Money never enough to address SA transport problems - top official

(Duncan Alfreds)
(Duncan Alfreds)

Leipzig – South Africa is facing three main challenges in reaching its goal of making transport accessible to all, Themba Tenza, chief director of research at the Ministry of Transport, told a global forum on Thursday.

He represented SA Minister of Transport Dipuo Peters on a panel discussion on inclusive transport growth for low density rural areas during the global summit of the International Transport Forum (ITF) taking place in Leipzig this week. Peters had to withdraw from the panel because she was feeling unwell.

Tenza said the challenges were income inequality, poverty reduction and unemployment, with all three needing to “fit into” addressing the accessibility issue.

“The question of rural transport in SA is unique, because of our past – for instance the spacial planning of the past. More than 50% of South Africans live in rural areas, but many of them are really ‘dual citizens’ due to being migrant workers,” Tenza told the panel.

“We have a transport strategy and we want to focus on how technology can help to shorten transport distances between train stations, for instance. We also want to rely on non-motorised transport systems and projects like cycling for children.”

READ: Exciting times for transport innovation – Tesla

He emphasised that the issue of transport accessibility must be an evidence-based approach. That is why a rural accessibility index was done for rural transport.

“We devised a strategy to retain as much as we can of what already exists and add value to it with, for instance, beneficiation. We are also encouraging agri-processing units in rural areas,” said Tenza.

“Money is, unfortunately never enough, but we are making a lot of progress.”

Jose-Luis Irigoyen, director of transport and ICT global practice at the World Bank, who also participated on in the panel discussion, said the financial viability of transport services should be a very important factor also regarding rural accessibility. This should remain at the core of developmental goals.

In his view, the use of mobile phones – especially increasing penetration of smart phones – will allow a better match of supply and demand also in rural areas.

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