The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has announced that the bloc needs an estimated $100 billion to recapitalise the North-South Corridor to enhance intra regional trade and integration.
The North South Corridor ferries minerals from DRC, the Copperbelt, Zimbabwe and Botswana into the ports in South Africa. Pundits say the railway infrastructure plays a key role in promoting the region’s re-industrialisation and reclaiming the market lost to road network.
This is not the first time that SADC railways infrastructure has come under the spotlight. At the Southern African Railways Association media briefing, one of the issues that were raised was the inefficiency of rail services across the region. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) acknowledges this as problematic, stating that railways in the territory are currently operating below capacity, and list a lack of regional integration as one of the leading causes of inefficiency. According to the recent Africa Integration Index Report published in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB), “Inter-trade in Africa is currently at about 18%.” Other challenges highlighted include ageing rail infrastructure and equipment and poor maintenance of existing rail assets. As is always the case when discussing infrastructural projects of this magnitude, funding remains a huge stumbling block for all states in the region. Adding to this is the complexity of making sound investment decisions when choosing to maintain existing infrastructure versus migrating to newer more efficient technologies. Human resources also pose challenges, with insufficient training programmes available regionally to provide the necessary skills for rail engineering and operational management.
According to SADC, “if nothing is done eventually there will be no rail infrastructure because this will also have an impact on our road networks as traffic will increase on roads.”
The Southern African Railways Association is currently working on a five year strategy that seeks to restore the rail’s market.