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Russian Railways (RZD) is headed for the equator.

Russia is excited to announce it will soon be sharing its experience on the African continent
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African countries are seeking to expand their cooperation with Russia in the field of railway infrastructure construction and modernization with an eye to amplify their trade potential. The trade turnover between Russia and the continent totaled $18 billion in 2022 with cargo shipments to African countries increasing by 53% over the first six months of 2023, reaching as high as 7 million tons.

Some of Russia’s increasing exports to African countries are grain, ore, chemicals, and petroleum products. At the recent Russia-Africa Summit in July, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Russian Railways, Oleg Belozerov, noted that notwithstanding any future restrictions, the company could transport a whole lot more cargo to African ports.

Construction of the transportation system

During the summit, the subsidiary of Russian Railways, RZD International, and the Ministry of Railways Development of Ghana signed a memorandum of understanding. The agreement outlines cooperation for the design and construction of Ghanaian railways.

CEO of RZD International Sergey Stolyarov stated that the company's experience and expertise in engineering and construction abroad, as well as the holding company’s access to the resources and technological base, are a promising foundation to execute modern and efficient railway infrastructure projects in Africa.

The Russian Railways subsidiary is ready to offer its Ghanaian counterparts the creation of a unified dispatch center for transportation management, necessary construction equipment for infrastructure maintenance, rolling stock, as well as the supply of materials and equipment to be able to operate in the country.

"Russian Railways has all the necessary competencies to create a transportation system anywhere in the world or even in multiple countries," the holding company’s First Deputy CEO Sergey Pavlov commented. 

Previously, the Russian government also declared its readiness to support Cameroon in the modernization of roads and railways, as well as the construction of seaports. An agreement to that effect will be signed in the near future. 

Experience exchange 

During the summit, Russian Railways (RZD) along with universities specialized in the industry expressed their willingness to develop cooperation with African countries and accept a larger number of students for training in railway specialties.

Currently, only 222 students from 28 different African countries are studying in the Russian transport education system. However, their numbers are growing: over the past three years, the number of students has increased by one third.

"All railway universities are interested in cooperation in terms of synchronizing educational programs and training students from African countries for the railway industry," said Dmitry Shahanov, Deputy CEO of RZD, at the summit. 

Business expansion 

The development of transport and logistics partnership between Russia and African countries is becoming ever more relevant in light of the evolving geopolitical situation. Market players note that Russian goods can be successfully exported to the continent through the North-South international transport corridor (ITC). Furthermore, such shipment options will help increase the cargo base of all three routes passing through this corridor. 

According to RZD Logistics CEO Dmitry Murev, the North-South ITC can be called the "backbone artery" of Eurasia. The company is convinced that the use of ports of the Persian Gulf for delivering goods to North and East Africa can prove a successful project, but this will necessitate port infrastructure and dry ports being connected to the continent's road and rail lines as well as that of other countries. The projection in 2024 is the main exports from Russia to Africa will be metallurgical, timber, and fertilizer goods.

Despite these prospects, domestic exporters face the absence of a unified transport network on the African continent, Alexander Misharin, President of the Russian Academy of Transport, notes.

"Many countries on the continent are isolated. This is a direct consequence of an uncoordinated transport network," explained the expert. "At the same time, Africa's coastline has 90 major ports while their railways span over 84,000 km long, with 68% of roads paved." 

Alexander Solyanik

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