade between Canada and U.S.A and the rest of the world since ocean going ships can sail from the Atlantic to the interior of North America. Wheat, timber, industrial products and iron ore from North America are exported to many parts of the world.

        18. Hydroelectric power production. The dams constructed along seaway and Niagara falls generate H.E.P for industrial and domestic purposes.
        19. Development of lake port and towns. Increased transport activities along the route, growth of agricultural and industrial activities led to the growth of many lake ports and towns. E.g Duluth on Lake Superior, Chicago on Lake Michigan, Buffalo on Lake Erie and Toronto on Lake Ontario.
        20. Source of foreign income; The Niagara Falls and the entire seaway form a special tourist attraction earning a lot of foreign exchange.
        21. Growth of industries. The growth of industries resulted from advantages such as cheap means of transport availability of hydro-electric power, plenty of raw materials. The main industries include:
        22. iron and steel manufacturing

          agricultural processing

          chemical manufacturing

          paper making

          cement manufacturing.

        23. Creation of employment opportunities. Many jobs were created in the industrial and transport sectors, in the shipping ports and tertiary sectors. The standard of living greatly improved among the people in the region.
        24. Air Transport

          Air transport refers to the movement of people and goods using aircraft like aeroplane, helicopters and hot air balloons.

          Air transport is categorised as either international travel or domestic travel. For this mode of transport to be used airports are built. This facilitate the landing, taking off, fueling, loading and off loading, boarding and disembarking of passengers. The landing and take off of air craft is controlled from a control tower


          The development of air transport is least seen in the developing countries because of high cost of operation and high technological knowhow required. It is also very expensive to build the airport and by the aero planes. The following countries have developed major airports.


          Air transport has the following advantages

        25. Fast and efficient; Air transport operates on schedule and rarely experiences traffic jam and congestion.
        26. Comfort; It is the most comfortable means of passengers transport over long distances.
        27. Low risk of damage; Safety and security of goods and passengers is ensured because of organized stage of movement.
        28. Flexibility; Rerouting is possible in case of bad weather or social problems.
        29. Limitless scope of operation; Air transport is not limited by physical barriers like mountains.
        30. Direct linkage; Aeroplanes can move from one airport to another e.g. Nairobi to Kampala. This ensures a safety of both passengers and cargo.

        31. Disadvantages

          However air transport has the following disadvantages.

          1. Expensive. The initial capital outlay for buying an aeroplane and establishing well equipped airport is very high. Maintenance and operating cost is very high. This limits the use of aero planes even in domestic freights.

          2. Requires highly trained personnel. A transport requires highly trained with high technical expertise in the control and operation of air craft.

          3.High risk accidents. Because very few passengers survive the accident and the aircraft is usually destroyed.

          4. Effects of weather changes, weather changes such as thick fog, storms, thick snow can hamper navigation of aircraft.

          5. Uneven distribution of airports. The physical condition of construction of airports are restrictive therefore even distribution of the airports is difficult and other forms of transport are required to complement it.

          6.Inflexibility. The scope of services is limited and does not offer door-door services.


          By the end of this session, you should be able to describe the various telecommunication services.

          Types of communication

          There are three main types of communication used in transmission of information which includes;
          1. Verbal communication
          2. Written communication
          3. Audio-visual
          4. Telecommunication services
          We now discuss each one of them.

          Verbal Communication.

          It involves two parties, the speaker and the listener.

          Written Comminication

          This is where the messages or ideas are conveyed through writing. There is a sender and a receiver. The written message is then transported either by air, road or railway.

          Audio Visual

          This includes sending messages using combination of sound, signs and pictures for effective communication. Some traditional communication methods are still in use. eg gestures, shouting in a special way and use of smoke.

          Telecommunication services.

          Telecommunication means communicating over distance by telephone, using either cables or wireless means. In Kenya the following services are available. a) Telephone services through landline and mobile phones.


          b) Telex. The written messages are typed in one place where they are typed out by a teleprinter. The improvement of the telex is the electronic mail (e-mail) where the computers linked to a telecommunication network sent and receive information at a high speed. The efficiency of the e-mail depends on the development of internet in a country.

          Role of transport and communication

          Transport and communication impact on the economic development of any given country because two promote the local and foreign trade.The specific areas of economic development that are affected by transport and communication are:
          1. Trade
          2. Industrialization
          3. Mobility of labour
          4. International understanding
          5. Implementation of government policies
          6. Development of settlements
          7. Employment
          8. Exploitation of natural resources
          We now discuss areas that we have mentioned.


          Trade has expanded at a high rate since a variety of goods and services are exchanged easily using land, water and air transport. Also more goods produceds in one region are taken to non- productive areas promoting regional specialization. Modern transport and communication means enable traders to move their products to market centers where the demand is high.
          Telecommunication sevices enhance business transaction without delays. This has accelerated the growth of trade in many countries. Provide a video clip of flowers being loaded in a plane at JKIA for export and oil refinery or oil storage tanks for import in Kenya.


          More industries are established in areas of countries with efficient means of transport and communication where raw materials and finished products can reach market cheaply and faster. In developing countries industries are concentrated in urban centers where means of transport and communication are well developed.

          Mobility of labour.

          The development of transport and communication systems has made the world a global village. Many people move and work in towns and different countries reducing case of labor shortage therefore promoting industrialization and improving service delivery.

          International understanding.

          Development of transport and communication has increased human contact promoting understanding people worldwide. This has enhanced exchange of ideas, promoted appreciation of other people culture strengthening global peace which is vital for economic development.

          Implementation of government policies.

          Transport and communication are necessary for dissemination of government policies, services, and exploitation of natural resources.

          Development of settlements.

          Many settlements have grown where transport routes converge. E.g. Khartoum the capital of Sudan developed at the confluence of Blue Nile and White Nile. Another example is Makutano in Meru.


          There are many transport and communication services which create employment opportunities for example drivers, pilots, engineers, mechanics, journalists, computer programmers and satellite officers.

          Exploitation of natural resources.

          Availability of transport and communication opens up remote areas for economic activities such as mining, fishing, tourism and trading.
          The concluding remarks on transport and communication will high light the problems facing transport and communication.

          Physical limitations.

          Physical limitations include:

          Landlocked countries

          Inhabited land.

          Thick vegetation

          Topographical limitations

          Landlocked countries

          A number of African countries are land locked i.e. they have no direct link to the sea and have to rely on neighboring countries for exports and imports e.g. Uganda. This can present problems due to high toll charges and delays especially if the roads are poor in transit countries or there is poor relation.

          Landlocked countries need to maintain good relations among the nations through which they access the sea. There is need to establish a transport network across different countries by road, railway, and air for example Tanzam railway that is Tanzania Zambia railways Uganda is linked to other international airports like Jomo Kenyatta airport.

          Topographical limitations.

          Some countries have steep rugged mountainous relief e.g. around Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya. Cameroon and the Rift valley. This makes the establishment of transport routes difficult and very expensive. Heavy rains can wash away roads and railways interrupting movements. Some of the rivers are unnavigable due to rapids and waterfalls, swift flowing, shallow rocky river beds and fluctuating volume of water.


          Topographical problems present a lot of challenging situations some which are being tackled by constructing tunnels through ridges across rivers and valleys, canals to bypass swamps, damming of rivers to swallow rapids.

          Inhabited land.

          Areas with harsh environmental conditions e.g. deserts are unhabited and economically unproductive. This discourages the development of transport and communication in some of those areas sincetransport and communication facilities would be underutilized.

          Government is trying to develop marginal areas by exploiting the natural resources. This encourages improvements of transport and communication. Provide a photograph of road and railway to Lake Magadi.

          Thick vegetation.

          Presence of thick vegetation cover. Eg. equatorial vegetation makes it difficult to construct roads and railways. Where swamps develop like the sudd of Sudan, road, rail, and water transport are hampered. Floating vegetation like the hyacinth on Lake Victoria also hampers movement of boats.

          Extensive swamps are by passed by canals for example the Jongeli canal in Sudan


          Human Limitations

          Besides the physical limitations there are human related limitations these include:

          Different railway and road system.

          African countries have unconsolidated roads and railway linkages with different gauges because of the colonial interest that served industrial countries. E.g. the French colonies like Democratic Republic of Congo , Rwanda and Burundi are not connected to former British colonies in East Africa.


          A lot of joined development work is being carried out to interlink different countries for example Trans Africa highways like the great North road which runs from Cape Town to Cairo. Tanzam railway line connects Dar-es-salaam with Zambia railways.

          Political barriers

          There has been slow and sometimes disruption in development of transport and communication due to political instability and different ideologies. Example,Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola and Mozambique.

          Political barrier

          Formation of regional trade blocs like ECOWAS and East African communities enhance co-operation in many sectors of the economy such as transport and communication.

          Inadequate capital

          Development of transport and communication requires heavy capital investment. This is usually for the purchase of different vehicles, construction of transport lines, buying of communication equipment and training skilled personnel. This explains the slow development and poor maintenance of transport and communication facilities. This has led to heavy borrowing from developed countries which led to indebtness.

          To raise capital for transport and communication. Most African countries joint partnerships with the foreign donors who finance the construction of transports routes. Revenue is also raised from the toll stations and fuel levies which is used in maintaining the existing routes.

          Poor technology and shortage of skilled labour.

          Poor technology and shortage of skilled labour in the developing countries resulted in poor planning, management and construction of transport and communication systems. This in the long run is expensive to develop and the services remain poor.

          Poor technology. Many African countries hire expatriates to provide technical assistance in construction of roads, airport and communication facilities. Training of manpower has been enhanced both locally and foreign countries to step up the required skills.

          High fuel cost.

          Many African countries have been unable to cope with ever increasing prices of petroleum limiting the growth of transport sector especially air transport.

          High fuel cost. Increased campaigns for management and conservation of energy have been enhanced to save for their available sources.


          The major threat to transport and communication is experienced through vandalisation of facilities for example telephone and internet cables, road signs and bridge guards. This makes maintenance very expensive and frequent interruption in the communication.

          Security to enhance laws have been put in place to deter vandals from the communication facilities. NEPAD which is the new partnership for African development has set up e-Africa commission which is developing information and communication technology (ICT) sector in Africa


          Unfavorable laws have isolated African countries.

          Since transport and communication international standards are based on the developed nations.

          Unfavorable laws. Many governments have liberalized transport and communication sectors allowing private investors in the countries. There is also increased international co-operation through shareholding. This has helped in updating modernizing transport and communication system.

          Provide a photograph of a bill board of safaricom.

          Thick vegetation.

          Presence of thick vegetation cover, equatorial vegetation makes it difficult to construct roads and railways where swamps develop like the sudd of Sudan road, rail, and water transport are hampered. Floating vegetation like the hyacinth on Lake Victoria also hampers movement of boats. Provide a photograph of a boat trapped by the hyacinth on Lake Victoria.

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