Written by: Frida Youssef and Hassiba BenamaraArticle No. 16 [UNCTAD Transport and Trade Facilitation Newsletter N°77 - First Quarter 2018]
Sustainable freight transport requires that relevant transport policies, planning strategies, and investment decisions effectively balance wide-ranging and often conflicting economic, environmental and social objectives.
This is particularly crucial for developing countries, including in East Africa as they have the opportunity - given their developmental stage and current focus on infrastructure development process -to consider integrating at early stages of infrastructure investment and planning, relevant sustainability principles and criteria.
These include, inter alia, green (i.e. environmentally-friendly, low-carbon, clean energy use, climate resilient, etc.), economically efficient (i.e. energy efficient, less energy intensive, cost-effective, reliable, smooth operations, etc.), socially inclusive (i.e. affordable, accessible, supports rural areas and agricultural development, reduces poverty, social disparities).
However, for most developing countries, a transition towards sustainable freight transport systems may be challenging given their prevailing resource and capacity constraints.
In this context and in accordance with its most recent mandates (UNCTAD XII, XIII and XIV), UNCTAD has over recent years intensified its work to help developing countries plan and implement effective solutions and measure to enable their transition towards sustainable freight transport systems.
UNCTAD support on sustainable freight transport systems
UNCTAD support on sustainable freight transport systems is underpinned by insights generated through relevant research and analytical work, as well as policy guidance derived from UNCTAD's consensus building activities and practical lessons gained from interventions on the field. Key instruments and tools developed by UNCTAD to support a shift towards sustainable freight transportation systems are featured in the UNCTAD Sustainable Transport and Finance (SFTF) Toolkit.
The latter includes:
A methodology to assess gaps and strengthen the capacity to design, develop, and implement SFTF strategies (UNCTAD Sustainable Freight Transport Framework)
Training and capacity building package, case studies, good practices and useful knowledge products and resources.
A web portal facilitating information sharing and partnership-building
All three components are flexible as they allow for tailor-made solutions that respond to local conditions and the varying specific needs of users. The flexibility imbedded in these tools makes it possible to set prioritize and objectives while bearing in mind the unique requirements and needs to the varied beneficiaries.
In this respect and under the framework of its project on "Building Capacities of Developing Countries to Shift Towards Sustainable Freight Transport", UNCTAD has recently carried out two field missions in East Africa to support a number of countries promote sustainable freight transportation systems.
A capacity building workshop organized in collaboration with the Central Corridor Transit Transport Facilitation Agency (CCTTFA), to support the CCTTFA and its Member States build their capacity to design, develop and implement a Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy.
The two-day workshop was held on 27-28 February, in Dar es Salaam, the United Republic of Tanzania, and brought together representatives from the CCTTFA, as well as public and private sector stakeholders from Corridor's Member States, namely the Republic of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Rwanda, the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Uganda. In his opening remarks, the Executive Secretary of the CCTTFA, Capt. Dieudonné Dukundane noted that given the decision by the Central Corridor's Member States to re-design and transform the Central Corridor into an Economic Development Corridor "this partnership with UNCTAD [was] coming at the right time to support CCTTFA and Member States' efforts in ensuring Sustainability of Freight Transport under economic, social and environmental dimensions".
UNCTAD, in collaboration with the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Agreement (NCTTA) organized an advisory meeting to support the NCTTA and its Member States advance in implementing their Green Freight Programme and formulate their Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy. The meeting was held on 2 March 2018, in Mombasa, Kenya, and brought together representatives from the Northern Corridor.
Issues discussed and thematic areas
Benefiting from an interactive debate and active engagement of participants the meeting allowed for meaningful discussions to take place and provided a platform to inter alia:
Introduce the various UNCTAD Sustainable Freight Transport capacity-building instruments and tools, in particular the UNCTAD Sustainable Freight Transport Framework (UNCTAD SFT Framework). The SFT Framework was launched for the first time in October 2017.
Validate the UNCTAD SFT Framework through its application to the Central and Northern Corridors. The SFT Framework provides a modular step-by step methodology and guidance on how to design, develop and implement sustainable freight transport strategies.
Identify the main challenges that undermine the economic, social and environmental sustainability objectives of Central Corridor.
Formulate the Northern Corridor's SFT objectives and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and monitor progress.
Identify areas where the respective CCTTFA and the NCTTA strategic and sustainable freight transport planning processes could intersect and build on synergies.
Help the CCTTFA and the NCTTA establish the key elements that would underpin their respective Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy, including by identifying priority action areas, key stakeholders and the requisite enabling factors.
Main outcome and conclusions
The Central and Northern corridors have made strides in their effort to transition towards sustainable freight transportation. The Dar es Salaam workshop and the Mombasa advisory meeting have culminated in a number of milestones:
Definition of the Central Corridor's top SFT Objectives, Goals and Vision.
Identification of the Central Corridor's key challenges undermining its sustainability.
The mapping out of specific and tailored solutions responding to challenges identified.
The setting of the next steps and the establishment of specific timelines with a view to the finalization and adoption of the Central Corridor Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy and its integration into the Corridor's Five-year Strategic Plan.
The setting of the next steps and timelines with a view to the adoption of the Northern Corridor's Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy and its integration into the Norther Corridor's Five-year Strategic Plan.
The constructive discussions in Dar es Salaam and Mombasa illustrate the importance of local stakeholders' and governments' buy-in for an effective transition towards sustainable freight transport systems. The commitment of the CCTFA, the NCTTA and their respective Member States is a critical factor of success.
Next steps and way forward
UNCTAD will help the CCTFA and its Member States articulate a Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy and a related Action Plan based on input received and insight gained at the workshop. The Central Corridor's Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy will be integrated into the CCTTFA five-year Strategic Plan. UNCTAD will also assist in identifying key stakeholders and resources to ensure effective implementation of the strategy.
UNCTAD will help the NCTTFA and its Member States in define and integrate the Northern Corridor's Sustainable Freight Transport Strategy into the Corridor's Five-year Strategic Plan. UNCTAD will also help identify key stakeholders and resources to ensure effective implementation of the strategy.
Tailored and adequate sustainable freight transport strategies are key to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. The example set by East Africa's Central and Northern Corridors illustrates how the freight transport industry is increasingly tapping into the sustainability dividend and recognizing that economic expansion need not be achieved at the expense of societal and environmental objectives. It is also more and more conceding that applying the sustainability filter can emerge as an important strategic tool that allows for optimal use of resources and efficiency gains. Mainstreaming sustainability principles into relevant freight transport planning and investment decisions can generate synergies and co-benefits between seemingly conflicting economic, social and environmental objectives.
Additional information about UNCTAD technical assistance offer on sustainable and resilient transport is available here