SEATTLE, Washington — The first ever U.N. Global Sustainable Transport Conference came to an end in November with more than 50 countries endorsing the ‘Ashgabat Statement.’ As a result, the future looks bright for the environment, the science and technology industries and for residents living in the developing world. In Africa, progress is being made through the collaborative efforts of local and foreign governments and the private sector to ensure that the benefits of sustainable transport can reach the 1.2 billion people living in this part of the world.
At the Global Sustainable Transport Conference, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and High Representative Gyan Chandra Acharya said least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small island states faced particular obstacles. High costs of material and labor, restricted access and a lack of funding partnerships are just some of the problems faced in these areas. This is especially true in Africa, where poor infrastructure, insecurity and political instability heavily impede the processes required for large-scale infrastructure like affordable and efficient public transportation.
In building sustainable transport in Africa, care must be taken to preserve the life and safety of wildlife near new construction. For example, in Kenya, the original route of the East African Railway would have cut directly across the Nairobi Wildlife Sanctuary. In this instance, officials have considered building a protective barrier, a wall that could protect the wildlife and hopefully keep them a safe distance from the infrastructure, trains and human population.
The challenges of developing sustainable transport in Africa can be solved, providing the foundation for a sustainable future for Africa. Sustainable transport provides residents the widespread access to jobs, education and healthcare, empowers women and people with disabilities.
Right now, private-public partnerships are working to make affordable, environmentally sound sustainable transport in Africa a reality by building The East African Railway. The East African Railway is set to rejuvenate early-20th-century infrastructure, and once complete, it will connect Kenya and Burundi west to the Congo, north to Ethiopia, and remain open to further expansion.
The East African Railway is being managed by an organization representing six nations and is a testament to government and private sector cooperation. The partnership, known as the East African Community, is between Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and of course, Kenya.
The construction and financing of the railway is a collaborative effort as well. The China Road and Bridge Corporation is constructing the railway under the supervision of consulting firm CPCS Transcom. The majority of the Mombasa-Nairobi section of the railway is being financed by The Export Bank of China.
As for the wildlife population, The Kenya Wildlife Service is ensuring that animal crossing corridors are included in the design. This way, animals like elephants and giraffes can cross the tracks safely using elevated overhead passes.
With similar projects planned in Senegal, Mali, Egypt and Ethiopia, sustainable transport in Africa is sure to help lead the continent into a more prosperous future. As for the East African Railway, Kenya’s stretch is planned to open in June of this year. It is estimated that this part of the project will have the capacity for eight freight and two passenger trains to run daily.
– Ashley Henyan