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AFRICA: A committee of experts from African finance, planning and economic development ministries has endorsed the adoption of the Luxembourg Rail Protocol to encourage private investment in railway assets across the continent.

Meeting in Marrakesh, under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the committee called on the UNECA Secretariat to ‘continue awareness raising and advocacy’ of the convention, with a view to ‘elucidating its merits and potential contribution to the financing of rolling stock in rail projects’.

The committee pointed out that Africa faces a continuing shortfall in transport infrastructure investment and that rail offers an attractive and environmentally sustainable mode. The need for legal security is expected to become a more significant issue with the gradual adoption of 1 435 mm gauge for new railways and the long-held ambitions to develop a pan-African network, which would potentially see more trains needing to cross borders.

Although more than 20 African states have already signed up to the protocol to the Cape Town Convention which covers aircraft assets, the committee is concerned that few governments are familiar with the rail equivalent. It therefore urges UNECA to work with both public and private sectors to inform and educate decision-makers on ‘the way that private credit and leasing can assist with providing the financial resources neccessary to revitalise and expand the African rail network’.