, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 22 – African Union’s newly appointed High Representative for Infrastructure Development – Raila Odinga – is expected to lead revitalized efforts for the realization of a continental high-speed train that will connect major African cities.
Announcing Odinga’s appointment on Saturday, African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Moussa Faki said prime focus will be on meeting critical implementation plans of the continental high-speed train, a flagship project in AU’s socioeconomic transformation blueprint – Agenda 2063.
“He will also focus on the continental high-speed train, which is one of the flagship projects of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063, in the context of the relevant African Union decisions,” Faki said in a detailed statement.
“He will interact with the current Champions of related African Union initiatives and seek their guidance, to ensure the required synergy and coherence,” the AUC Chairperson outlined.
The first action plan for the rail infrastructure signed between the AU Commission and China in October 2016 is due in 2021.
So far, only two ultra-modern rail infrastructure have been put in place – the 759-kilometer Addis Ababa-Djibouti line, and Kenya’s 472-kilometer Nairobi-Mombasa line.
Kenya’s line is currently being extended to Naivasha before finally being expanded to the lakeside city of Kisumu.
A similar rail infrastructure is being developed in Nigeria which once complete will connect the Atlantic Ocean port city of Lagos to Kano near the country’s border with Niger.
Kenya’s neighbor to the west, Uganda, is developing a similar infrastructure that will link Kisumu to its capital, Kampala thorough Malaba.
The Nairobi-Mombasa passenger service has since its inauguration on June 1 2017 ferrying in over a million passengers between the two cities.
About a million tonnes of cargo have been ferried from the Mombasa port since the launch of freight services on January 1 this year.
With a significant reduction of time it takes to travel between the two cities from close to ten hours on road to five hours, the passenger service has in the recent past became a favorite among travelers.
Odinga is expected to fast-track the implementation of the five-year action plan signed between the AUC and China in October 2016 under which the AUC seeks to have agreements on relevant laws and railway cooperation regulations adopted.
The pact also sets outs guidelines for cooperation between African countries and Chinese enterprises developing the rail network for the development of advanced manufacturing across the continent as well as capacity building.
In his acceptance remarks Odinga said integrated infrastructure development was central to the attainment of the pan-African agenda of unity and seamless movement of persons and goods.
“Odinga considers infrastructure, particularly roads and railways, running North to South, East to West of Africa, critical to opening up the Continent and making it the gateway to the 21st century,” his spokesperson Dennis Onyango said on Saturday.
“Odinga promises to use the position to push Africa closer to the realization of the dreams of its founding fathers who envisaged a united and interconnected Continent that enjoys easy movement of goods and its citizens,” he added.
In his Mashujaa Day celebrations address, President Uhuru Kenyatta commended Odinga of his appointment to high-level portfolio in the AU, an assignation he said could not have been achieved if it were not for the March 9 truce between the two leaders.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Sunday issued a statement welcoming Odinga’s appointment promising to accord him support.
“This appointment confirms President Uhuru Kenyatta’s strong commitment and leadership in pursuit of Africa’s integration agenda. The appointment comes at an optune time when African countries are ratifying the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Treaty that aims at bolstering intra- Africa trade, in a bid to achieve Africa’s vision 2063,” Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma said.