The African continent needs an efficient transport system to help it achieve its growth and development objectives, says South Africa’s Transport Minister Ben Martins.
“There is no doubt that an effective transport system is the pillar of growth and development in Africa,” said Martins at the official opening of the 2nd Congress of the African Association of Public Transport (UATP) in Johannesburg on Monday.
“Other sectors of the economy such as agriculture, mining and tourism also depend on transport.”
Martins said safe and reliable public transport infrastructure was needed to promote the productivity and competitiveness of countries, as the high costs and tariffs associated with poor transport infrastructure were partly to blame for developing countries continually lagging behind the developed world.
“The revitalisation of the rail infrastructure across Africa will address the colonial spatial development, while at the same time, establish new networks between countries.
“Regional integration will depend, to a degree, on the harmonised transport infrastructure networks between and within countries,” he said.
Martins singled out the lack of adequate public transport infrastructure in both metropolitan and rural areas as one of the challenges facing the transport system.
This, he said, was further exacerbated by the absence of an integrated public transport system to create synergy between various modes of public transport.
“Efforts to improve public transport should also include the safety and security of passengers and freight,” he said.
Sharing the vision for South Africa’s transport system, Martins said the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Johannesburg and Cape Town has proven to be a significant intervention to reduce travelling time, especially for the country’s workforce.
“This has benefited many workers who reside a distance away from their places of work. The South African model has been made possible by the involvement of taxi operators as shareholders in the BRT system,” he said.
“More work is still needed to fully integrate bus and taxi operators, and this will include further capacity building in the taxi industry.
“Informed by the lessons learnt from the initial BRT implementation in the two cities, we are extending the roll-out of the BRT system to other cities and towns across the country.”
The existence of organisations such as UATP, which brings together governmental and non-governmental participants, is important as it creates a platform for sharing lessons and experience, and for peer review.
UATP also provides a platform for African countries to speak and act in unity, as they engage with their counterparts across the globe. It was created in November 2002 in Togo in West Africa.
South Africa is fully committed to strengthening partnerships with other African countries through organisations like UATP, and as part of the initiatives of the African Union and Nepad (New Partnership for Africa’s Development).
The conference, running until 11 October, also enables the entire world of public transport to gather in Johannesburg to discuss a sustainable solution for mobility in Africa and the developing world.
It takes place under the theme ‘BRT, a sustainable solution for mobility in Africa and the developing world’.
The choice of the theme confirms that Africa is beginning to look for solutions that are suitable to address the practical challenges of providing a safe and reliable public transport.
The conference will also demonstrate the effectiveness of BRT as an adapted and sustainable solution for mobility in African cities.