By James John
Despite coronavirus pandemic , there is an increasing Interest by credible investors in the African High Speed Rail Project designed to interconnect landlocked African nations and open up trade corrdors in support of AFCTA.
Interested investors are reported to be eyeing sections and corridor far beyond the pilot phases selected by the AU development agency, NEPAD/AUDA just as the NEPAD prepares to host its second webinar on the landmark project.
Checks revealed that investors showing interest are both Institutional and private with entities from Asia, Europe and North America prominently mentioned. Interestingly, many Chinese groups are also indicating interest in the project.
Last week, an African group called AFRECO has opened discussions with a group of investors from North America with the support of American Finance Institution devoted to supporting investment abroad.
Some top business leaders from West Africa with foreign technical partners are reported to be behind AFRECO.
An official of the firm confirmed to Railway Business that talks are ongoing to get credible investors to join us in the drive to fund and build one of the corridors.
“We have gone far but we are keeping the details sealed until all arrangements are finalised. We are a credible group of African businessmen. We are not here to deceive anybody.”
Another private group is also working from South Africa with strong technical and financial partners in Europe particularly France.
An official of the group disclosed that the consortium is being put in place describing it as ” a huge project requiring strong technical and management capacity as well deep financial backup”
Aside the Institutional interests, another set of investors mentioned include an hybrid of Asian/European consortium reportedly excited by the prospects of an Africa with High Speed Rail. The group is said to be connected to a North African group based in Cairo.
Reports also indicated that both AFREXIM and AFDB are open to discussions on the project to served as platform to mobilise investors.
A former top official of the AFDB said the bank jas started financing of certain areas of the project, stressing that “what is needed is development of bankable proposals.
“Let leaders of the continent develop proposal across the 10 pilot project within the High Speed Rail concept. I listen to the last webinar organised by NEPAD and I am impressed by calls by Mr Odinga to walk the talk. Let there by non-bureacratic plans to implement this project as quickly as possible”, the official said.
It was further gathered that the leadership of Afrexim bank has also indicated readiness to support the project amd served as veritable platform to mobilise international funding using various instruments.
A major complaint among the prospective investors however is the lack of clarity on the preferred mode of execution foe the project. African Union has to make a choice among making it a government project ,a PPP or a private endeavour, said an official of AFRECO from Germany.
“To mobilise investors, there is need for clarity. Is NEPAD aiming for Morrocan style funding and execution ? Is it a Virgin type HSR as in US?. I think NEPAD must also decide early by opening up the project further. The pilot projects should spread across the regions of the zones and they should be open to private investors or a PPP arrangement”, he told our correspondent.
It was gathered that NEPAD is planning another webinar later this month to focus on financing and national advocacy for the project.