AfCFTA: Africa’s rail sector on pathway to expansion

The African Rail Industry Association (ARIA) has been formed to replace the Railroad Association of South Africa (RRA) as the new group looks to play a greater role in revitalising the local and continental rail sector to support the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into effect on January 1, 2021.

ARIA is looking to play a greater role across Africa by aiming to create a thriving and connected rail sector to provide world class rail infrastructure across Africa.

With the AfCFTA connecting more than 50 economies in Africa, Mesela Nhlapo, Aria chief executive says there was a need to shift the focus of the association from South Africa to the wider continent.

According to Nhlapo, “We want to focus on Africa as a whole. The role of Aria, as an advocacy group, is to have the rail industry’s opinions heard and concerns heeded. We are open to strategic partnerships that will help us forge a path for a greater and more connected African Rail Network. We believe that South Africa can play a role as one of the manufacturing hubs for railway and rolling stock equipment”.

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Nhlapo says Aria is aiming to create a thriving and connected rail sector to provide world class rail infrastructure across Africa, developed through the potential of African people.

Aria says its mission is to materially advocate for the rail industry: as a key sector in driving economic growth and integration of the continent as one of the key contributors to Gross Domestic Productivity (GDP) across Africa, and to consistently improve transport modes in Africa through rail.

She says a number of key elements need to be implemented in order to stimulate greater use of, and investment in, the continent’s rail infrastructure, starting with regulatory stability and user-friendly access agreement regimes. There will also have to be some work done to create clear and thorough safety regulations, which will attract the kind of quality operators that the infrastructure owners should demand.

“Aria will actively seek innovative mechanisms and advocate for policies that will unlock the investment and growth potential in the sector”. She says.

Stakeholders in Aria include the African Union (AU), the South African Department of Public Enterprise (DPE) including otherinterest groups.

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