J Radebe: African Union African Railway Systems ProfessionalConference

20 Nov 2007
Keynote address at the African Union Rail conference by his
Excellency honourable South African Minister of Transport, Mr Jeff Radebe,

20 November 2007

Programme Director
African Union (AU) Commissioner, Dr Zoba
President of the Union of African Railways Mr Gama
Secretary-General of the Union of African Railways, Mr Elghul
Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the International Union of Railways, Mr
Chief Executives of the various Railway Companies
Distinguished guests
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

South Africa is proud to host this very important meeting in pursuit of the
decisions taken by the Transport Ministers in Brazzaville to invest and
establish integrated rail systems for socio-economic development within the
African Continent. For Africa to grow and take its rightful place in global
trade it is important for our rail transport to be efficient and effective as
well as globally competitive to provide our companies with a competitive
advantage in the global markets.

For the sustained growth that we aspire to achieve, railways must play an
important role. We therefore have a need for a greater integration,
interoperability and interconnectivity between rail operators and systems in
order to provide a framework for the joint delivery of a cost-effective,
regionally integrated, seamless and predictable Africa rail transport service.
It is therefore an honour for me to deliver a keynote address in this gathering
that seeks to achieve exactly that.

Distinguished guests, it is true that rail transport has been from time in
memorial the cornerstone for passenger and freight movement through out the
world. Railways therefore have a dual role to play in any society and these
being economic and social in nature. The economic role of railways has always
been to provide a platform through which movement of people and goods is
seamless and does not hinder economic participation and instead serve to
enhance vibrant economic production and trade.

Our access to local and international economies heavily relies on the
ability of the rail system to be responsive and flexible to global changes
particularly in demand for goods. Therefore our railways must at all times
provide companies with the ability to compete globally irrespective of changes
in the commodities under trade.

The social role of railway transport is to provide communities with access
to social services that define the social being of people in their daily
interactions. These interactions might be economic in nature from the view
point of passenger service, but also play a crucial role in the social
wellbeing of African people.

Given the above roles, our railways face a number of challenges that hamper
our rail system to fully realise its role and potential. This conference of
experts must serve as a platform for the development of solutions to these
challenges identified by the meeting of Ministers of Transport responsible for
railways in order to facilitate integration, development and promotion of
intra-Africa trade.

These challenges include the:

* Elimination of missing rail infrastructure links.
* Development of policies and instruments to bring private sector participation
in the railways.

* Identification of main African infrastructure integration projects in
order to achieve the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and
the Almaty Programme of Action.
* Commitment to source funds to support African Railways.
* There also needs to be a clear articulation of the role of state in driving
factors that contribute to the current state of the African rail network. This
will help in the assessment of previous shortcomings as well as inform future
reform of the African rail industry.

To this end, the action plan that will be adopted here must help the African
Union and the various African governments to deal with these challenges whilst
helping Africa to integrate. It must however be emphasised that more work needs
to be done if Africa is to integrate. There has to be a clear articulation of
the future vision of the African Railways.

I am told that the Union of African Railways (UAR) as well as the
International Union of Railways (UIC) has begun the development of the African
Railway master plan. In my view, this plan must also deal with the current
debate on the move away from cape gauge to standard gauge in order to maximise
the integration of railway systems in Africa.

It must also define and identify rail Corridors that would constitute the
Pan-African Railway Network to facilitate trade and economic integration in the
Continent. Key corridors are a prerequisite for the regional integration and
the removal of the missing links. To a considerable degree, this process is
already under way with some of the milestones already attained under the New
Partnership for Africa s Development (Nepad) Short Term Action Plan such

* The acceleration of the Trans Kalahari Corridor between South Africa,
Namibia, and Botswana which is key to the integration of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) region. With this project, preliminary work is
already underway to begin the exploration of the economic and financial
feasibility of the rail line between Gobabis in eastern Namibia across the
Kalahari to the Botswana Railways network joining South Africa.
* The Maputo Case Flow Management (CFM) and South Africa's Transnet Freight
Rail have also formed a strong relationship with a view to strengthening ties
and operations along the Ressano-Garcia corridor route.
* Talks with Lesotho have already started with the long-term goal to establish
a railway line linking Lesotho with the port of Durban and Port Elizabeth. This
is in line with the Almaty programme of action to improve connectivity and
access for landlocked countries.

* Nepad is also supporting the concession of railways in Kenya, Uganda,
Tanzania, Zambia and Swaziland in the form of technical assistance, regulatory
capacity building as well as the provision of transaction advisory. Some of the
projects include the physical rehabilitation of railways, such as:

* Malaba, Kampala railway
* Port Bell and Jinja wagon ferry terminals rehabilitation
* Nakuru, Kisumu rail section rehabilitation
* Dodoma, Tabora Mwanza: track rehabilitation and upgrading of signalling
systems, as well as
* the Nacala Corridor Railway.

In addition, there are feasibility studies being undertaken for:
* railways interconnection for West and Central Africa
* Brazzaville – Kinshasa rail/road bridge
* the rehabilitation of the Benguela Railway Corridor system between Angola and
Democratic Republic Congo (DRC).

All these projects are a clear indication that we have made a good start but
what we have to do is to put flesh onto these bones. Our fundamental goals for
rail in Africa must support economic integration and meet the basic needs of
our people. And our key strategic challenges that must be met to achieve these
goals must speak to:
* a strong harmonisation and rationalisation of Africa cross-border rail
transport and trade regulations
* improvements to border post management systems
* encouragement of increase in joint ventures in rail infrastructure, and
* stronger investments in rail infrastructure, using a corridor approach.

The future of the African Railways must also address the issue of Africa’s
competitiveness in the global trade context as well as Africa’s

For Africa to achieve global competitiveness, we must make sure that the
Pan-African Railway network becomes a reality in order to achieve integration,
interoperability and interconnection.

Therefore, the title of this conference, "Interconnection, Interoperability
and Complementarily of African Railway Networks," talks to what must be at the
heart of the Pan-African Railway Network. You must therefore keep in mind that
when you close this conference tomorrow, a clear plan that must form part of
the Nepad infrastructure agenda must be adopted and forwarded to the African
Union for submission to Nepad as a base for transport infrastructure

Let me outline for your consideration some of the drastic steps that have to
be undertaken to energise you into moving these processes at a rapid pace:

* There is an urgent need for the establishment of Country based Rail
Commuter and Freight Forums in order to cater for equitable dual use of rail
for both passengers and freight.
* We have to undertake an all encompassing audit of rail operations throughout
Africa in order to unravel the nuts and bolts of our rail operations.
* Africa needs stronger rail economic regulatory mechanisms to ensure the
separation of ownership of infrastructure from operations.
* There also has to be a coordination of operating and technical practices of
rail service providers and the developing of benchmarks for service standards
and maintenance of infrastructure and equipment.
* There has to be strong knowledge sharing for exchange of ideas, expertise and
information towards joint problem solving and the maximisation of rail
transport efficiency.

These are all huge areas that present massive challenges for Africa's
future. The opportunities are there and I am confident that if we work together
we can deliver what is needed. We are therefore looking at rail as a
facilitator of trade in Africa, but also as an initiator and instigator of
economic development in Africa.

As South Africa, we have particularly embarked on a number of information
systems projects that may help shape and inform how Africa develops its
information databases and databanks particularly to facilitate trade and
economic development.

We have established the National Freight Information Systems in order to
integrate all existing information systems into a single information system
that will house all freight information in the Republic of South Africa.

We have embarked on the preparation of a National Transport Master-plan 2050
and have also established a Freight Databank that consolidates all cargo
statistics into one single databank so as to develop origin and destination
pairs and to provide cargo owners and service providers with cheaper routes

We have established the National Corridor? Performance Platform Measurement
(NCPM) in order to measure performance of various supply chains in the
identified corridors. Lastly and most importantly, we have successfully
established the Rail Safety Regulator in order to promote safe railway
operations and to facilitate a modern, flexible and efficient regulatory regime
to ensure the enhancement of safe railway operations, and to promote the
harmonisation of the railway safety regime in the SADC region.

I want to conclude by saying that if the future is to lead us to a different
gauge, a thorough study must be undertaken to look at how it can be
It is a fact that the colonial rule was a root cause, in some African regions,
of the establishment of the so-called 'cape gauge' which is today not helpful
in our economic endeavours. For instance, about 17 African States have about
449 614 kilometres of the "cape gauge" with South Africa owning approximately
20 324 kilometres of this network.

In other words, the cape gauge has to a large extent successfully managed to
stand in the way of integration of railway systems in Africa. I would suggest
that new and future developments be considered on standard gauge and that
serious work be done to estimate the cost of putting-in new networks on this

In thanking you for the invitation, I would like to express my good wishes
for a successful conference. As African Ministers responsible for Rail
Transport we look forward with keen anticipation to the reports and
recommendations that your discussions will generate.

I thank you.

Issued by: Department of Transport
20 November 2007
Source: Department of Transport (http://www.dot.gov.za)