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‘Political will to drive Africa’s railway modernisation’

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For Nigeria among other African countries to benefit from railway modernisation, there is a need for political will and commitment to supporting the integration of railway networks across the continent.

Besides, there must be a support to fund a pre-feasibility analysis to confirm the potential commercial viability of railway interconnectivity in the continent.

Chief Operating Officer, Thelo DB Pty Ltd, Dr. Noanne Botha, told The Guardian in a mail interview while responding to questions on how Nigeria can benefit from railway modernisation.

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African-Export Import Bank (Afreximbank), and South Africa-based, Thelo DB Proprietary Limited recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Johannesburg, to develop, finance and operate railway projects in Africa.

The pact is expected to create efficient and effective transportation and logistics solutions in Africa, with particular emphasis on the freight railway sector, promote trade, investment, and economic skills development.

Speaking on the intervention within regions like Nigeria, Botha said the firm would need to understand the Rail Master Plan of the Region, as this is invariably what is being supported as the long-term strategy of the government. This would provide an indication as to support for the initiative and nature of intervention required.

He said investment would be on a speed to close basis based on availability of resources, both human resources and capital, at the time. Economic activity on the Continent is gaining significant momentum, resulting in accelerated competition for key resources as described.

President of Afreximbank, Prof. Benedict Oramah, described the gesture as timely, given that the continent was in the process of operationalising the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA).

Oramah said it is imperative that critical trade enabling infrastructure to be put in place to facilitate the flow of tradable goods and services along Africa’s trade corridors.

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He noted that Afreximbank’s strategic plan, impact2021, sought to dramatically improve intra-African trade.

Chairman of the Board of Thelo DB, Ronnie Ntuli, said strategic collaboration between the two organisations provided Thelo DB with the prospect to enhance the technical value chain of services that it offers the African railway sector.
“Through this critically important relationship, we are able to offer to the continent, not only the best technical solutions for the railway sector but also introduce financing solutions to finance railway projects across the continent.”

He noted that Afreximbank and Thelo DB were well-positioned to facilitate trade, support infrastructure development and, importantly, help deliver the ambition of regional integration.

According to him, Thelo DB is committed to delivering unparalleled know-how and experience in the African railway sector, and providing railway infrastructure development, operational cooperation, and construction supervision, by implementing and rehabilitating existing infrastructure, enhancing operational efficiencies, and managing risks associated with rolling stock while transferring skills through training and skills development programmes.

He added that by bringing separate but complementary sets of specialities, Afreximbank and Thelo DB anticipate much-improved efficiencies in the development, financing, and operation of railway infrastructure projects, enhancing regional skills and supporting broader economic development on the African continent.

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