Improving our transport system
>> African governments must co-ordinate infrastructure development
Africa should start investing in its public transport system to build an efficient and sustainable network.
Investing in public transport systems improves the flow of traffic and reduces air pollution in towns and cities of countries in Africa.
Doreen Tirivanhu, a researcher at the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Zimbabwe notes, “Public transport is critical in tackling urban mobility challenges facing most cities and towns.”
Accordingly, countries across the African continent should invest in their mass transportation systems to improve traffic flow management.
Tirivanhu adds: “For Africa to effectively invest in public transport systems, we need to encourage mass investment in public transport.”
Africa’s industry is projected to grow to trillion-dollar levels in US currency terms over the next decade, but the transport infrastructure must grow equally if these gains are to be achieved.
“Africa is rich in minerals, but poor infrastructure lets us down,” says South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, Bulelani Magwanishe.
Magwanishe goes on to say, “Transport costs are generally high, which limits intra-African trade.”
This problem should be tackled at national as well as regional and continental levels and this means African countries should start collaborating on how best to deal with their shared problems and ambitions.
With regard to aviation, Magwanishe suggests that safety levels should be improved to “counter the perception that African skies are unsafe”.
Magwanishe also notes that operating costs should be lowered.
“If we can successfully attend to these issues, we will awaken the African giant,” he stated.
Swaziland’s Minister of Transport, Ntuthuko Dlamini, adds: “Transport is the catalyst for economic growth and development. We need capacity building in all countries, as well as improved efficiency and service delivery especially in the airlines.”
Dlamini believes that investment in air travel is vital for transporting high-value and perishable goods, while rail is better suited to bulky and hazardous goods.
He remarks: “Land development around airports will generate additional revenue and the use, whenever possible, of rail and air reduces congestion and accidents, and increases public safety on the roads.”
In terms of road transport, Dlamini points out that infrastructure development in countries within the continent should be integrated.
“We need harmonisation of standards, for example, in the construction of flyover bridges, which may be of varying heights in different countries and may prevent a truck, which can go under bridges in its own country, from going under a bridge somewhere else,” says Dhlamini.
It is the mandate of African governments to recognise that public transport systems are catalyst that can effectively transform the economies of Africa.
Jeff Nemeth, who is the CEO of Ford Southern Africa, says, “It is important that African governments recognise that logistics are critical to economic growth.”
Sharing the same sentiments, Piet Sebola of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa remarks, “Transport underpins economic growth … investment into the movement of people and goods is essential.”
This investment could be accelerated with more private-public partnerships – business relationships between a private-sector company and a government agency for the purpose of completing a project that will serve the public.
Financing a project through a public-private partnership can allow a project to be completed sooner or make it a possibility in the first place.
The strides made by African economies in achieving economic growth must be accompanied by efforts to boost long-term competitiveness if the continent is to ensure sustainable improvements in living standards finds a new report, the Africa Competitiveness Report 2013, jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
This means that regional integration is a key vehicle for helping Africa to raise competitiveness, diversify its economic base and create enough jobs for its young, fast-urbanising population.
Together Africa will prosper – divided we will fail.