NAIROBI, April 10 (Xinhua) -- African experts kicked off a two-day meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday to seek ways of integrating the continent via a high speed railway network that connects capitals and major commercial centers.
Adama Deen, senior advisor to the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), said that six corridors have already been identified to be used to connect the continent.
"The six links to integrate Africa will be tried out through pilot projects spread across the continent. We are validating key milestones like the criteria to be used to select the pilot projects, which should be meaningful, viable, logical and sustainable," Deen told journalists in Nairobi.
According to Deen, the Mombasa-Nairobi-Kampala link, Durban-Pretoria-Gaborone passage, and Abidjan-Ouagadougou corridor are three of the six links that will accelerate connectivity.
"These six links will start the journey to re-enforce the integration of their regions and we envisage that in 2023, which is the end of first phase of Agenda 2063, they will be in operation to strengthen high speed railway transport," he said, adding that investing greatly in infrastructure boosts the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2 percent.
African countries are embracing high-speed rail to replace the ageing and neglected colonial-era rail network in the drive to integrate the continent, develop economies and improve import and export speeds.
So far Kenya has completed the first phase of its standard gauge railway (SGR) running from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi and has embarked on the second phase which connects Nairobi to the commercial town of Naivasha and plans are underway to extend the line to neighboring Uganda.
Ethiopia has also inaugurated a major railway line connecting the landlocked country to Djibouti. The railway line links the capital Addis Ababa, to the Red Sea port of Djibouti -- a stretch of more than 750kms.
Daniel Osiemo, CEO of African Peer Review Mechanisms, said in the long run it pays to put money in such infrastructure and added that the integration and connectivity will make Africa one huge trading block the same way the European Union did to its members states.
Cleopatra Shiceka-Ntshingila, NEPAD's legal advisor, said the venture will succeed because it has the political will from African heads of states.