Transport network pressure looms in Africa, says Minister

Transport network pressure looms in Africa, says Minister

5TH JULY 2021




Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has reiterated the importance of African countries investing in transport networks, as it drives economic development and global competitiveness for the region.

He spoke during this year’s iteration of the Southern African Transport Conference (SATC), which was hosted in the week of July 5.

Mbalula highlighted how transport network investment was particularly vital, given how it will soon exceed current capacity.

He referred to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan, which predicts that traffic for SADC landlocked countries will increase to 50-million tonnes by 2030 and ramp up to 148-million tonnes by 2040.

This while port traffic will expand from 92-million tonnes to 500-million tonnes by 2027.

Mbalula mentioned that the type of transportation infrastructure investment required for global competitiveness would only come through working with the private sector, which the Master Plan also acknowledged.

International Road Federation president Bill Halkias agreed, reiterating the need for partnerships, in fitting with this year’s SATC theme of “Sustainable Transportation Through Enabling Partnerships”.

The federation works with the World Bank on its Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) programme, which has, since 2017, been bringing together organisations and companies to assist countries worldwide in their ambition to attain sustainable mobility.

For example, there has been a pilot SuM4All programme going on in South Africa, which Halkias said was due to be completed in November.

The SuM4All partners have done extensive work towards a draft diagnostic report of South Africa’s transport system. This exercise is identifying strengths and opportunities for improvement across all modes of transport.

Halkias said it was apparent that South Africa had made significant strides in reducing the transport access gap in rural areas, but urban transport was a different story, with diagnostics showing that South Africa needed to make a concerted effort at improving transport access in cities before it could catch up with comparable countries.

Since its inception, SuM4All has developed a vast body of knowledge, expertise and policy tools to support the transition toward safe, green, efficient and equitable mobility. Last year, South Africa announced it would become the first country to leverage SuM4All’s work to guide future transport policy and drive real change on the ground.

In particular, the country has piloted the use of the Global Roadmap of Action toward Sustainable Mobility to devise a tailored action plan for transport, and took advantage of SuM4All’s latest tool to diagnose mobility issues and benchmark the performance of its transport sector against relevant comparator countries.

Next, Sum4All’s partners will draw on the final diagnostic of South Africa’s mobility system to produce a prototype action plan consisting of priority policy measures that support the country’s transition towards sustainable mobility.

“Stakeholder engagement with national and local authorities to validate and refine the diagnostic and prototype action plan will ensure than this effort adds real value and transforms South Africa’s investment choices,” Halkias noted.

Moreover, Mbalula said an integrated and multimodal transport system that remains efficient, economically viable, reliable and environmentally sustainable could best be realised through a regionalised policy of transport – with a coherent framework for institutions and strategies for implementation.

The Minister said that, on South Africa’s part, the country would continue enhancing the implementation of its own National Transport Master Plan, which seeks to coordinate transport plans across Southern Africa.

This is currently being driven through State-owned freight utility Transnet, which is based in South Africa but accounts for 30% of the African freight rail network, and 70% of the sub-Saharan Africa’s rail network in particular.

Mbalula bemoaned how Africa was losing market opportunities because of a lack of transport infrastructure investment.

Meanwhile, South Africa continues to implement its Green Transport Strategy, which involves the reduction of greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions through shifting passengers from private transport to public transport and freight from road to rail.

Emissions from the transport sector account for 10.8% of the country’s total GHG emissions, with road transport being responsible for 91% of these emissions.


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