A rail system, when combined with all forms of transportation, could play a strategic role in intra-African trade growth, by the virtue of it being more efficient as well as effective, safer and cheaper mode of transport Sabiu Zakari, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transportation Abuja has said.
Speaking during the just concluded Rail Conference held in South Africa Mr Zakari said that rail system had the capacity to carry both heavy cargo and mass volumes of passengers and was a more environment-friendly mode than road transport, indicating that the lack of rail options could implode major cities.
He however noted that increasing pressure placed on overloaded cities where there is rapid population is placing significant strain on infrastructure.
Furthermore, it was noted that by comparison African countries’ own trade with each other is well below that of other developing regions and as a result costs more. Road transport, which is more expensive but faster than rail is the option that most people and companies are opting for.
While reliable cross-border trade is a critical precondition for unlocking private sector investment in intra-Africa trade, “hostile” development challenges currently faced included limited public resources, high costs and low private sector investment.
George Magai, trade and market director, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa-Alliance for Commodity Trade in East and Southern Africa pointed out the fact that high trade costs stem mainly from transport and logistics.
Consequently, there is need to come up with a new system which will reduce the costs and still ensure that the transport network is viable to all countries.
Moreover, owing to the under-investment in the sector by the private sector should also prompt the governments to develop rail transport.
Some of the benefits of rail, include the removal of road congestion, meaning a reduction in road accidents, as well as reduction in the cost of transport and an integrated connection between the various African countries.
Failure to plan for this, according to Mr. Zakari, will worsen the already wanting housing deficit that is presently affected most African countries as well as road congestion.
Elaborate transport system has been cited by experts as a major hindrance to intra-African trade thus putting the continent’s potential in jeopardy.