“Africa: The continent of the digital future for rail” was the theme of the first African Digital Rail Summit, organised in Cape Town, South Africa, from 25 to 27 February, convened by AUDA-NEPAD and the International Union of Railways (IUC).

The initiative is part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, of which the African Integrated High Speed Railway Network is one of the flagship projects.

This high-level meeting summit made it possible to develop the African vision of digital rail, as part of the vision of rail in Africa by 2040, defined in 2014 in Malabo.

The continent’s 90,000 km of railway lines are mainly inherited from colonisation. This network, which is too fragmented and focused on transporting raw materials to ports, still needs to be extended and interconnected in order to accelerate Africa’s economic integration. Its modernisation involves in particular the use of new digital technologies.

In a statement sent to the summit, Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of AUDA-NEPAD said, “The African Integrated High Speed Railway Network is one of the flagship projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The modernisation and extension of rail networks will not be possible without new digital technologies, a key element of “intelligent” transport. These technologies will help us achieve a key pillar of our regional integration.”

Transport ministers from South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Niger are present in Cape Town, as well as the Director of the National Railways Office of Morocco. Also present are industrialists, economists, representatives of African sub-regional organisations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa, as well as experts in digital ecosystems.

In support of digitisation, Mr Adama Deen, AUDA-NEPAD Senior Advisor on Strategic Infrastructure said, “We strongly support digitalisation in rail via its various projects and vision. This is the way to respond to the need for development of mobility for both passengers and freight on the African continent.”

A roadmap will be drawn up, major projects identified and a strategy developed for the revitalisation of the African Union of Railways.

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