Infrastructure: Key to Africa’s future
The recent PMAESA Conference in Durban focused on the critical issue of “Linking Ports to Corridors for Regional Integration. Njuguna Mutonya* reports
The future of Africa’s development lies in the strengthening of its multi-modal infrastructure systems to ensure the networking of the ports to the hinterland, where massive natural and man-made wealth in resources is generated.
Without this coordinated linkage , the targets for growth will remain a mirage while the continent’s standards of living will continue to remain at globally abysmal levels .
This was the crux of the message that was coming out of the recently concluded Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa (PMAESA) Conference in Durban, South Africa which was attended by over 300 delegates.
The theme of the conference was aptly titled – Linking Ports to Corridors for Regional Integration.
Presentations made by the delegates who were drawn from many of the continents regional economic blocs as well as from Europe, United States , Middle East and the Far East were all in agreement that without a modern infrastructure - that had clearly delineated modal linkages - no dramatic envisaged targets would be achievable .
The good news, however, is that many of the regional trade blocs have embarked on massive programmes of corridor developments using public private partnerships (PPP) to overcome the hurdles that had led to the deterioration of infrastructure linkages in the continent mainly through mismanagement and civil conflict in certain countries.
New concessions to enable the different actors to gain capitalization, especially in the capital intensive rail networks, are being crafted daily; while failed ones, such as that in Kenya, and the one in Tanzania, are being renegotiated.
Today, the development and empowerment of regional trading blocs like SADC, East African Community (EAC), COMESA, ECOWAS and many others are concentrating on joint programmes to ensure the linking especially of roads and rail to the regional ports in conscious efforts that will result in a seamless flow of goods and people from the hinterlands across borders and to the ports. The interdependence of landlocked countries and the maritime nations, complete with the mutual benefits to be derived from the smooth interface of economic activity, cannot be over-stated. This has led to the region’s political leadership providing the much needed political will which today is responsible for the removal of numerous tariff and nontariff barriers which had evolved through short-sighted political brinkmanship born by selfish suspicions especially during and after the cold war years.
One- stop border posts once denied under the guise of national security by insecure and unpopular regimes are now springing up all over the landscape with the realization that no country can operate alone any more in the globalized market place . Deadlines have been set for the drive towards common markets while customs unions are already at work to tap the vast markets that are spawned by the new liberalism in political and economic realities. Today, a map of the East and South African region is a honeycomb of intricately designed road and rail networks which will in future enable countries the benefits of options in the movement of goods to and from the ports using both sides of the continents waters.
From Luanda and Lobito in Angola , through Walvis Bay in Namibia , Cape Town and Durban in South Africa , Maputo and Nacala in Mozambique , Dar es Salaam in Tanzania , Mombasa and Lamu in Kenya , Djibouti and Port Sudan in Sudan , corridors are in a constant state of design , expansion and modernization to feed the new demands .
The development of modern rail systems using standard gauge is on the drawing boards of many countries which have been stuck with outdated lines many going back to the colonial times is now back on track while expansion to existing systems like those in Southern Africa is right on course.
Expansion of ports to deal with even higher throughputs especially with the emergence of ultra-mega vessels is on the rise, as Africa as a region revels in its new status as the most favourable investment destination from fast growing economies in Asia and other parts of the world courtesy of the vast untapped resources and industry potential .
The Durban Conference was opened by the Deputy Mayor of Durban Mr. Logan Naidoo who to add to the optimism oozing in the future of Africa’s development welcomed the guests to this year’s FIFA World Cup, which will be held in South Africa - the first time on the continent.
Transnet National Ports Authority (NPA) Chief Executive Khomotso Phihlela laid out an elaborate welcome for the delegates who included senior private and public sectors executives from the maritime and transport sector.
The PMAESA Secretary General Mr. Jerome Ntibarekerwa together with the Chairman Kenya Ports Authority’s James Mulewa also led the delegates in adopting a raft of resolutions at the regional bodies annual Board and Council meetings.
The Cruise Indian Ocean Association (CIOA) also held its annual meeting alongside the bigger conference.
*Njuguna Mutonya is a Communication Consultant with PMAESA and Editor of OUR PORTS a quarterly maritime and transport magazine (email@example.com)
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