Qalaa Holdings (CCAP.CA on the Egyptian Exchange), an African leader in infrastructure and industry, was the proud host of an event that has laid the groundwork to stimulate significant improvement in bilateral trade between Egypt and the countries of East Africa.
The one-day conference, “Rift Valley Railways: An Integrated Logistics Solution in East Africa,” highlighted the competitive advantages of using rail as the most efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly mode of transporting goods in East Africa and introduced Rift Valley Railways (RVR) as a unique door-to-door transportation and customs-clearance service provider that can help local exporters from Egypt, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan tap into new markets and grow the volume of intra-regional trade.
Karim Sadek, Qalaa Holdings Managing Director and Head of Transportation and Logistics, and Andreas Heinel, RVR Chief Marketing Officer, presented the RVR turnaround story and gave audiences a glimpse of the impressive work that has been achieved during the past five years as well as a snapshot of the door-to-door service that the company is now able to provide to Egyptian exporters through its subsidiary EARH (East Africa Rail and Handling).
“RVR is currently at the midpoint of a USD 287 million capital investment and turnaround program that began in January 2012 to revitalize the railway,” said Sadek. “Since the start of the renewal program, we have invested USD 126 million in modern rail operating technology, rebuilding infrastructure, expanding haulage capacity and developing modern rail operating skills in RVR’s 2,000 strong workforce. Today we are seeing improved safety and reliability, increased capacity and a significant improvement in the overall efficiency of the operation.”
Sadek also announced that RVR has recently purchased 500 flat wagons from CNR, the largest producer of rolling stock in China, the first batch (120 wagons) of which is due to arrive at the end of September.
“These new heavy-duty wagons are a real game-changer for us. It means that we can carry much heavier goods, increase security and become more efficient in loading and offloading, all of which will make a positive contribution to your bottom line and ours,” said Heinel. “Making use of rail is commercially advantageous for us all. This is the first of many engagements that we want to have with Egypt. We see huge potential, and while there are still challenges, we believe that we are on the right track.”
H.E. Joff Otieno, the Kenyan Ambassador to Egypt, said: “Undeniably, infrastructure and logistics services are the backbone of commerce, enabling traders, manufacturers and agricultural producers to flourish and increase productivity. This even provides an opportunity for interaction between us and the business community in Egypt with a view to exploring ways of broadening and deepening trade and investment between our two regions and presenting Kenya as the hub of trade and investment and the entry point to Eastern Africa.”
Arthur Katsigazi, head of the Diplomatic Mission for the Embassy of Uganda, also stressed the importance of intra-regional trade and thanked Qalaa Holdings for the “USD 300 million that it has already injected into the rehabilitation of Rift Valley Railways.”
“We all stand to benefit from an improved system of rail transport. Goods and services can be delivered faster and at a lower cost and are thus more affordable to consumers. Railway connectivity will spur integration within the East African community by quickening the movement of people, goods and services within the region,” said Katsigazi.
Mona Omar, former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Relations and Chairman of the Africa Center at the British University in Egypt, who spoke on the opening panel of the conference, said: “I have worked on the Africa file for a long time, and sometimes promising and necessary projects do not see the light of day. Qalaa’s investment in Rift Valley Railways is a positive example that should be replicated.”
RVR is Qalaa Holdings’ primary investment in the African transportation sector, with a 25-year concession to operate 2,352 km of track linking the Indian Ocean Port of Mombasa to the interiors of Kenya, the Ugandan capital Kampala and the northern part of Uganda. RVR has just been awarded the prestigious IOSH Railway Group’s International Award for health and safety after seeing on-the-job injuries at its Nairobi workshops decline drastically by c. 90 percent.