Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, gave a presentation at the 3rd International Conference on Shared Growth with Africa at the French National Assembly.
Ladies and Gentlemen
My remarks focus on the railways as the backbone of mobility, goods and people in this 21st century and therefore a vital element in contributing to the industrialisation of countries or continents such as Africa and if possible to peace.
Railways in Africa have not developed enough since the beginning of the 21st century, with on the one hand profitable long-distance freight transport in the shape of heavy goods, and on the other hand, passenger transport of a mostly peri-urban nature, which is rather on the decrease.
There hasn’t really been a real “business model”. The policy reforms initiated by the World Bank in the 2000s sought to establish a financial balance through private concession. However, the result is rather mixed as there has been no real transformation and still no real modern pan-African vision to this day.
UIC, the International Union of Railways, which brings together railways across the world and in particular railways in Africa in its African Region, has carried out a study for a new strategy for the renewal of railways in Africa by 2040. This study, which is very comprehensive thanks to the contributions of our members and our international vision, has been officially adopted by the African Union and I myself had the pleasure of presenting it at the Conference of African Ministers of Transport in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2015.
The study consists of developing a medium- and long-term plan which takes into account three key factors in Africa. The first is what I would call the African demographic clock with the population increasing to nearly two billion people by 2050 and significant urbanisation that is suffocating the large cities such as Lagos, Cairo, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Addis-Ababa, Abidjan and so on.
The updating of the various projects can be brought together into an overall coherent plan.
And then the third factor is the modernisation and construction of lines and the opening of corridors between countries and regions.
Three families of networks have been identified which I call the three Vs, in connection with the three Ts of Croissance Peace: Viable, Voluntary and Vulnerable networks, in accordance with the state of the infrastructure, the state of the equipment as well as services and skills to refer to what was said earlier in the first panel on the need to develop skills among the younger generation of African professionals – and of course support from public authorities and key funders.
The point that we were able to make when carrying out this study was confirmed by the United Nations Transport and Communications Decade (UNTACDA) in Africa and it shows a real lack of a railway transport system on the one hand and on the other multiple networks that are not connected to each other and focused mostly on ports.
Railways are however increasingly viewed on an international level as the backbone of a new mix of inter-urban, intra-urban and regional mobility. This strategy which UIC has developed with its African members has been shared by NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), PIDA (Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa), the African Union, funders such as the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the French Development Agency, and so on.
In the framework of this study, five strategic areas were developed to take into account all the key aspects of a modulated railway system that covers the priorities of each sub-region.
Firstly, modernise and interconnect the African railway networks;
Improve the commercial offer; then
Govern in a more efficient and transparent manner;
Develop multimodal complementarity
Promote regional integration and the position of the continent on an international level.
These five areas were rolled out across 15 levers and translated into 60 concrete actions. More information about this is available on the UIC website.
I would like however to name a few “structuring” projects, and I think this year will be particularly important with the inauguration of the high-speed line project in Morocco – which as a reminder Morocco is the current chair of our UIC African region. The rehabilitation of existing networks such as the Dakar-Bamako (Senegal to Mali) railway, the Trans-Gabon railway, as well as projects in Nigeria and Liberia; the construction in Algeria of the 1750 km of new lines; the “Africa Rail” project in West Africa involving five states with over 1750 km of new lines to build; the Trans-Guinean project in Guinea-Conakry; the Abidjan-Ouagadougou; the Dakar-Djibouti project, which has been launched with Chinese funding and expertise in the shape of the first link between Djibouti and Addis-Ababa. The project to construct new infrastructure in Niger; the project in the Republic of the Congo towards Brazzaville with 1400 km of lines to build; a project to build a high-speed line in South Africa between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and so forth.
So in a nutshell, this study highlights that railways should not be disconnected from the political, economic and social vision developed by the African Union. Our study genuinely reflects the realities of the African railways, but it is clear that the development of Africa in general heavily depends on modern infrastructure and mobility through rehabilitating existing infrastructure, the construction of new infrastructure, and most of all through the implementation of coherent and effective policies at state level.