What does the future of Africa’s railways hold?

PUBLISHED: Thu, 06 Sep 2018 12:08:14 GMT

What will Africa’s heavy haul railway system look like in 2030 as artificial intelligence, big data analytics and the Internet of Things moulds traditional sectors? This is the question that railway companies across the globe are grappling with as the 4th Industrial Revolution shapes the way we work, live, travel and transport freight.

With a view to answering this question, the International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA) has called on its member organisations to devise a roadmap ahead of a major industry conference to be held in Norway in June 2019.

In the build up to the event, the South African Heavy Haul Association (SAHA), will be bringing experts from across the continent together to debate the implications for Africa, where safety and security, infrastructure constraints and other challenges have impacted the movement of goods across borders.

Next week’s technical workshop, held from 4-6 September 2018, will bring together skilled professionals from the Southern African Railways Association (SARA), which has members in countries including Zambia and Swaziland.

“Are we ever going to have driverless, fully automated trains in Africa, considering our landscape? I’m hoping that by the end of the three-day workshop, delegates would have formulated a clear vision on how we can collaborate on ensuring African railways are future-proof,” says IHHA global chairperson Brian Monakali, who is also the General Manager of Capital Planning at Transnet Freight Rail.

“Due to South Africa’s position as the global chair of the IHHA, we are also expected to lead the discourse on how to revive African railways, promote intra-Africa trade and embrace new technology,” Monakali adds.

He says intra-Africa trade stands at roughly 12 percent compared to our counterparts America, Europe and Asia at 60-80%. This is due to because of a lack of interconnected railway systems, poor condition of our rail infrastructure, amongst other things.

Monakali says insights shared during the workshop will inform a working document that will be an input into the Development of a Global 2030 Vision for Heavy Haul, by IHHA member countries, and to be presented to the conference in Norway.

Monakali is available for interviews to talk about SAHHA and IHHA latest developments, Transnet’s involvement in this new journey and the vision development for Africa’s heavy haul railways.

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