The annual conference on Trans-European Transport Networks -TEN-T Days – organised by the European Commission, the Italian Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure and the Swedish Presidency of the European Union was held on 21-22 October in Naples, Italy.
The conference, focusing on how to reinforce transport cooperation with Africa, was opened by Mr Altero Matteolo, Minister of Transport of Italy, with the presence of Antonio Tajani, Vice President of the European Commission. UIC was represented by UIC Director General, Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, by Mr Jean-Pierre Lehman, UIC Africa Coordinator and Mrs Cleopatra Shiceka, representing the South African railways.
This year, the aim was to move forward the TEN-T policy review launched at the beginning of 2009 and aiming at a revision of the Trans-European transport network guidelines, and to develop a common approach on the external dimension of Europe’s transport networks, looking at links with neighbouring countries and giving special attention to Africa, in order to identify the fundamentals of a strong partnership and how to get there.
Strategic cooperation between Europe and Africa in the field of transport has been introduced within the framework of the EU-Africa infrastructure partnership, under which regional and national transport, water, energy and telecommunications networks are interconnected throughout Africa. Improving Africa’s infrastructure, in particular its transport networks, leads to better interconnected networks, safer and more reliable transport services will definitely have an impact on living conditions as well as on economic growth of the entire continent. However, Africa is often not always in a position to cope with such challenges by itself. As it was underlined by Mr Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission, said "Africa has opened doors to various development partners to work together to find solutions to the implementation of its infrastructure programmes. The EU-Africa Infrastructure Partnership is one of the key partnerships that Africa expects to result in significant progress in infrastructure development in the continent. The EU-Africa Transport Forum [is] a special opportunity to discuss strategies for realization of this objective”.
This conference falls within the scope of these existing policies and instruments, by initiating a reflection on how to improve transcontinental connections and by suggesting possible ways of cooperating and sharing experiences in order to develop a more reliable and safer transport system, one which is not just based on new infrastructure but also on more efficient, safer and less expensive transport services. The measures identified would be implemented within the framework of cooperation and on the basis of existing instruments. The joint EU-Africa partnership and the forum on transport brought together, in addition to institutional players already represented within the partnership, transport operators, European and African associations, which enabled to widen the debate on specific issues relating to this key development sector.
Particular emphasis will be placed on coordinating plans to stimulate economic activity at both national and Community level. Workshops and round tables tackled a large number of topics, among them: High Speed Rail; waterborne Freight Transport - Motorways of the Sea, Ports, Inland waterways ; TEN-T North and East: the challenges of co-modality and interoperability; Integrating the TEN-T: the challenge of enlargement; The Mediterranean and North-African Dimension: Link between Europe and Africa; Towards an integrated multimodal transport network.
UIC, because of its global dimension, is of course interested in the African region and its developments. It is indeed a region with diverse needs and situations. Besides, UIC feels concerned because of the political context with the Euro-Mediterranean network and the impulse given by the European Commission, in which rail can play an essential role, for example in an intermodality context.
As underlined by Jean-Pierre Lehman, a number of projects have been achieved in Africa, such as the AFRICARAIL project – rail interconnection between Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Togo and Tchad, or the development of infrastructures in North Africa (high speed line in Morocco). It is also planed to modernise the existing networks and the building of new lines; the rehabilitation of the rolling stock; the modernisation of the infrastructures; and the development of the railway industry in Africa.
UIC also undertakes actions to help to develop the African rail network. On 6 April 2007, a memorandum of understanding was signed in Alger by UIC and the African Union. This initiative is being achieved through the participation of UIC to activities carried out by the African Union.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux highlighted the UIC members of the African region developed the report “Africa 2025”, identifying the needs in the region. UIC role is also to bring answers to technical questions in the field of infrastructure, or material and to bring an institutional support of the sector to the decision makers and investors, such as the EIB and the African Development Bank. Finally, it organises exchanges between the 31 African members via conferences or training sessions.
The results of the Forum’s discussions and the identification of the priorities should be considered as the starting point of the next stage, that is to decide, through the signature of a joint declaration, a priority action plan and the identification of financing for such action. The forthcoming EU-Africa summit, which will take place in 2010 in Africa, will provide an opportunity to examine the progress made in implementing this action plan.