Railways AfricaTM

Issue: 5 - 2016

The last few weeks have been frantic - Electra Mining, InnoTrans, Transport Forum, GARA and the Rail and Ports Evolution events. Craig attended InnoTrans, the International trade show and convention, which saw the launch of some truly phenomenal technology and innovations for the railway sector. Many of the products and services displayed at InnoTrans have great potential for implementation in the African market, promising to deliver integrated, digitised, environmentally sustainable solution for our fast-growing railway sector.

While showcasing some of the biggest and best the railway industry has to offer on the global stage, issue 5:2016 focuses on debates around implementing world-class land based transport solutions for developing economies. It is all very well to spend large proportions of our GDP on building railway lines, buying rolling stock and investing in state-of-the-art technology to implement the infrastructure required to fast-track development on our continent, but if we fail to build local supply chains, including human capacity, into development strategies at project inception, we run the risk of handing the greatest tool for our economic liberation over to external agencies – undermining the very development we are trying to achieve.

With this in mind, we take a critical look at Transnet’s Market Demand Strategy (MDS), with particular focus on the potential gains that a capital spend of R300 billion could offer local suppliers, job creation programmes and economic growth for South Africa – or the lost opportunity that may pass our economy by, if not implemented with a well integrated local supply chain at the heart of the project planning. Take note that we have not given airtime to the delays in implementation, and the impact thereof, and I won't until I am sitting face-to-face with the powers that be and hopefully we will wrap that up in time for issue 6:2016.

We also hear from South Africa’s Road Freight Association regarding the tenuous relationship between stakeholders in the freight industry in South Africa – with some fascinating insights from the road industry for the railway sector.

Interestingly, the outcome of these various perspectives - and somewhat diverse topics – is clear and unanimous. It is time that Africa starts planning in a strategic, harmonious manner – not in silos – for a single-minded overarching economic development vision that will provide a sustainable future where suppliers from the continent feed into these projects.