African Renaissance Conference  24- 26 May 2018




Minister Sibusiso Ndebele   

Since inception, the annual African Renaissance Conference has proved to be one of the main platforms for the exchange of ideas, views and programmes on the pertinent issues affecting Africa’s development and progress.The 14th  edition of the African Renaissance is based on the theme: “Connecting Africa: Southern Africa’s Transport Infrastructure Programme and its Continental  Perspectives”.

Transport is the heartbeat of the economies of most countries. It also  contributes immensely to social development. The planning, development, maintenance and operation of transport infrastructure is critical to regional development. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has  developed a SADC Transport Master Plan, which will inform transport planning at country level. The overall purpose of transport planning is to facilitate  mobility and access to opportunities, while facilitating trade, regional integration and free movement of people. The SADC protocol on the facilitation of Free Movement of People depends on transport infrastructure for its effectiveness. Connecting Africa through infrastructure is key to sustainable economic and social growth on the continent, as it allows for movement of goods and people.

It is this infrastructure network which connects firms, villages, towns and cities,
and leads to global markets and destinations. Connecting Africa is also about empowering the people of Africa to have better control over their lives through access to resources such as technology, public transport, health facilities and education, which will improve their living standards. Empowerment creates positive people who are the cornerstone for the advancement of the development agenda for Africa.

Over the past few years, the Department of Transport in South Africa has embarked on a concerted effort to develop and improve South Africa’s transport system to serve as a catalyst for socio-economic development, particularly the movement of goods and passengers. This programme is set to continue  through the National Transport Master Plan (NATMAP 2050) which, in part, states “Transport will support and enable government strategies, particularly those for growth, development, redistribution, employment creation and social integration, both in South Africa and in the Southern African region.” Similar examples of recognizing the central role of transport abound in the SADC  region.

Balanced investment in transport infrastructure will lead the country to efficient and sustainable growth, mobility and community access. South Africa's freight transportation network is vital in facilitating economic growth for the country and the southern African region. It is important that we reduce the cost of doing business and ensure that our economy remains competitive in global markets. We are now entering an interesting phase of transport integration with regards to road-based logistics, ports, road, aviation and rail as well as the safety and security of transport services and infrastructure. The Tripartite of SADC, COMESA and East African Community has embarked on Corridor Development as a guiding principle for transport infrastructure  planning, development, operation and maintenance in the region. The  North-South Corridor is a critical example of the work that the community of nations in Southern and South East Africa is doing to improve the lives of the people of the region. In turn, each country is developing its own internal  network of transport corridors. It is envisaged that by 2030 this network will be so interlinked that transportation and movement of goods and people in the region will be seamless.

At the same time, the various trade hubs in the region will connect with  improved export and capacity through our sea-ports, roads and railways to many countries in Africa and further around the globe. In line with the African Union’s prioritization of the North- South Corridor, the South African  government will commit a huge proportion of the transport infrastructure expenditure on developing this corridor, which is one of the busiest corridors in the region. By talking the language of African connectivity and development, this African Renaissance forum has entered the centre stage of the global discourse of the 21st century. We are one with the world in promoting   inter-modal transport systems, transport corridor development, transport investments through partnerships while paying attention to sustainable  development imperatives.

We welcome you all to this 14th African Renaissance Conference. It is hoped that our deliberations will be productive and bear fruit. Working together, we can ensure that Africa realizes and lives the dream of a connected future.

Our own challenge is to find institutional mechanisms to keep the transport infrastructure programme alive with research, development, innovation and decisive leadership.