On 29 April, the UIC Africa Region held its fourth webinar as part of the African Railway Thursday series: Sustainable Development Challenges: Railways of Tomorrow. The African Railway Thursdays are bimonthly webinars dedicated to the activities and projects of UIC and the UIC Africa Region.
The webinar was attended by over 200 participants representing UIC members and non-members not only in Africa but also the Middle East, North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe – a clear indication of the level of commitment to improving railway sustainability.
In his opening speech, Mohamed Rabie Khlie, President of the UIC Africa Region, highlighted the #African Railway Green Deal, which emphasises sustainable development as an objective for resilient growth. He noted Africa’s potential to develop rail as the backbone of sustainable mobility. Mr Khlie gave the example of Morocco, which has made significant progress in achieving sustainability by 2030 and making rail an essential element of sustainable development. He also noted the significant challenges facing Africa in terms of sustainability and the need for ongoing commitment, highlighting the target of carbon neutrality before 2050.
Mr François Davenne, UIC Director General, stressed the urgency of making this a decade of action on sustainability, particularly in Africa. He spoke of the need to position rail as the greenest transport mode and achieve rapid, efficient modal shift whilst also proposing technical, urban and interface solutions. Mr Davenne also mentioned the new UIC Sustainability Taskforce, which will be a truly international commitment and will propose high-impact transformation projects in a number of areas, including digital and multimodal transport.
Sustainable mobility at the core of international and regional challenges
The webinar programme consisted of three dedicated panels. Moderated by Thierry Béra, UIC CFO and Africa Region Coordinator, the first panel began with a presentation by Lucie Anderton, UIC Sustainable Development Unit Manager, on the initiatives and projects developed by UIC. Ms Anderton talked about the International Green Transport Week to be held from 30 May to 5 June, as well as key projects on the circular economy, sustainable land use, air quality, energy efficiency and carbon, and noise and vibration, as well as the flagship SDG Rail Index project.
The presentations given during this panel were well-received. Debashish Bhattacharjee of UN-Habitat, Regional Office for Africa, presented the prospects for and challenges of rail transport and urbanisation in Africa, while Placide Badji of the African Union Infrastructure and Energy Department gave a presentation on the challenges and opportunities of connecting African railways.
The second panel, moderated by Lucie Anderton, included presentations from four sustainability leaders from other UIC regions, who shared their experiences, challenges, successes and plans for sustainability. There were presentations on the sustainability and emission reduction strategy at Sydney Trains, sustainability initiatives at Irish Rail, Korail’s sustainability management efforts to connect people, the world, and the future, and the sustainable energy policy at SNCF Voyageurs.
The final panel was dedicated to innovative financing modes and mechanisms to facilitate low-carbon mobility in Africa, and included a presentation on rail financing for green transport by Martha B. Lawrence, Leader of Railway Solutions at the World Bank.
Closing the seminar, Said Chandid, UIC Representative at the Regional Office in Rabat, outlined the RABAT call for action on an African Railway Green Deal for sustainable mobility, which will be presented in the lead-up to and at COP 26 in November 2021.