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Development Bank president set to discuss cooperation and IT during official visit

Published date:
Monday, 09 November 2009

The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Donald Kaberuka, will be on an official visit to India from November 9-11, 2009. While in India, Mr. Kaberuka will meet with Indian government officials and businesspeople with whom he will discuss how India and Africa could cooperate in the railway and information technology domains.

India has established a reputation in the information technology sector and its experience in the railway domain could be of great significance to the continent. Africa had once had a vibrant working railway system, which has, unfortunately, suffered due to neglect and conflict. However, following new emphasis on infrastructure development on the continent, Africa's railway system has drawn great attention and it is receiving a boost through new investments and financing, including those of the AfDB.

Despite the damage, Africa's rail network still has a great potential and its renewal and repair can help the continent's development efforts. The network has almost 90,000 kilometers of rail-lines and it spans a surface area of 30 million square kilometers.

The AfDB is currently considering financing the restructured Kenya-Uganda railway concession. It is also funding a feasibility study on the Isaka (Tanzania)-Rwanda-Burundi extension to the Dar Es Salaam-Isaka rail line.

Speaking recently at the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) review forum in Nairobi, Kenya, Mr. Kaberuka underscored the importance of rehabilitating the continent's railways.

"Very few railroads have been built in Africa over the last 50 years. The existing ones, built during colonial times, ageing and inefficient, were privatized for very good reasons. The experience so far has been mixed. In several cases, it has not worked out to our satisfaction. While state-owned and operated railways did not do any better, the alternative has not provided the viable solution either," he said.

"There is thus a renewed impetus not only to rehabilitate existing lines, such as the Benguela Railway, and construct new ones, but also to re-examine the operational management model. This deserves support," he added.

The Benguela Railway, which begins at the city of Benguela in Angola, once spanned the continent from the south-west coast to the eastern shores.

Like Africa, India is a vast expanse of land with a strong and functioning railway system, run by Indian Railways. While in India, Mr. Kaberuka will meet with India's railway board chairman and his team. Discussions during the meeting will focus on railway-related issues.

Mr Kaberuka will also go to Bangalore, India's "Silicon Valley", where most of the country's information technology companies are located. He will visit the International Tech Park and meet with senior executives of leading Indian IT firms.

The AfDB has various interests in IT projects in Africa, some of which involve India. Some of them are through direct interventions in the form of loans to projects such as the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), an undersea optic fiber cable running from South Africa to Sudan, and two pan-African satellites, RASCOM and New Dawn. The AfDB also works through partnerships with organizations such as the World Bank, the African Union and the Indian government to help the continent achieve its infrastructure development goals.

After the recent laying of undersea optic fiber cables in Africa and satellite projects, there is currently a need to implement national and regional accessibility backbones on the eastern and western coasts of the continent. Indian expertise and experience will certainly come in handy in efforts at achieving this goal.

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