Tuesday 12 June 2012
Africa Express

Africa Express: follow the team which left Morocco at the end of April for a 10-month tour of Africa!

Crossing Mauritania and arriving in Senegal

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Following Stage 1 / Paris – Rabat, the in-the-field members of the Africa Express team Claire Guibert and Jérémy Debreu travelled on the Moroccan railway network between the end of April and early May to complete Stage 2 of the journey / Rabat – Marrakech – Ouarzazate. In Rabat, the team worked on the “energy” aspect of the Africa Express project, notably on the national programme of energy efficiency in buildings as well as the Ouarzazate solar power plant, which from 2014 will be the most powerful plant in the world when its production of renewable energy is increased to 500MW. All the extremely interesting discussions the team held with their various Moroccan counterparts will be included in the White Paper, whose purpose is to collect and record a whole series of facts and accounts from the Africa Express Mission. All this will contribute to the possible developments in the area of renewable energy in Africa, and this will enable the team to make recommendations for a series of improvements on the subject at the end of their Africa tour.

The team then travelled south to Dakhla on 5 May, entering Mauritania on 7 May. The team’s aim was to take the world’s longest train with the help of SNIM, the company which charters this 2-km mineral train. Following the warm welcome from Moroccan Railways (ONCF) which hosted the team, the latter was ready to test the great Mauritanian train!

Stage 3 / Mauritania and the Desert Train

Thus, on 7 May, the team travelled across Mauritania, the second country in the tour of Africa. During the year that was spent preparing this project, the team had identified certain key moments in the adventure. The Desert Train, which links the mines at Zerouate to the port of Nouadhibou, was one which the team had been waiting for in particular.

After a 48-hour bus journey, the team reached Mauritania having crossed Western Sahara in the south of Morocco. In Nouadhibou the team was looked after by SNIM (National Mining Company of Mauritania), the private company which charters this legendary train.

The team members then stayed in Nouadhibou until 10 May before arriving in Senegal for an intensive three-week schedule: four energy projects, several conferences and taking part in a radio programme called “It’s not hot air”, which was recorded while they were there and broadcast on Radio France International (RFI).

Stage 4 / 2 weeks in Senegal, Mali trip called off

The team arrived in Senegal on 11 May to study four pilot energy projects, each with a specific solution adapted to the local context. As the projects are still in the start-up phase, it is difficult to conduct a full life-cycle study. Only time will give an indication as to whether they will respond to the challenges: business model profitability, securing funding, self-governance by the local population, equipment maintenance, etc.

The Africa Express team congratulates the project leaders and partners for the quality of the work and their warm welcome:

  • ADENA in Namarel, for the project on a solar-powered refrigeration system for storing milk
  • EolSenegal Dakar, an organisation which focuses on the building, installation and maintenance of small wind turbines
  • BatiAfrica in Casamance, for the forthcoming launch of the “Femme Soleil” project
  • Schneider Electric and ANEV, with the inauguration of the Dar Salam eco-village in the region of Tambacounda taking place during the team’s visit – the first of many Africa Express then planned to travel to Mali for a three-week study.

Unfortunately, due to political events, and after consulting national authorities and the French Embassy in Mali, and in agreement with the leaders of the projects selected as part of Africa Express, the Africa Express team has regretfully cancelled its trip to Mali.
The team will nevertheless be in touch again in a future edition of eNews to share its adventures with you and the next stages in its first tour of Africa by train!

The train is the chosen means of travel for this mission. It also presents a unique challenge to successfully complete the first train journey through Africa!

A unique challenge

Travelling over 20,000 km by train and across the African continent for eight months is quite a challenge in itself.
Now picture having to go from one place to another using a network that is not even everywhere but that has shaped this continent: some lines have and still play an important role in transporting people and goods.

Established in the early 20th century, the African railroad reached its peak in the 1980s. Despite the dreadful conditions in which some of the lines were built, it has been an economical gift, allowing agriculture and mining to develop in certain countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Ivory Coast...); or simply by opening up remote regions. After that period it lost much of its importance due to technical and economical difficulties: obsolescence due to high maintenance costs combined with the decline of passenger and cargo traffic. Nonetheless, Africa Express’ journey will take legendary railway lines and trains such as the Lunatic Express, the Congo-Ocean line and the Tazara, among others.

Travelling by train means...

  • Using a sustainable, low-emitting and economically-viable transportation mode Understanding how it is a key social element and facilitates meeting opportunities
  • Saying no to the dictatorship of speed and advocating for a certain vision of the world

Discover some incredible African trains and the entire Africa Express route!


You can follow their journey by visiting http://www.africaexpress.fr/

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01. SNIM mineral train in Mauritania (© Africa Express)
02. SNIM mineral train in Nouâdhibou (© Africa Express)
03. Postcard from Senegal where the Africa Express team is currently travelling
04. Jérémy Debreu giving a presentation of the four energy projects currently managed in Senegal (© Africa Express)