With the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade agreement (AfCFTA), it is important for African countries to have smooth and operational railway systems that will enhance the free movement of goods and people in order to realize the full benefit of this agreement.
The African Development Bank estimates that Africa’s infrastructure needs are between US$130 and US$170 billion per year; adding, financing for this falls short by US$68 billion and US$108 billion per year.
It further states that railways alone may need more than US$100 billion in infrastructure investment to update the existing infrastructure and to build new railway lines. It, therefore, recommends that mature financial market schemes such as project bonds can be explored by governments to develop and finance the rail infrastructure gap on the continent.
The World Bank, also in its latest Africa’s Pulse report, urged African governments to pay attention to non-tariff barriers if the AfCFTA will be a success.
With reference to Ghana for example, Ghanaian-American fibre optics inventor, Dr. Thomas Mensah, has advised government to put in place the necessary railway infrastructure, else it will lose out on the benefits of the free trade.
“We’ve got to have very good roads and most important very good railway lines. Lack of efficient high-speed railway transportation is choking development in Ghana and it is not possible for us to discover our full potential in the AfCFTA without effective railway system.
Right now, even without the continental free trade, 40 percent of the foods grown [in Ghana] spoil. Can you imagine if we had the rail? All we have to do is to take it by the train to the port and it’s on the sea. So without the rail system, we cannot even increase our GDP,” Dr. Mensah told the local media at the Ghana Economic Forum in Accra.