The First Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Special Committee on Transport-Transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructures, Energy and Tourism (SCT) was held from 13 – 17 March 2017 in Lomé, Togo. This meeting was well attended by the delegations of the different African countries.
The opening session was chaired by Mr Cheikh Bedda, Infrastructure and Energy Director of the African Union Commission.
On behalf of Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux UIC General Director, Mr Jesus Providence Niazaire congratulated the African Union (AU) and the Commission for their remarkable work on Africa’s steady progress. UIC hoped that the work of the SCT would be a step towards achieving the common objectives.
However transport is not the only sector for which development seems to be a topical issue for the African Union.
Many international organisations have already studied and identified the opportunity represented by Infrastructure, Energy and Tourism in the context of development in Africa. These studies will result in several investment programmes, the benefits of which will create new jobs.
This meeting, which is in line with the vision of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, has focused more specifically on the potential employment benefits of young African people, which can be generated by the different fields of continuity of the overall vision of the African Union to "build an Africa with reliable, efficient and affordable integrated transport infrastructure systems capable to promote regional integration and ensuring hemispheric participation in global trends.
Recent surveys shown that nowadays in sub-Saharan Africa:
• 110 million young people are expected to enter the labour market each year for next 10 years,
• 62% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is rural,
• 200 million hectares of available and unmanaged arable land is in sub-Saharan Africa (53% of which is more than six hours away from markets) or 60% of the world’s estimated reserve,
• For example, France has 1.6 km of paved roads per km2 of territory whereas Togo has 0.2 km of road per km2 of which 20% are paved national roads.
For its part, UIC has carried out within African regional activity a Study on “the Revitalisation of Rail in Africa – Destination 2040” which was adopted by the Ministers in charge of Transport at the 3rd Conference of African Ministers held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from 7 – 11 April 2014.
The study is therefore the reference document of the African Union (AU).
UIC African region is chaired by Mr Mohamed R. Khlie – CEO of Moroccan Railways (ONCF). During his mandate UIC developed many actions and projects within the Region, where the ONCF shows outstanding progress in rail development, which could be a pattern for many of African rail companies.
The participants at the transport session greatly appreciated the presentation of UIC and wished to have the complete study on the vision to 2040.
UIC and the UA Commission acknowledge that the first results of railway privatisations and concessions in Africa are mixed.
In general, UIC finds that concessions in Africa have revitalised many systems, but it is not certain that this will guarantee their long-term survival without further injections of public investment funds.
UIC recalls that the railway has the advantage of structuring city-village relations: it is an economic regulator and a catalyst for the population. Rail transport is also the most environmentally-friendly mode of transport for all modes of transport.
It should be noted that the African Union (AU) vision 2063 for rail is to build an integrated African high-speed rail network.
This vision must first consider the rehabilitation and modernisation of existing networks in the near future, since the railways should, in the interest of the national economy as well as in their own commercial interests, where they can offer services tailored to the needs of customers in terms of cost and competitive prices, i.e. in areas of commercially profitable activity.
Furthermore, it is essential to recall that the African continent has experienced record speeds on metric tracks, namely:
In 1976, Ivory Coast achieved the record speed of 160km/hr on a metric gauge (1,000mm).
In December 1978, the South Africa Railways network noted a speed record of 245km/hr on the metric gauge (1,067mm).
All this to justify the need for countries to rehabilitate and modernise existing networks.
As a reminder, about 30 ministers participated in the round table and numerous experts per session:
Transport Session: 157 Experts
Energy Session: 48 Experts
Session Tourism: 57 Experts
It should also be underlined that this meeting was attended by the new African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy H.E. Mrs Amani Abou-Zeid from Egypt.
It should also be noted that Togo and Niger have signalled its intention to join UIC.
A message from UIC: "the railway must not be isolated from the dynamics of development because it is an environmentally-friendly mode of transport and it is a catalyst for social sustainable growth.”