The African Union Commission (AU) and the Africa Bureau of the International Union of Railways (UIC) organised a meeting of the AU-UIC Working Group on the strategy “Vision 2025 for Railway Development in Africa”, which took place from 22 – 23 October 2013 in Tunis, Tunisia.
This meeting was attended by representatives of the African Union Commission, the International Union of Railways, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
The opening session was chaired by Mr Abderrahmene Gamha, President of the Union of African Railways and CEO of SNCFT. After welcoming the participants, he noted that the need to develop railway transport in Africa was underscored by the growing population as well as the significant political, economic and social changes experienced on the continent.
He then thanked the African Union for its collaboration with the UIC and also the members of the UIC Africa Technical Committee for the quality of work achieved in the execution of the study on the “Railway Development Strategy for Africa”.
Other statements made by representatives of the African Union, the President of UIC Africa and the Director General of UIC underscored the importance of developing railway transport by exploiting tangible synergy between the various actors. They also underlined the importance of the outcome of this meeting which will be submitted to the next session of the Conference of African Ministers of Transport.
The deliberations and conclusions on the agenda items of the meeting are outlined as follows.
Review of activities of UIC Africa 2011-2013
The presentation delivered aimed to share with the participants the nature of the activities carried out by the UIC-Africa Region during the 2011 – 2013 period, whose objectives were to provide support and technical assistance to African railways in their activities for upgrading and development of railways, through the sharing of technical expertise and best practice. In that regard, a documentary film was shown which highlighted the achievements in the implementation of annual action plans through a series of actions initiated during the past three years, namely:
- Organisation of seminars and conferences;
- Conducting training sessions tailored to benefit employees of African networks on specific topics;
- Execution of specific studies on future developments.
Presentation of Vision 2025
The outcome of the UIC-Africa study named “the revitalisation of railways in Africa: towards 2025” focused on the following aspects:
- A recap of the general framework, impetus and objectives that led to the completion of the study as well as the participatory approach adopted throughout its execution;
- Diagnosis of the current situation of African railways indicating deficiency in railway infrastructure and weakness in competitiveness. This is due to, among other things, technical and managerial constraints as well as lack of investment in this vital sector despite its indisputable advantages to the wider community. Added to this are the difficulties encountered by the majority of countries in the process of restructuring and consolidation of the sector as shown by the mixed results obtained in the implementation of the concession contracts entered;
- Highlights of ongoing development projects or studies in the African sub-regions, which demonstrate the awareness of governments to their significant impact on the communities;
- The new strategic vision for railway development in Africa which has taken into account the pronouncements and guidelines of Ministers responsible for Transport at various meetings and conferences, and that is to provide Africa by 2025 with “a railway transport system that is reliable, sustainable, affordable and effective, and able to promote, in complementarity with other modes of transport, socio-economic development and regional integration while contributing to a better positioning of the continent in the world”;
- The vision translates into five strategic areas, around which are anchored 15 levers which are completed by a plan composed of 65 actions with measurable goals that are to be gradually implemented to meet the challenge of railway development in Africa;
- Projections of the foreseeable railway traffic demand and investment requirements until 2040 as well as the socio-economic impact of their achievement;
- The management system adopted for ensuring effective implementation of this strategy, based on different levels of strategic and operational requirements and where the Regional Economic Committees would be the driving force in the implementation of the strategy.
Participants commended the quality of the work and recommended that the horizon of this Vision should be extended to 2040 as are the projections of PIDA. They also underscored the need to mention “respect for the environment” in the Vision.
Presentation of PIDA
The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) was adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in January 2012 as a long term (2040) multisectoral programme (transport, energy, ICT and transboundary waters), which aims to reduce the continent’s infrastructure gap and ensure the physical integration and socio-economic development. PIDA is part of an overall vision to provide Africa with integrated, efficient, reliable, affordable, and environmentally-friendly infrastructure networks.
The PIDA Priority Action Plan for the 2012 – 2020 period includes 51 projects and programmes at a cost of US$ 68 billion of which 24 are transport projects with a cost estimate of US$ 25.7 billion or 37%. Transport projects are mainly structured around multimodal corridors connecting centres of production and consumption and also with the various seaports whose capacities are expected to be expanded commensurately.
Several initiatives are currently underway to ensure the implementation of some PIDA projects through an extensive programme of project preparation and resource mobilisation which also involves the participation of the private sector (the World Economic Forum’s Business Working Group, etc.). The meeting welcomed these efforts and wished them success.
Execution of railway studies in Africa
With regard to strategic and prospective studies on the railway sector in Africa, the meeting underscored the importance of working to ensure their coherence, sharing of results and optimisation of the various aspects (costs, resources, data, etc.) in a manner that enhances cost-effectiveness.
Preparation of the Third Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Transport
The African Union Commission informed the delegates of the preparations for the Third Session of the Conference of African Ministers of Transport (CAMT), which is scheduled to take place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, at the end of November 2013.
The conclusions of this meeting would be brought to this session to seek strong support for the revitalisation of railway transport in Africa. To that end, the UIC and the AU should prepare documents to be submitted to the conference – especially the report of the study and a presentation note. UIC will be responsible for the English and French versions. The African Union Commission will undertake their translation into Arabic and Portuguese. Given the timeframe indicated for this task, both parties agreed to finalise the documents by the end of October 2013.
Participants were satisfied with the quality of the discussions and conclusions they had reached. They expressed their wish for a closer AU-UIC cooperation with a view to providing a strong impetus to railway development in Africa.