Swakopmund — The Southern African Development Community (SADC) continuously needs to focus on the upgrading of its road and railway networks and ports for the development of the region and to enhance international trade, according to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Works and Transport, Peter Mwatile.
Mwatile was speaking at the 21st session of the Association of National Roads Agencies/Authorities (Asanra) that was hosted by the Roads Authority in Swakopmund last Thursday.
Asanra was established to enhance regional policy co-ordination and the integration of road transport systems with the key objective to improve inter-regional road transport efficiency, as well as to reduce transportation costs.
The four-day meeting was hosted to discuss the numerous challenges the member states face in their quest for a better road transport network that would also enhance economic growth and reduce poverty in the SADC region. Mwatile said road transportation is the dominant mode in many African states.
"The quality and condition of the network therefore practically influences the performance of every scope of Asanra's member states. It is common knowledge that the SADC road network is the region's largest public sector asset. Therefore, we need to re-address the challenges we are facing to improve trade facilitation among rural communities as well," Mwatile emphasised.
"The SADC road network has become very unsafe in the past years and this is certainly not a burden that the region can carry.
Therefore, as agencies tasked with the management of the regional road network, you are expected to gear towards innovative road infrastructure design to enhance road safety," noted the permanent secretary.
According to Mwatile, the total road network in the SADC region is now nearing one million km with a value estimated to exceed N$433 billion.
Also speaking at the same event, Asanra president Nelson Kudenga highlighted the fact that the road network plays a vital role in the region's development in terms of international trade. He said Asanra has successfully undertaken and completed the review of the regional trunk network, production and dissemination of harmonised guidelines on road safety procedures, as well as model legislation on road safety based on international best practice.
Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are affiliated to Asanra. Asanra is currently carrying out a Peer Review on Road Asset Management practices among its members in order to establish benchmarks.
SADC ministers responsible for the transportation sector expect that this Peer Review will bring about positive changes in road network management with special emphasis on road safety and enhancement of trade among SADC member states.