Johannesburg, August 3, 2020 – Participants at the webinar on the African High-
Speed Railway Project which was held on 29 July, 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.
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 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
While noting the disruption occasional by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Bedda said
the commission leadership is committed to transforming the pandemic into
opportunity, stressing that the commission is open to credible collaboration and
partnership to make the project a reality.
Among the many recommendations of the webinar was the need to launch
implementation of the high-speed project after the design and planning issues have
been sorted out.
Other takeaways included the need to possibly shorten the implementation
timetable; fast tracking of ratification of the Luxembourg protocol for rolling stock
acquisition; engagement with African private sector; the need to create African
Railway standard; enforcement of localisation to boost job creation, and; the urgent
need to explore internal financing through sovereign wealth and pension funds,