By Thuso Khumalo

Africa can learn a lot from China in developing a strong rail infrastructure for the continent, spurring intra connection, an expert has said.
Dapo Ogunmuyiwa, chairman of the German-based Ogunmuyiwa Motorentechnik GmbH, told Xinhua in a recent interview that Africa’ s poor rail infrastructure is hampering swift movement of goods and people across the continent.
“In many African countries you have high densities of people and this creates a need for the high speed passenger network linking the main cities and countries,” Ogunmuyiwa said on the sidelines of the Africa Rail Exhibition 2015 which kicked off in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“There is a lot that Africa can learn from China. In the past 20 years China has developed a high speed rail network and these have worked wonders in transporting people around the country,” he added.

According to Ogunmuyiwa, although the high-speed rail networks did not come cheap for China, the country is now enjoying the benefits of that.

“Within a period of five years, China built a high speed rail from Beijing to Shanghai and that is the kind of development that Africa needs. Although a lot of money was invested in that project, the country is now enjoying the social benefits of it and that is the kind of experience we need to translate to Africa.”

He said most of the rail infrastructure in most African countries is over 100 years old and that it is struggling to satisfy modern demands.

He however admitted that getting funding for such huge infrastructure projects is a big challenge for many African countries.

“We need to work with all the potential funding institutions and come up with a unique model for Africa. It is very difficulty to rely on governments and the banks at the moment and there is a need to move to capital markets and see the funding opportunities that are available,” Ogunmuyiwa said.

Some say even if Africa is to get funding for such huge high- speed rail infrastructure projects, skills shortage will still be a big problem.
However, Ogunmuyiwa said, the skills challenges cannot be a stumbling block.
“Initially the continent will be dependent on the skills from those foreign countries that have the know how, but African working in these projects will be trained and skilled for the future.”

Ogunmuyiwa also argued that there are already many African immigrants working overseas in similar projects and they already possess the required skills.

“Countries will then have a duty to attract these skilled Africans back to development the rail infrastructure for their continent. The key thing is to keep the initial economic development going and that will bring about skills development,” he said.

Ogunmuyiwa said what Africa needs is to find how it can use China’s experience in a way that will be of mutual benefit to both China and Africa. Enditem

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