- It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the International Railway Conference and Exhibition with the theme, “Powering AfCFTA with Sustainable Railway Development ” organized by the National Chamber Policy Centre of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and African Railway Consulting Limited.
- This conference seeks to ignite conversation around the development of the railway system in Africa and how Africa can power continental free trade with sustainable railway development agenda.
- As you all know, the state of railway development in Africa demands an urgent meeting of all critical stakeholders to brainstorm on fast tracking rail connectivity to meet the demands of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
- This Railway Conference becomes necessary due to the important of rail transportation to development. Railways are a climate-smart and efficient way to move people and freight. It promotes economic growth while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
- They are a clean and compact way to move millions of passengers and millions of tons of goods across countries and continents. Railroads decreased transportation costs, thereby making farming production for export markets profitable. It makes transportation of heavy materials become much cheaper while also encouraging people to travel further and this meant people could move to different areas to find work.
- The signing of AfCFTA agreement is a landmark development requiring complementary growth and development in logistic and infrastructure sectors of the continent. Harmonized development of railway at national and continental level holds the critical key to trade facilitation and human connectivity which are imperative for the success of the AfCFTA.
- Discourse on the AfCFTA cannot be complete without strategic attention to the role of railway in African development. As railway contributed immensely to the growth and development of Europe and North America as well as Somalia, its invaluable role in the successful implementation of AfCFTA cannot be under estimated.
- AfFCTA, is expected to increase intra-African trade in transport services by nearly 50 per cent, according to the estimates by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). The estimates on, ‘Implications of AfFCTA for demand for transport, infrastructure and services’, released by ECA at the fifth African Business Forum indicate that with AfCFTA in absolute terms, over 25 per cent of intra-African trade gains in services would go to transport alone; and nearly 40 per cent of the increase in Africa’s services production would be in transport.
- The research conducted by experts in the Energy, Infrastructure and Services Section of ECA unpacks AfCFTA investment opportunity in the transport sector. According to the research findings, AfCFTA requires 1,844,000 trucks for bulk cargo and 248,000 trucks for container cargo by 2030. This increases to 1,945,000 and 268,000 trucks respectively if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented.
- The largest demand for trucks to support AfCFTA is within West Africa (39 per cent); demand from West to Southern Africa is 19.8 per cent and from Southern Africa to Western Africa by 9.9 per cent.
- This conference would focus on discourse surrounding major issues such as; needed financing, imperative of continental railway standardization and the urgency of closer economic bloc collaboration in the railway development process in Africa.
- The event has an exhibition component alongside a B2B, G2B, G2G interactive and networking opportunities. It is a veritable platform to showcase investment possibilities especially within the context of Africa’s emphasis on rail connectivity to drive AfFCTA.
- I enjoin all delegates, exhibitors, participants and stakeholders present at this conference to take advantage of every presentation and the panel session and channel energy for the growth of rail transportation in the continent of Africa.
On the behalf of the EXCOs and council members of ACCI, I welcome you all and wish you fruitful deliberations.
Dr Al-Mujtaba Abubakar (FCA, MFR)