11 June 2021

London Bridge by the river: With some of our top guys to review our projects and opportunities in African rail in the last years.

L-R. Abdul Rasheed Ali, chartered quantity surveyor, covering cost advisory at Crossrail with Siemens; Chuki Ononogbu, civil engineer, leading Asset protection @ Network Rail, soon off to GSK for some non rail; and yours truly, RA

There has certainly been an up tick in railway activity across the continent. Good to see regional networks emerging on the back of inter country connections Nigeria- Niger; Ghana- Burkina; Benin- Niger, Ethiopia-Djibouti, Kenya- Uganda, Tanzania-Rwanda, Chad-Sudan, Egypt- Sudan, Chad-Cameroon …These lines will serve as neurals to be extended into regional networks that will connect with the networks of other RECs to create the beltways and access for the landlocked to the sea. Integration will enable economic growth, inter/intra country trade and community.

Projects are powering ahead across the contnent. North, east, west, central or south. Lessons are being learned in project preparation and delivery. Attention needs to be paid to administering railway business and what the future Afri-rail would look like. We need to start to discuss the regulations, protocols and standards.

With the Chinese blazing the trail and the Portuguese, Russians, French and Turkey showing some balls. We need to see more participation from Europe and the Americas. We need to see the global economies compete for the opportunities in Africa.

We need to improve on governance. We need to do better politics. We need security. Insecurity disrupts communities, the fundamentals of development. We need to open up the continent for the AFCTA.

Africa is a continent of long distances and large population. Why in the future couldn’t we have the possibility of specialization by country e.g Nigeria producing rails, South Africa, power, Ghana doing signals, Kenya, rolling stock, Egypt, I.T. etc? This would aid specialisation and spread educational and job opportunities. The benefits can be shared in this fashion, expertise developed, capacity built.. While this may create a series of “artificial “ monopolies in expertise which do not share the pie . Countries could compete for areas of technology they wish to domesticate. The possibilities are endless.

At the macro, African states need to reform their railway systems to be more transparent and accountable. They need cleaner balance sheets. We need to see independent and robust regulation to maintain standards. We need greater focus on sustainability and market orientation. These create the impetus for investment.

Finally, the integration of Afri-rail needs global co-ordination. It needs a champion. It needs an owner. Step forward Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, EGH

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