AUDA-NEPAD Webinar: AFDB, UIC, Others Express Interest in African Integrated High-Speed Railway Network Project
The International Union of Railways (UIC), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Ethio-Djibouti Railway, and others have expressed interest in the financing of the African Integrated High-Speed Railway Network Project(AIHSRN)
They made the expression at the second webinar series of the African Union’s Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) held on Wednesday 26th August with the African Development Bank, a statement by the project advisor of AUDA-NEPAD, M. Louis Napo Gnagbe said.
The webinar attended by several leading railway figures and moderated by Mr Olawale Rasheed of the African Railway Roundtable dissected the financing aspect of the project as a follow up to the first webinar which examined the entire project and how to take it to the next level.
The event had kicked off with the Acting Head of Economic Unit of AUDA-NEPAD, Mrs Towela Nyirenda – Jere assuring participants that AUDA- NEPAD has clear agenda on the project while the representative of The Directorial of Infrastructure and Energy of the AUC reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 2063 and the flagship projects including the Continental High-Speed Railway Network.
Mr. Joster Imbuchi Onyango presented the summary of the previous webinar to refresh participants’ memory. While the first webinar focused on taken the project to the next level, the second webinar was designed to focus on financing and advocacy issues flowing from the many recommendations from the Detailed Scoping Study. AUDA- NEPAD affirmed its openness to genuine ideas and partnership in line with international best practice, relevant compliance with AUC project management processes and adherence to regional and national requirements, stressing that the webinar series are not mere talk shops but platforms for critical inputs to produce actionable report to the official leadership which will further contribute to realising the goal of the High-Speed Railway project
The UIC leadership through its Director General, Mr. François Davenne declared the readiness of the global railway group to support the High-Speed project, emphasizing that a team of UIC international experts other UIC-member networks is ready to collaborate for technical standardisation and other expertise to make the project a reality.
The UIC representative had in pursuance of this commitment met Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of AUDA- NEPAD, in February 2019 in Johannesburg to discuss the issues of this collaboration and partnership.
Many speakers recommended among others a close partnership with multilateral financial institutions like the African Development Bank, Afrexim bank and the World Bank just as the AFDB representative at the event, Mamady Souare, affirmed the readiness of the bank to participate in the financing of the Continental High-Speed railway project.
” I would like to underline the Bank’s interest in this important project, as it will connect the 16 landlocked countries of Africa to the main seaports and neighboring countries by establishing interoperability of railways across different regions; creating East-West / North-South land bridges; and interconnect African capitals and therefore the main trade and economic poles to stimulate economic growth and intra-African free trade.
“The development of the African Integrated High-Speed railawy Network will therefore greatly contribute to regional integration and the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area ( AfCFTA) by offering economically and environmentally responsible and sustainable solutions in terms of mobility on a continental scale, both for goods and for people”, he said.
Presenting the can – do – spirit of Africa, the Director General of Ethio-Djibouti Railway, Mr. Tilahun Sarka, presented an overview of the project and recommended critical points in the areas technical specifications, signalling and economic studies for the planned high speed project.
According to the Director General, the Ethio-Djibouti rail has achieved several positive milestones even as he declared that a continental High-Speed rail will not only be sustainable but also achievable.
The consultant for the scoping study, presented an overview railway system in Africa, identifying technical challenges and proposing further actions to implement many recommendations already submitted to overcome challenges that may face the project. For the DB Thelo Chief executive, Jorg Marienhagen, action needed immediately includes strengthening the project delivery unit of AUDA- NEPAD, an area he said his firm will be ready to offer support.
Also speaking on financing, Mr. Soteri Gatera of United Nations economic Commission for Africa(UNECA) called on African leaders to ratify the Luxembourg Rail Protocol which he said removes the burden of rolling stock financing.
Quoting Oxera report, Gatera said “analysis on the savings in financing costs through a reduction in the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) for operators of railway equipment in Africa found that the differential in financing costs from the Protocol ranges from 1.6% to 13.5% of the present value of rolling stock.
The Vice President of Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode echoed the same viewpoints , adding ” I recommend the adoption of the Luxembourg protocol which securitise leasing and acquisition of rolling stocks. And We call on African nations to ratify the protocol to remove the financial burden of railway projects.
” We recommend a deep mix of private sector investment moderated by involvement of multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank, AFDB and Afrexim bank. While the direct borrowing to finance infrastructure is in vogue, diversifying funding sources is a better model as is the case in Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania”, the African Chamber Chief said.
Among other major highlights of the event as noted by the Project Advisor , Mr Louis Napo Gnagbe include proposals on financing options by the AFDB, offers on technical standardization from UIC, empahisis on resolution of interoperability questions by DB Thello, imperative of railway value chain development through private sector by Pan African Chamber of Commerce, and example of a model inter- country project by the Ethiopian-Djibouti Railways.
” Today’s webinar yielded a lot of positives which we are going to articulate further .As noted by the Head of Economic Unit at the beginning, this will yield actionable recommendations which will surely reach top leaders at AUDA-NEPAD, the African Union for further attention of the continent’s political leadership”, Mr Louis Napo Gnagbe said.
With a total of six speakers and 90 participants , the event held live on zoom attracted the participation of officials from AUDA-NEPAD; African Union Commission (AUC); Pan-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the global railway body, The International Union of Railways UIC; the African Development Bank, African Railway Roundtable among others.