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Ports and Rail Evolution set to take Africa by storm

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By Ashok Ramsarup :: South Africa has set visionary plans in setting new challenges ahead of the World Maritime Day Parallel Event in the port city of Durban.

Speaking to hundreds of local foreign delegates at the African Ports and Rail Evolution Conference at the International Convention Centre,  Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said the aim was to showcase South Africa’s and the entire continent’s maritime capabilities to the outside world.

Minister Mbalula said the total transport multi-modal value chain comes was spearheaded towards the Transport Month planned in 2020.

He said: “Despite its vast market potential, Africa does not trade with itself. Experiences from other parts of the world, particularly the European Union with harder terrain and natures disadvantages intra-trade accounts for over 80% of their trade with the rest of the world, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) barely makes 15% intra-trade.

“African Heads of State and Government reached a historical agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area, which was signed in 2018. The aim of the Free Trade Area is to promote economic integration and liberalize African markets.

“For this to happen we need to connect with people via roads, rail,  water and airports. Therefore, the transport sector is without a doubt a cornerstone of this connectivity,” said Mbalula.

Mbalula was emphatic that border-crossings were some of the stumbling blocks, indicating that solutions were needed to infuse the industry into unlocking these barriers.

He made it abundantly clear that with 54 countries in Africa and over 109 international boundaries and 350 border crossings it was indeed a tall order to co-ordinate and enforce uniform standards that could be achieved.

Mbalula made it overly clear that they must deal with operational delays and congestion at border crossings that were contributing to inefficiencies of the cross border transport system.

Expressing optimism over the establishment of the Regional Rail Safety Regulator,  he said the South African Rail Safety Regular fully was supportive of the plan.

The Minister made a clarion call for the private sector participation of  Africa’s potential for a win-win situation in the entire project, considering the people the environment first.

In her welcome address, Leader of Government Business, KwaZulu-Natal MEC Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube said this was an innovative event that not only provides information to Emerging Exporters, but was also the platform where case studies were  presented.

Dube-Ncube said while provision was made for networking opportunities between local companies and foreign delegates, export-related companies could learn from each other, forging linkages with one another and grow.

She said: “The current Trade War and Brexit would have profound consequences for countries which were aspiring towards a healthy export-led growth trajectory with the United States, China, Britain and the European Union.

“Salvation can possibly be found in the African Continental Free Trade Area where presently 54 nations have committed to a free trade area in which tariffs on 90% of goods will be cut to zero,” Dube-Ncube added.

Ashok Ramsarup is award-winning senior journalist of South Africa 🇿🇦 

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