The participants at the webinar on the African High-Speed Railway Project which was held on July 29, called on African Union and leaders of the continent to fast track implementation of the high-speed rail to support the implementation of the continental free trade area.Moderated by Mr. Olawale Rasheed of the African Railway Roundtable, the webinar was organised by the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) and facilitated by the agency’s Project Advisor Louis Napo Gnagbe, with top railway and infrastructure leaders on the continent participating.
A statement by NEPAD on Monday said that Mr. Raila Odinga, the AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa, who chaired the event challenged the continent to walk the talk, stressing that, “If Europe and North America could transform their railway systems in the time they did, Africa can even do better now.”
Mr. Odinga noted the many railway developments across Africa and said the continent has spent a lot of time on planning and emphasised that now is the time to hit the ground running as the world will not wait any longer.
Citing the new free trade area, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), the AU High Representative said transport logistics and interconnectivity are critical to the success of the project, decrying the very low connectivity among Africans due to poor transport connection.
The Director of Infrastructure and Energy at the AU Commission, Mr. Cheikh Bedda, noted the strategic importance of the high-speed rail to Africa’s development. He informed the meeting participants that the Commission is set to push ahead with the implementation process.
While noting the disruption occasional by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Bedda said the commission leadership was committed to transforming the pandemic into opportunity, stressing that the commission was open to credible collaboration and partnership to make the project a reality.
The African Union Development Agency-NEPAD is the technical body of the African Union. The core mandate of the AUDA-NEPAD is to facilitate and coordinate the implementation of regional and continental priority programmes and projects and to push for partnerships, resource mobilisation, research and knowledge management. Through AUDA-NEPAD African countries are provided unique opportunities to take full control of their development agenda, to work more closely together, and to cooperate more effectively with international partners.