Sub-Saharan Africa needs transport boost

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Durban - If Sub-Saharan Africa is to benefit from the huge economic and social benefits brought by transport infrastructure, upgrade and maintenance of the transport network system must be carried out.

"Transport infrastructure allows people to reach water, fuel, schools, clinics and jobs... without infrastructure, connectivity suffers," said Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele at the African Renaissance Conference.

He said that a World Bank study on road conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa indicated that the region needs a specific connectivity standard to occur.

"There must be permanent regional infrastructure to connect national capital of all countries in a given region. We should engage in promoting and facilitating rural transportation infrastructure," said Ndebele.

During his address, he gave his interpretation of the conference theme, Connecting Africa, which Ndebele said should be about connecting the people of Africa across the continent largely through transport.

"The goal of providing transport infrastructure should be to facilitate the emergence of an Africa which routinely trades with itself. Connecting Africa should be about re-establishing the African consciousness that once characterised the African personality," the minister said.

The issue of development is still a massive problem in the world, with only a quarter of the world's population living in developed countries in the North.

A third of the world's population is said to be living in China and India.

"Unless Indian and China are developed, there will be no Asia century. Almost one billion live in Africa. Every day, new networks of the world show these people suffering from hunger, poverty and underdevelopment."

Infrastructure investment through private equity is fast becoming the new way of doing business in the infrastructure development sector.

"For transport investments to become the way of doing transport business in South Africa and the rest of Africa, there is going to be an urgent need for public authorities to be realistically aware of what it takes to attract private investments - in terms of confidence in the process and deal structures," said Ndebele.

Africa, over the past three decades, has made strides in connecting the continent through transport. Ndebele listed the Trans-Africa Highway System, NEPAD short term action programme, and the Consensus Transport Master Plan as examples of such connections.

"Africa is putting an emphasis on placing environmental issues at the centre of every development programme," the minister said.

Ndebele called for the spirit of Ubuntu to start at the conference.

"The African personality is about empathy, and being available for others. As one of the resolutions of this conference, we must pledge our support for the people of Somalia," he said.

He called for donations of any kind and said the national Transport Department will ensure it gets to the Somali people.