History took place in Uganda recently where the initial free trade agreement was signed between 26 African countries. Transport infrastructure which consists of road, rail, shipping and air cargo infrastructure, will form an integral part of this agreement.
The Permanent International Association of Road Congresses has made it a point to now focus on African highway networks and has placed attention on updating design standards for rural roads. These will be vital arteries in boosting intra-regional trade among the member countries, which have a combined population of 625 million and a total GDP of $1.6 trillion. With all these plans in place, the state of roads in Africa is set to become a priority.
World Road Association, a non-profit organization established in 1909 as the PIARC, has Sanral playing an important role in it. It brings together governments, regional authorities, collective members and individual representatives from 122-member countries; with the aim of promoting international cooperation on issues related to roads and road transport.
Sanral, a PIARC member for the past 18 years, has a strong presence in the various working structures of the association. At the helm of the South African delegation is Sanral chief executive officer Skhumbuzo Macozoma. He is also a member of the PIARC Council which is responsible for governance matters. Sanral manager for planning, toll and transport, Alex van Niekerk, is also a member and was elected to PIARC’s executive committee earlier this year.
Alex Niekerk mentioned that the executive committee is in charge of the association’s administration and run it according to the policies approved by the council. It is supported by three commissions, namely – finance, communication and strategic planning. It also implements recommendations made by an advisory group on emerging issues.
“Sanral’s participation on PIARC conferences and technical forums also enhances the development of the road sector in South Africa.
“For instance, we are exposed to global industry best practices which, in turn, inform our adjustments to South African Design Standards related to the road sector. In specialised areas like bridges and tunnels, our PIARC experience does not only enhance the existing knowledge in South Africa but also contributes to the growth of the private sector through improved design standards, design principles, and construction processes,” he explains.
Van Niekerk adds: “The work of the association is guided by a four-year strategic plan which is aligned to the needs of member countries.”
Five strategic themes
PIARC has grouped its activities and research into five strategic themes for the 2016-2019 cycle and these themes are:
- Access and mobility
- Management and finance
- Climate change, environment and disasters
One of the task forces focuses on finance, under the management and finance theme and is currently aiming on identifying, reviewing, and evaluating alternative, available road funding and financing models which include tolling, public-private-partnerships, use of credit assistance tools and bonds.
“This work is particularly significant considering funding sources have not always kept pace with road investment needs,” Van Niekerk says.
In terms of PIARC’s focus on finding solutions for Africa, the African Regional Task Force is addressing two topics in this current four-year cycle: design standards for the African Highway Network and updating design standards for rural roads.
“Road Tunnels in Low and Medium Income Countries”
This year, Sanral welcomes delegates attending the seminar in October entitled: Road Tunnels in Low and Medium Income Countries as part of its road tunnel operations.
Contributing scarce skills necessary to grow South Africa’s knowledge economy, the seminar welcomes speakers covering a wide range of road tunnel operation subjects from safety design and operations of tunnels, sustainable funding for safe tunnels and tunnel construction choices.