re posted from Rowland Ataguba on Linkedin , 8 September 2023
image: AIHSRN African Integrated High Speed Railway Network
In the spring of 2020 and with the Covid pandemic ravaging the world, I was approached by AUDA/NEPAD to draw up proposals to fast track the delivery of the African Integrated High Speed Railway Network (AIHSRN), a network of railway networks comprising about 50,000 track km costing about $300bn to operationalize, creating nearly 15m jobs and potentially lifting 500m African people out of multi-dimensional poverty. An African game changer indeed!
This was at a time of much uncertainty and chaos across the world yet the excitement and expectations for the impending launch of the AfCFTA made for a heady cocktail of emotions.
Proposal was presented to a panel chaired by the AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development and former Kenyan Prime Minister, H.E. Raila Odinga at an event moderated by my aburo and co-traveler, Olawale Rasheed, of the African Railway Roundtable and currently moonlighting as Chief Press Secretary to the Osun State Governor, H.E. Sen. Demola Adeleke. Then followed a rash of media sorties including conversations with Phillippa Dean (PD) of Railways Africa and others with Larry Freeman and P.D. Lawton of African Agenda to try and push the envelope.
Larry has recently published this commentary on AIHRSN featuring excerpts of my discussion with PD and evoking memories of that time but calling again for a serious look. Sadly, we haven’t moved much beyond the talk though recent political developments within the ECOWAS region may help focus minds. Larry is a progressive pro-Africa American thinker and has been particularly critical of the role of western countries in under developing Africa or in not supporting African development. Indeed we are in agreement that it is in the west’s enlightened self-interest that Africa makes progress as an unstable Africa will destabilize the world.
From a Nigerian perspective, 3 rail projects are key components of the AIHSRN. Lagos – Kano- Jibiya- Maradi, Lagos – Calabar and Port Harcourt – Maiduguri. All in standard gauge and integrating with the networks of its neighbours of Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The challenge for Nigeria, nay Africa, is in the incoherent delivery strategy of these projects. Local problems are morphing into regional difficulties causing hold-up challenges and leading to stasis.
The Maghreb states, particularly Morocco and Egypt, are leading the charge. Libya, post Ghadaffi, is sadly a source of regional instability. The East and Central African states are not doing too badly with Tanzania and Ethiopia leading the charge while Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda are also not relenting. Sudan and DRC still presenting political challenges. However it is in the Ecowas region which had the greatest promise because of the presence of African giant Nigeria, with the headquarters of the AfCFTA in Ghana and the AfDB in Cote d’Ivoire that more good news is desirable but is proving hard to come by. Southern Africa is much challenged too with the problems with the regional giant South Africa and Transnet.
Bottom line is Agenda 2063 has slipped badly. Africa needs to get a grip. Its local political problems need sorting but appear to be fundamentally economic. To fix the economies require political stability so we are in a bit of a quandary but wars solve less and create more problems. It may separate the men from the boys but the boys now have other men behind them and victors are proving hard to emerge decisively. Everyone is losing.
There`s actually much packed in Larry`s post that may not be readily apparent. Aside from my slides from the AUDA/NEPAD presentation which is offered as a download, there`s also a video excerpt of my conversation from Coffee with the Editor (with Railways Africa) all overlaid with Larry Freeman`s commentary.
The reality is that the AIHSRN is actually happening, just not in a coordinated way so the benefits may not flow as optimally. That is a challenge we must tackle.
In an earlier conversation with Larry and Lawton, he prescribes the recapitalization of the AfDB or the establishment of an African Infrastructure Bank in the alternative to fund some of these projects. Don`t forget that there are other big ticket projects like the African Interstate highway etc. needing funding solutions.
Like I say, funding is not always the challenge or only challenge. Our capacity to dream big things is also a limitation.
Rowland Ataguba, 8 September 2023