Nigeria and Africa Railways Webinar
Railway Roundtable Webinar
write up by PD Lawton
Presented here is a very informative, creative and inspirational roundtable discussion on rail infrastructure and its relationship, present and potential, with the economy. The webinar was organized and hosted by Olawale A-Rasheed, Director of the Policy Advocacy Centre of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The presentation given by Jide Ehizele of Construct Africa, outlined the need to use the rail infrastructure as an economic booster for rural areas where poverty is highest. The outcome will not only alleviate poverty in rural areas but benefit the economy as a whole. Railways are also crucial to better access to healthcare and education. The speaker highlighted the importance of taking rail networks into remote regions to benefit communities. He gave the example of the Phelophepa trains in South Africa that deliver healthcare to 70 remote communities and that have helped 14 million people so far, proving it an invaluable service.
The presentation given by Dr Andrea Giuricin, Transportation Economist and Professor at the University of Milano-Bicocca , Italy, presented an extremely interesting concept which is now being applied in Italy with the first Italian High Speed Rail. The concept is to pay for the infrastructure by privatizing the freight component whilst keeping the infrastructure state-owned. South Africa are also looking to use this Open Access system. Dr Guiricin explained how rail (HSR) can be the driver of productivity. Dr Giurcin : Competion is a very important driver of reducing cost. Rail has to be the backbone of a logistic system.
The following presentation was by Hussein Askary, founder of BRIX Sweden, member of the Schiller Institute and co-author of the groundbreaking publication:`Extending the New Silk Road to West Asia and Africa: A Vision of an Economic Renaissance`. Hussein Askary explained Nigerian and African rail systems in the context of the global picture, as a part of the inter-connected economic corridors of the New Silk Road, now referred to as the Belt and Road Initiative which is becoming the largest economic endeavour in history. 136 nations, including 46 African nations, have now joined. He highlighted the point that it is essential that Africa`s interconnectivity by road and more importantly, by rail, be focussed upon in order to increase economic activity within the continent which suffers today from such high levels of food insecurity. Mr Askary also brought into the picture the potential of incorporating Africa`s rivers and lakes into the integrated transport system with such projects as the Transaqua Plan which could be both a navigable canal and water delivery system from the DRC to Chad and Nigeria as well as a source of massive hydro-electric production. His final point is very important and that is how China`s prominent role in Africa is actually driving down the price of infrastructure construction, as Western and other international companies are reducing their quotes in order to out-bid Chinese firms, which is a very positive situation for Africa.
The final presentation was by Michael Banjo a creative entrepreneur. He explained his ideas about creating a resilient railway system. He asked a question with a vital answer about building the Nigerian railway : Is it worth it, can we afford it? He said that is the wrong thing to ask. The question should be : Are we ready to build and run an efficiect railway? To that question the answer is a resounding Yes! He explained that the railway must be designed holistically because ” It is your people that drive the railway to success….The Nigerian people ( and business ) are waiting for world class railways.It can be done!
On that positive and creative note the webinar came to a conclusion and was followed by a Q+A session.