- The government of Senegal and Mali, together with the World Bank and the rail company Transrail and other partners are soon to meet in Paris to discuss the difficulties surrounding the region's main railway link and how to solve its mainly financial problems. Transrail operates the run-down Dakar-Bamako line, connecting the Malian and Senegalese capitals and being Mali's main link to the coast.
The upcoming Paris meeting was revealed this weekend in the city of Thičs by the Senegalese Minister in charge of infrastructure and equipments, Habib Sy. The announcement was part of a political event marking Mr Sy's new responsibilities, which now include national railways.
The meeting on the funding of Transrail is set to be held next month in the French capital, referred to as "a neutral ground" by the Senegalese Minister. It follows a study ordered by Malian and Senegalese authorities, financed by the World Bank and penned by finance consultants, which looks into ways to solve the many problems experienced by the railway company.
Transrail has harvested much criticism in Dakar and Bamako for currently being unable to deal with obligations set by governments, including the programme for the company's privatisation efforts. Transrail mainly is experiencing problems in securing investments, such as for the prioritised renewal of tracks - judged as totally outdated by Senegalese rail unionists - and for the acquisition of new engines, new wagons and other essential equipments.
Since its heydays, the important Bamako-Dakar line has fallen into an almost total decay. Parts of the rail tracks, in particular around Dakar, are not possible to use anymore. Travellers and freight companies cannot count on schedules, but rather have to take large delays, breakdowns or even accidents into account, which has also caused trade unions to protest the line's poor security.
For landlocked Mali, which depends on the Dakar port, the railway's degeneration has serious economic consequences. Therefore, Bamako authorities have been pushing their Dakar counterparts to invest in the connection, which is far better maintained on Malian soil. The occasional uncomfortable tone between the two governments when it comes to the common railway therefore is one of the reasons for choosing "a neutral ground" to discuss what each side should do about Transrail and the railway.
Oumar Cissé, Secretary-General of the Senegalese railway workers trade union Sutrail, yesterday in a telephone interview told 'Le Quotidien' that Transrail's announced "renewal" has not moved much along lately. Renewal of rail tracks, Mr Cissé said, was restricted to "not more than ten kilometres towards Tambacounda." Further, "neither the new engines nor the new wagons have been received on the Senegalese side," he added.
Nonetheless, Senegalese Transport Minister Sy - whose position should not be very different from that of his Malian counterpart - recognised that so far, "nothing important has been done" to improve the Dakar-Bamako line. This at least provides hopes that the two countries may head for a better track when meeting in the French capital. This is strongly desired by Transrail's workers, who will follow developments in Paris thoroughly.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.