Southern #African #Railways Association Brainstorms on Financing and Operations

The Southern African region has an integrated railway master plan with a strong regional railway association, SARA, probably the only such outfit among Africa’s RECs.

UNLOCKING new financing and diversifying operations would be under spotlight today as players in Southern Africa’s railway transport sector and key stakeholders meet to deliberate on issues affecting the industry.

The Southern African Railways Association (SARA) is hosting the virtual conference under the theme: “Get connected directly to the industry”. The business breakfast meeting is a precursor to the main conference that would take place in October in Johannesburg, South Africa

Coming on the back of the disruptive Covid-19, the convention would afford delegates the opportunity to assess the impact of the pandemic on the railway business and related value chain.

A brief programme issued ahead of the conference indicates there will be high-level engagements involving senior railway executives and experts drawn from SADC countries and beyond.

Regional railway operators would use the platform to examine the status of their business, highlighting both performance breakthroughs and challenges.

Among the challenges will be engagements around the impact caused by Covid-19 to rail operators who would give briefs of how they were impacted. Close attention will be given to the state of critical infrastructure or rolling stock.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about new challenges and opportunities in the railway industry,” said SARA.

“What is the scenario prevailing in the railway industry relative to the Covid19? How adaptive are the railways to this new normal? – How to share resources to normalise the situation in the rail sector? – What are the new railway regulatory issues relative to Covid-19, and how to finance the infrastructure project/s?”

Topical engagements would also centre on the cost of capital expenditure, terms and conditions and scope of budgets allocated to operators to solve and improve operations.

The conference would not only highlight challenges but present suggestions on how to mitigate adverse effects including strategies of harnessing modern technologies to improve efficiency.

In view of constraints faced in communication during lockdown, where a majority of the workforce was working from home, the conference would address operational connectivity issues and how to enhance doing business across the borders.

The need to enforce safety while bringing or embracing the new normal would also be under focus. SARA was formed in 1996 in response to increasing road competition and was originally meant to provide the SADC railways with a strong lobbying association to pursue advocacy for fair surface transport competition.

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