The first meeting of the steering committee and experts of the Continental High Speed Rail Network project opened on Monday 25 September in Dakar, with the aim of sharing the experiences of member countries while waiting for the feasibility study.

The two-day meeting of the coordination mechanism for this project is an initiative of the NEPAD Agency, in the framework of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which is the main continental strategy for regional integration through the provision of infrastructure.

“The Continental High Speed Rail Network project is backed by a long-term vision that has a draft action plan and an institutional framework, a general framework in which several actions have been carried out since 2015,” remarked Louis Napo, Advisor on the High Speed Train project at the NEPAD Agency. An overall feasibility study of the project needs to be developed in order to proceed to the implementation phase.

Meeting participant’s group photo

“However, this initiative will not start from scratch as several countries are engaged in similar projects, wherein some are still in the planning phase,” said Adama Deen, Senior Advisor to the CEO, and Project Manager, Continental High Speed Railway Project, at the NEPAD Agency.

The first session of the meeting was devoted to presentations on the experiences of Senegal, South Africa and Morocco, the latter two countries considered to be the most advanced in this field, which can inspire other countries on the continent.

The presentations by officials of railway companies in Senegal, South Africa and Morocco were followed by questions and comments, in order to inspire the best strategy possible for the project of the Continental High Speed Railway Network.

Adama Deen then went back on the actions taken before stressing the need to develop a study and a pilot project, which would involve taking charge of points relating to the cost of the project, its viability on how to deploy it through the continent and the choice of technology.

“The funding strategy is also a key success factor, of the project’s business case. The Study would therefore be exploring the quantification of 3 key viability factors: the strategic equity and strategic debt required, as well as, the multiple revenue streams, to make the first 10-Year Implementation Plan, and the first country- regional pilot project viable, for implication by 2023,” Mr Deen added.

“In essence, we have a target to reach 20% network development by 2023; hence, we will working with “willing and ready” countries, and their respective regional economic communities, to define the first set of regional HSR pilot projects, Mr Deen said.

“Starting in 2018, we can have a clearer idea of what we want,” he added, “For which viable and solid decisions must be taken, allowing the project to move forward.”

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