Johannesburg - Transport leaders from several African countries will spend the next three days debating ways of improving security at the continent's cross border routes ahead of next year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Indaba on Roads conference currently underway, will also discuss ways to promote free and safe movement of people within the SADC region during the tournament without jeopardizing the security of individual countries.
An estimated three million visitors are expected to flock to South Africa in the period leading to the tournament and a number of them are likely to be from the continent. There have been fears that some people may use the event for crimes such as human trafficking and drug smuggling.
"It is therefore very important that we have gathered to re-commit ourselves to realise the goal of a better coordinated approach on road transport within the SADC region," Cross Border Road Transport Agency chairman Gilbert Phalafala said on Tuesday.
Both Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo and Local Organising Committee head Dr Danny Jordaan did not pitch for the event, although they were billed to be the main speakers.
Phalafala urged those who were attending the indaba to use the opportunity to renew trade ties that have been made possible by the cooperation and efficiency of cross border routes. "Inter-Africa transport is no doubt becoming one of the best engines for economic growth and social development."
The rate at which the continent's economy was growing and the ever-increasing influx of international visitors within SADC regions provided a warning that transport services should match this growth.
Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Bheki Nkosi said transport remained a central tool for SADC to achieve regional economic integration within the member states.
Nkosi called on delegates to deal vigorously with matters affecting cross border road transport operations. "I wish to stress the importance of arriving at the most effective ways to accelerate service delivery in terms of cross border issues as affecting our transport operators."