The implementation of the Africa Integrated High-Speed Railway Network (AIHSRN) must be expedited and it is incumbent upon every African head of state to make it their agenda to see it through.
This was the general consensus reached by various transport and freight experts in Windhoek during the opening of the Agenda 2063: Africa Integrated High-Speed Railway Network Project (AIHSRNP) National Readiness Strategy to implement AIHSRN-Pilot Projects (2014-2023/25) workshop here on Tuesday.
The two-day workshop is being facilitated by the African Union Development Agency (NEPAD) and is being attended by experts from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.
The envisaged AIHSRN is an integrated, cross-border, high-speed railway network for the African continent.
“The network is to be formed by a set of individual links that are to be built by respective sovereign states who wish to be part of the continental network, entering into multinational treaties or cooperation agreements,” reads a section of a NEPAD dossier availed to NAMPA.
Speaking during the session, Botswana Railways director of operations Boineelo Shubane said it is time to intensify the construction of the Walvis Bay-Windhoek-Gaborone-Pretoria-Johannesburg railway line [Trans Kalahari Railway].
The railway line would connect Botswana to the Namibian coast, with the sole benefit of connecting land-locked Botswana to Namibia’s port of Walvis Bay, thus unlocking the value of coal mining in Botswana and power generation in the region.
“Look at the volumes that move to Durban and the rest of Africa. It’s massive. And the question is, how long are we going to be dependent on the Durban harbour when we have Walvis Bay [which] is right here?,” Shubane said.
Agreeing with him was Hanief Ebrahim, an advisor in the South African Presidency, who indicated that with South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa now chairing the African Union, the implementation of AIHSRN should be one of his chief priorities.
“We [South Africa] have an opportunity to slip this into the critical projects that must be delivered on… This is the year that South Africa and southern Africa chairs the AU. Let’s make it count,” he said.
Further, also making his contribution during the session was Walvis Bay Corridor Group chief executive officer Hippy Tjivikua, who said they will do everything to ensure that the railway network is implemented.
NEPAD aims to eradicate poverty, promote sustainable growth and development, integrate Africa in the world economy and accelerate the empowerment of women. - NAMPA