The South African road network, valued to be an asset of around R3 trillion, is the arterial system through which the country’s economic lifeblood flows.

This is to be celebrated at the upcoming 7th Regional Conference for Africa, being hosted by the South African Road Federation (SARF) in collaboration with both the International Road Federation and the World Road Association.

To be held from 18 to 20 October in Cape Town, South Africa (at the Cape Town International Convention Centre), the theme is “Connecting Africa through Smart, Safe and Resilient Roads: Stimulating Growth and Trade on the Continent”.

With SARF having successfully produced African Regional Conferences on a regular basis since 1988, the event has become an international knowledge-sharing platform held in high regard for innovation and the presentation of best-practice implementation from across the globe.

As a result, this South African event is now recognised as the flagship gathering for the Southern African roads sector – the last of which took place in 2018 in Durban, with over 420 delegates attending alongside 35 exhibitors.

“Physical conferences have always provided crucial and unique networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities that we’ve lost over the past few years.  We believe the return this year to a physical venue post-pandemic will mark a pivotal event for our industry worldwide,” says local conference organiser, Basil Jonsson, the Operations Director for SARF.

As a result, a number of prominent international and local keynote speakers have already confirmed, among them World Bank consultant and civil engineer Nazir Alli, a South African who is currently the President of PIARC and formerly the Founding CEO of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL).

Other keynotes confirmed to date include Professor André Roux (Head: Futures Studies Programme, University of Stellenbosch Business School), and Dr Pierre Voges (CEO of the Atlantis Special Economic Zone Company and former CEO of the Mandela Bay Development Agency).

Jonsson also notes that over 114 abstracts have been received for consideration by the conference technical committee, indicating a strong interest in the event not only from the countries that usually attend (including the UK, the USA, various EU countries as well as those in the Middle East and Africa), but also from Japan, Mexico and New Zealand.

He adds that, as always, strong local support for the event had also already been demonstrated: “To date, 45% of all abstracts submitted have been from South Africa.”

With the final programme to be finalised by the end of June, presentations and speakers would fall under seven key sub-themes, namely:

  • Determination of roads needs and financing mechanisms
  • Preserving Africa’s road assets
  • Safe and efficient transport by road
  • Innovative practices to optimise road networks
  • Roads and the environment
  • The role of low volume roads in rural connectivity, and
  • Capacity development in the roads sector.
Jonsson believes there will be particular interest both locally and internationally in two of these focus areas, namely road safety and low-volume roads, but notes that the sub-themes cover the full scope of the reach of the South African Road Federation. To accommodate the volume of topics and information to be exchanged, each day of the conference will be structured with an overall main session to start, followed by numerous breakaway sessions.

Apart from both the local and international interest in the event, delegates will themselves range across the full spectrum of those involved in the planning and delivery of road networks, including:

  • Provincial and local government and roads agencies/authorities
  • Civil engineering contractors, consultants and suppliers
  • Quantity surveyors involved  in road projects
  • Road, bridge and tunnel builders and maintenance contractors
  • Traffic planning and management systems companies
  • ITS and communication companies
  • Road safety specialists and suppliers, and
  • Road lighting and signage companies.
ESCA accreditation has been secured by SARF with 1 CPD Point in Category 1 for each of the three days of the conference.

A trade exhibition will once again run alongside the conference, with close to 70 percent of space already booked. Numerous opportunities for sponsors are also available. Early bird registration is currently open until 9 September, with discounts of up to 20 percent for those taking advantage of this. For out-of-town delegates, special accommodation rates have also been secured at a number of Southern Sun Hotels close to the conference venue.

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