Is Africa Ready For Digitalization In Railway Imminent?

A woman walks along newly built tracks of the high speed railway in Mbao, on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal February 12, 2019. Picture taken February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra - RC185F790800

By Celestine Okorie

The first Africa Digital Rail Forum 2020 was hosted by Southern African Railways Association (SARA), Siemens Mobility and Huawei Technologies  on 19th August. This event, took place online,  an focused on the topic “Accelerating Railway Digitalization, Boosting Economic Recovery”. More than 17,000 people from 300 companies, 22 countries joined this event.

Due to the global outbreak of COVID-19, most railway companies have been forced to stop services. In light of this, railway operators seek the help of new technologies to navigate these difficulties.

President of Global Transportation Development Dept in Huawei Enterprise Business Group Hao Guoqiang shared some ideas from china experience: How to fight against with COVID-19 and how to use this opportunity to accelerate digital transformation in rail industry. He commented: “Here I would like share some of the lessons Huawei learnt from our clients.

Lesson 1: The pandemic will accelerate digital transformation of the rail industry.

Lesson 2: After the pandemic, the rail industry will rapidly help economic recovery, requiring advanced and unified technology. With these lessons in mind, Huawei is addressing how railways can use new technologies to speed up digitalization, while helping customers at the same time. The new technology like 5G, AI will be used in rail industry.”

Finance Director of SARA, Dr. Joice Chidora shared some thoughts form the regional association side. In the advent of new norm of doing business due to Covid-19 railways, it needs to embrace and catch up with technical advancement in the areas of Digital technologies. She introduced the “JOICE” system – “Joint, Operating, Integrated, Control, Enhanced” and commented “Now is the time that SARA should forge ahead to implement the JOICE system to address the challenges and opportunities brought about by COVID-19.”

Head of Sales and Business Development in Siemens Mobility South Africa, Patrick Moodley and his team introduced the frontline in the fight against theft and vandalism in Rail with the help of the digitalization. He said “Theft and vandalism is an increasing threat to our rail industry; causing disruptions to operators and negatively affecting commuters lives and freight operations. Using smart infrastructure, Siemens offers solutions that provide for real-time detection of acts of theft and vandalism. Our solutions leverage digitalization and provide innovative ways of identifying these criminal acts to our clients. With this insight, customers can put in effective measures to tackle theft and vandalism.”

Senior Transportation Solution Manger in Huawei Enterprise Business Group, Fang Jun commented “The COVID 19 epidemic is surely a challenge but also an opportunity for railway industry. The ‘new normal’ state of the epidemic poses new requirements including agile business deployment. This further accelerates the digital transformation trend of railway industry.”

Huawei is a leading global ICT solutions provider for transportation. It has provided service for over 50 railway builders and operators on 50,000 km globally. Huawei has been actively involved in the railway modernization process in Africa and is dedicated to provide world-class technologies and services for local communications. Huawei digital railway solution has been serving in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and other countries.

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