SADC aims to synchronise regional transport networks

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By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is still struggling to fully formulate regional transport laws, regulations, and standards, subsequently leading to a delay in the harmonisation of the regional transport industry.

This also means that the region is yet to fully achieve its SADC Protocol, which requires member states to promote economically viable integrated service provision in the region. The Protocol also asks for the establishment of infrastructure, logistical systems and institutional frameworks.

Nothing has, however, been achieved leading to some countries lagging behind in transport infrastructure development, making travelling in the region difficult.

Deputy executive secretary for regional integration, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, confirmed the delay during the SADC committee of ministers responsible for ICT, meteorology and transport meeting held in Windhoek last week.

Dr Mhlongo admitted that continued border delays and road accidents call for the region to accelerate the harmonisation of road transport laws, regulations and standards. He said closing the missing links and increasing the capacity of the regional transport networks remains a high priority.

SADC member states are actively participating in the implementation of the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme, which seeks to facilitate harmonisation in this important transport mode that accounts for 80% of regional surface traffic.

“We appreciate member states’ efforts in increasing capacity through projects such as the innovative development of the Walvis Bay Container Terminal, Kazungula Road and Rail Bridge on the North South Corridor and the various border infrastructure improvement initiatives, including the One-Stop Border Posts on the Nacala Corridor, North South and Trans Kalahari Corridors,” said Mhlongo.

On civil aviation, Mhlongo said they note with pride, the progress the region is recording in liberalisation of the sector and improving safety. 

He added that the interim SADC Aviation Safety Organisation (iSASO) coordination of technical assistance in air safety training needs to be commended.

On rail way transport, he said attention needs to be focused on the revitalisation of railway industry in order to address the skewed modal balance and meet growing and traffic projected demand. 

SADC’s rail way industry is almost non-existent, as the region is still scrambling to link countries together with the rail way network. 

Some individual SADC countries are also struggling to modernise or even maintain their local railway systems.

Mhlongo commended the ongoing work with Nepad Business Foundation and Southern African Railway Association on North-South Corridor and urged all stakeholders to support it.

“To improve regional transport infrastructure, we have been working with the European Union, African Development Bank and other international cooperating partners to prepare projects supported by the SADC Project Preparation and Development Facility. 

“Over 40 high priority projects have been identified and will be processed in order to create a pipeline of projects ready for investment financing,” said Mhlongo.

Furthermore, Mhlongo said the paradigm shift from bilateral regulation of the regional transport market to multilateral regulation, quantity to quality regulation and embedding ICT technology in regulation, data and information sharing and law enforcement should improve transport efficiency in the region.

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