Monday, October 23, 2006

S.Africa plans massive road works for World Cup

South Africa unveiled a plan on Monday to ease traffic gridlock and cut road deaths as it prepares to host the 2010 soccer World Cup.

Vehicle accidents are one of the top 10 killers in South Africa, with about half of the estimated 14,000 fatalities each year involving pedestrians who were hit by a vehicle. With the country set to host the world's biggest sporting event in four years, the race is on to improve public transport to ensure the smooth flow of players and spectators to stadiums.

The government is seeking cabinet approval to spend 5 billion rand ($652.1 million) per year between now and 2014 to improve everyday transport. It already has the green light to spend 3.8 million rand to bolster infrastructure specifically for the World Cup.

South Africa's transport minister said the government plans to widen and restore existing highways and construct new ones, lay rail tracks to link cities and outlying areas, and launch a campaign to discourage car use.

It will also create bicycle and pedestrian paths and improve bus routes in major centres.
Like elsewhere in Africa, South Africa's cities virtually grind to a halt during rush-hour and last week the country's Finance Minister Trevor Manuel described the peak-time commute as "hell."

Some have questioned whether ambitious transit projects will improve life for everyday citizens.
"All of the investment that we want to make on public transportation is not only for 2010 soccer but we want to leave a lasting legacy for the people of this country," Transport Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters at the close of a two-day transport conference in Soweto.

The government has already announced plans to invest about 700 billion rand over the next seven years to revamp the transport and electricity sector and on other major infrastructure projects.

Engineers, urban planners, labour groups, and officials from all tiers of government have backed the strategy, said Radebe.

The government also hopes the new transport strategy will help cut the number of road accidents that result in death and injury by half by 2015.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Africa seeks to share benefits of 2010 World Cup

South Africa should turn to other African states first to help prepare for FIFA's soccer World Cup in 2010, senior African officials and investors said on Tuesday.

How Africa can tap investment opportunities from the first World Cup to be staged on the continent is a major topic at an investment conference that opened in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"I think this is an excellent opportunity to ensure that excess skills available in some African countries are incorporated ... rather than outsourcing first from outside the continent," said Bernhard Esau, Namibia's deputy trade and industry minister.

"In Africa employment is a major source of concern. But it seems South Africa would face a dire shortage of 60,000 engineers by the time we stage the World Cup in 2010," Esau told government officials and business executives at the conference.

The conference was co-hosted by the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the Commonwealth Business Council and South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry.
South Africa boasts Africa's biggest economy but is struggling with a serious skills shortage.
Esau said fellow African countries should also share in preparations, and suggested African construction companies be given a chance to bid for the building of new stadiums.

He quoted studies showing that South Africa's hosting of the world's biggest sporting fiesta was expected to generate up to 21.3 billion rand including an estimated 12.7 billion rand in direct spending, and create some 159,000 new jobs.

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"It would be a complete tragedy if the rest of Africa does not feel part of the event," said Austin Gamey, CEO of the Ghana-based Gamey and Gamey Academy of Mediation.

About three million visitors are expected to arrive in South Africa during the three-week tournament.

Paul Baloyi, chief executive of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, said the World Cup offered a good opportunity for strengthening regional integration.

"We need to practically begin to engage with other African countries in and around the event in a manner in which they receive the benefits of this event," Baloyi said.

Other African countries should be involved in "all the key development initiatives, based around infrastructure, tourism and other major services", he said.

Sponsors of the three-day conference included the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the Commonwealth Business Council and South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry.