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The first-ever African Development Bank Transport Forum (ATF) opened Thursday, November 26 at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, with lively debates on how to achieve sustainable solutions to the continent’s transport and integration challenges.
Opening the plenary session of the ATF, Bank Group Vice-President, Infrastructure, Private Sector and Regional Integration, Solomon Asamoah, drew a picture of Africa’s infrastructure. He highlighted the continental unprecedented economic growth and its upward movement, but noted that it needs appropriate policies to fix its transportation problems.
“Africa is a continent with a huge number of landlocked countries for which access to the world economy is vital, but the current transport infrastructure supply will not be sufficient to meet the demand; both in terms of quantity and quality,” he said, adding that “this situation would continue to negatively impact the continent’s efforts to achieve the desired levels of socio-economic growth and to ensure social inclusiveness.”
For Vice-President Asamoah, the challenge is not only financial: the private sector’s full participation is central. He stressed the African Development Bank’s leading role alongside other international development institutions in supporting African countries in their efforts to mobilize resources and scale up investments in transport infrastructure. However, the financing gap remains huge and Official Development Assistance (ODA) alone is not sufficient to fill the gap. He also urged the experts present at the Forum to shape future policies and programs for developing sustainable transportation in an integrated Africa. “Without appropriate policies, no amount of resources will be enough to fix Africa’s transportation problem,” he said.
Asamoah underscored the Bank’s commitment to the overall development of transport infrastructure, and its promotion of sustainable transport and regional integration. He also reiterated the institution’s interest in promoting public-private partnerships and the harmonization of national legislation that can serve as a catalyst for sustainable transport development in the region.
Governments and transport sector operators must work together
The social and economic importance of transport was also on the agenda, at the first panel discussion focusing on “Transport development and emerging challenges in Africa.” The role of innovation in commercial road, railway, air freight and passenger transport, and how governments and airline companies can harmonize their practices and services delivered to enable Africans to travel safely in functional airports.
During that session, Ivorian Transport Minister Gaoussou Touré; Malian Equipment and Transport Minister, Mamadou Hachim Koumaré; European Commission International Cooperation and Development’s Paolo Ciccarelli; International Air Transport Association (IATA) Vice-President, Raphael Kuuchi; and Air Côte d’Ivoire’s CEO, René Décurey, discussed the current situation in Africa and the international road transport market. They all highlighted the role of road infrastructure in Africa’s socioeconomic development.
The panelists pinpointed that despite the opening up of African skies, the continent does not see many companies or competition, as taxes, fares and fuel costs are high in Africa. Capacity building for actors and operators in the transport sectors was also stressed as a key element for sustainable development and integration.
Government officials and airline operators underlined opportunities for developing transport in Africa and potential benefits from the regional integration, but underscored the need for strengthened cooperation and vigorous actions. For African air transport to be competitive, they said, there is a need for adequately investing in transport infrastructure, cancelling the monopoly of airport service providers, reducing fuel prices and taxes, as well as fares and charges.
Movement of goods and people
The lack of appropriate infrastructure and the enforcement of regulatory barriers are such impediments to movement of goods and people on the continent that it is often easier for African countries to trade with the rest of the world than it is for them to trade with their African neighbours.
The AfDB Transport Forum is expected to allow transportation experts at the Bank and their partners and counterparts in the public and private sectors to share best practices and experiences, promote research and development and stimulate continental business and professional networking.
The meeting, which concludes Friday, brought together high-level government officials, experts, development partners, international organizations, private sector, academia, NGOs and other selected shareholders.
For more information on the conference: http://www.afdb.org/atf2015