Leading Transport into the future | Infrastructure news

Issues pertaining to transport and its infrastructure in the region, as a whole, was the underlying theme of the 33rd annual Southern African Transport Conference which was officially opened by Dipuo Peters, the Minister of Transport.

In her address Peters said although this conference focuses on transport questions inside and beyond South Africa, its theme – ‘Leading Transport into the Future’, resonates with the National Development Plan [NDP], the blue print for the future the governments wants for the country and its people.

Says Peters, “Platforms like this Conference direct us to be a region striving for stronger integration needs and an efficient transport system, which continue to facilitate, and socio-economic ties. Throughout Southern Africa, this network of roads, railways, ports and airways meets the demand of most users, but more still needs to be done. As industries and economies develop throughout the region, use of transport network will exceed its capacity, hence we should not under-estimate the projections indicated in the Regional Infrastructure Development Plan.”

“As a region let us collectively improve the regional and continental capacity in responding to the above-mentioned projections.”

“The region has made significant progress in regional infrastructure development, however, the region still encounter challenges in relation to high prices, unpredictable transport and logistics services especially for landlocked member states, and I look forward to this Conference debate and solutions outcome, amongst other in this regard.”

Important lessons for Africa

The South African government will continue to play a major role in enabling and enhancing implementation of policies, strategies and investments that contribute to further develop the African continent.

Experiences of the developed countries hold important lessons for us. We learn that these countries have advanced on the back of massive investments in the ports, rail and road infrastructure. Ladies and Gentlemen, the multiplier arising out of these investments has been far-reaching and wide in scope. Amongst others, we have seen globalisation becoming a reality, with production and consumption centres being located in different parts of the world. Investments in transportation networks have also enabled the rapid development of global supply chains, which have become the basis on which countries compete in international trade.

Herein lies lessons for developing countries, like South Africa and the rest of the developing countries: transport is truly driving globalisation. Yes, without an advanced and efficient transport network, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to either penetrate or compete effectively in international markets. Thus, I venture to say efficient and reliable transport networks buttress globalisation, and by extension growth and development.

The lessons drawn from advanced economies also show that infrastructure development is an essential ingredient of regional integration, and globalisation. Indeed, evidence suggests that our regional integration efforts in the continent are often thwarted by a lack of infrastructure to facilitate physical connectivity between different centres. In this context, the World Bank postulates that Africa is losing billions of dollars in trade due to a lack of infrastructure and regional integration. The reasons for this are not hard to fathom. We know, for instance, that since the conception of the Trans African Highway, many years ago, we still have the missing links in numerous parts of the network, including here in Southern Africa, where some of our roads are impassable. Furthermore, rail connection remains poor due to inoperable systems and non-harmonised gauges between countries. With such hindrances, it is hardly surprising that intra-regional trade accounts for a mere 12% of Africa’s trade with the rest of the world.

This figure contrasts poorly with approximately 80% of intra-regional trade within the European Union.

To correct these imbalances, it is estimated that Africa needs to mobilise funds in the tune of USD93 billion in order to address the infrastructure backlogs. It is precisely these challenges which led the NEPAD/African Union Heads of State and Government to appoint eight Heads of State to champion infrastructure development on various corridors on the continent. President Zuma is the Chairperson of this high level structure; and he was also appointed as a Champion for infrastructure development on the North-South Corridor; which will cover a network of initiatives from Cape to Cairo. This intervention is truly a game changer, which is designed to turn Africa’s fortunes in this globalised world.“


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