DURBAN - Transport minister Blade Nzimande has said that if Africa wants to capitalise on its fast growth trajectory it needed better transport and logistics as current infrastructure was “insufficient”.
Delivering the keynote address at the 2018 African Ports and Rail Evolution Conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Wednesday, Nzimande said Africa would continue to be one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world, with transport being an important growth enabler.
“Our regional ports and rail infrastructure developments are not in line with the trade growth in Africa and our deficient infrastructure raises logistics costs and the costs of production and distribution,” said Nzimande to an audience consisting of port and rail authorities from around the continent, including Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and Nigeria.
He said African port depths could not accommodate large vessels such as 4 000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) capacity while port congestion led to “longer ship turnaround time and longer cargo dwell time”, which in turn led to a “lack of predictability and reliability in the African ports system”.
“Current transport and logistics system are insufficient. The maritime sector is well positioned to boost African trade whilst the land-based transport will remain a challenge.
“Eleven countries ranked in the world top for holding the largest mineral resources are located in Africa. Therefore, there is a need for infrastructure to be able to develop efficient transport and logistics systems for Africa. We therefore, need a combination of infrastructure and software policies to develop efficient transport and logistics players in Africa,” said Nzimande.
He said to change “the situation”, there was a need to “collectively enter into Inter-port MOUs” and agree on co-operation on trade facilitation, commercial investment, port infrastructure development, training, advisory services, exchange of information and port security”.
“We therefore, need to develop a regional ports plan to define the complementary role of African ports and generate business and volume growth opportunities.”
Nzimande said the South African government would provide assistance to other African ports with specialised services such as hydrographic survey capability, spare dredging capacity and infrastructure planning.
“We will also support key freight corridors to ensure their optimal performance to improve our regional integration.”
Nzimande said the Moving South Africa (MSA) freight transport strategy 2020 envisaged a transport system that met customer demands, be it on road, rail, sea or air.
“From a rail perspective, capital should be made available to upgrade the key routes and nodes, which carry the majority of freight volumes to assist densification and to achieve economies of scale. Accelerated investment is required for signalling systems, locomotive and rolling stock. Funds spent here will reduce operating costs and increase performance substantially,” he said.
He said his department estimated that overloaded vehicles caused 60% of road damage, which was a driving factor to move more freight onto the rail network.
Nzimande said more than R56-billion would be spent by the South African government on passenger rail services over the next ten years. He added that a white paper on National Rail Policy would make provision for private sector participation.
He also lauded the arrests and sentencing of several suspects linked to the ongoing arson and vandalism on the country’s rail network.
Nzimande announced that President Cyril Ramaphosa would open a rail-manufacturing factory in Dunnottar at Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, on October 27.