South Africa has restated its committment to play its assigned role as the rolling stock hub of Africa, the South African Minister of Public Enterprises , Pravin Gordhan has disclosed.
Speaking at the AGM of African Railway Industry Association, the Minister restated the committment of the South African government to partner with the private sector to enhance its capacity to serve as African Rolling Stock Hub.
South Africa has the strongest confirmed rail accessories manufacturing capacity in Africa. The local capacity has also being boosted by series of partnership with international rail giants like TMH, Alstom, Gibela among others.
The minister recalled that the 2015 resolution of the African Union designating South Africa as rolling stock hub is in tandem with the country’s capacity for manufacturing and innovations.
South Africa he said can meet the needs of Africa in all areas of rolling stock. According to him, the country is resolved strengthened its capacity to explore African market within the context of the African Free Continental Free Trade Area.
Speaking earlier, Mr James Holley
Chairperson, African Rail Industry Association (ARIA) informed the AGM that the association has rebranded to expend its operations and membership across Africa.
According to the ARIA chief, the degrading is in keeping with the spirit of African economic integration, adding that membership of the association is now open to all Africans.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of ARIA, Mesela Nhlapo said: “With infrastructure needing repairs or replacement, government partnerships with the private sector and other players are critical.
“Rail has long been the backbone of the South African logistics and transport value chain, and will become even more critical in a post-COVID-19 environment. It is cheaper, cleaner and more efficient than road transport, and lends itself to carrying cargo in a sanitised, minimal-contact environment”, she noted.
Mesela continued: “The case for rail, we believe, is clear and compelling. Rail remains the most viable option for the transportation of freight like grain, automotive components and fully built car units and minerals. It will reduce road congestion, and free our roads up to carry commuter traffic and sensitive cargo like perishables and cold storage items.”
South Africa’s rail infrastructure has been a neglected area of infrastructure investment for decades, and has lagged behind in areas such as energy, which has seen the construction of new power stations, and has had to compete with other infrastructure sectors for investment.
In the meantime, the continent is looking to South Africa for leadership. At the African Union’s 24th ordinary session in Addis Ababa in 2015, South Africa was identified as a manufacturing hub for railway and rolling stock equipment.
Mesela stated: “It is time for us to lead. At ARIA, we’re busy engaging government to restart an overdue conversation about railway infrastructure. ARIA’s proposal is to create a formal structure, the Rail Advisory Committee (RAC), which would bring together the rail industry, government, development and the private finance community, as well as labour and the skills development and training fraternity.”
Mesela continued: “The RAC would support government’s efforts in areas to shape policy and legislation to guide the evolution of rail operations and safety standards. It would address legacy issues affecting the size and structure of the rail industry in South Africa, and obstacles to the growth of the industry. It would boost Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA) ability to drive economic growth and transformation. It would assist in ensuring freight’s third party access to Transnet’s network, which is a key element of government’s Economic Reconstruction, becomes a reality.
“It is time to get all stakeholders around the table to get our rail industry driving our economy forward. It is a conversation we cannot afford to delay.”