African Union Commission (AUC) Calls For Sustainable Rail As A Climate Solution For Urban Transportation In Africa At COP28
15 January 2024
15 December 2023 – The African Union Commission (AUC) organised a side event titled ‘Mitigation and Response to Global Climate Change: Urban and Railways Transportation in Africa’. Moderated by the International Union of Railways (UIC), the event aimed to address the pressing issues of climate change and the role of railways in Africa.
The distinguished panel, featuring H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, and Mr. Christopher Kost, Africa Programme Director of the International Transport Development & Policy (ITDP) Africa office, was moderated by Lucie Anderton, UIC Head of Sustainable Development. The panel discussion also featured high-level speakers from the European Commission, Abdou Ndéné Sall, Director General of SEN-TER, and Hon. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa).
In her opening speech, the Commissioner underscored the urgency for policymakers and transport stakeholders to prioritise actions that advance railway and urban transportation projects in Africa. She outlined three crucial phases: planning, construction, and operation.
Planning Phase: Emphasising the need to maximise mobility with a low carbon footprint, Dr. Abou Zeid called for the integration of rail transportation into urban land use plans and designs, thereby reducing reliance on fossil fuel-dependent transports.
Construction Phase: Dr. Abou Zeid urged the maximisation of local and low-carbon construction materials, advocating for rail routing that minimises complex structures like bridges and viaducts.
Operation Phase: The Commissioner called for the liberalisation of the rail market to avoid bottlenecks and proposed setting performance standards for emissions per passenger-kilometre or freight ton-kilometre.
The event’s key outputs highlighted the social, economic, and environmental benefits of transitioning towards rail transportation in Africa. The shift aims to decouple prosperity growth from transport emissions, but the continent faces a substantial infrastructure and finance gap. According to Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, AU Commissioner for Energy and Infrastructure, “This side event provides an opportunity to reflect on this and frame an interdependence of gender equity, climate change, and transport. Integrating both gender dimension and decarbonising transport goals are likely to yield quicker and more effective results than addressing them separately”.
Notable findings included:
- 23 out of 53 African Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) acknowledge rail as a climate solution.
- Eight African countries, including Burkina Faso, Rep. of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, and South Sudan, identified clear finance needs for rail development.
- To attract climate finance, measures to de-risk and make borrowing affordable for Africa are imperative.
- A political vision, as demonstrated by Senegal, plays a crucial role in building confidence and attracting finance for transformational projects like SENTER and the BRT.
- Successful projects require a multi-modal and network connectivity approach.
- Women’s empowerment is essential for their meaningful participation in the transformation of mobility.
- Strengthening global collaboration and partnerships is critical to staying focused on policy actions.
As the event concluded, emphasising the urgency of concerted efforts to bridge the infrastructure gap and secure funding, exciting developments on the African rail front came to light. The African Development Bank, recognising the pivotal role of rail in sustainable development, recently approved an impressive $696.41 million in financing for Burundi and Tanzania. This substantial investment is earmarked for the construction of 650 kilometres of rail infrastructure in the region. The move not only underscores the commitment of key stakeholders but also sets the stage for transformative rail projects that will undoubtedly contribute to the region’s sustainable and climate-friendly transportation future.