The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Project, Belt and Road Initiative, and Africa

Photo: Flickr, Les Chatfield

This half-day seminar provides a rare opportunity for African planners to learn lessons from the experiences of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, a cross-border transportation project linking Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The South African Institute of International Affairs in collaboration with the Embassies of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa cordially invite you to a Panel Discussion on ‘The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Project, the Belt and Road Initiative and Africa’.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway is a cross-border transportation and logistics project linking Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. It started operation in November 2017, revolutionising the economic and people-to-people exchanges between these three countries. It also connected larger Central Asia and the Caucasus regions to China and Western Europe. In this sense it fits into plans to ease cross-border development between countries in the region (the Middle Corridor Initiative) while also fitting into the larger Belt and Road Initiative, which will connect China and Europe overland and over sea.

The railway is an example of how railway technology can be used to weave together countries into organically operating economic subregions. This is exactly what African governments hope can be achieved on the continent.

Africa is currently planning several ambitious cross-border railway links, including a line running between Johannesburg, Swaziland and Maputo, as well as the Standard Gauge Railway Project that will connect East African states from Burundi to Djibouti. The latter expansion is also part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

What can Africa learn from the experience of planning and realising the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway? Which opportunities and pitfalls should African planners consider? How should Belt and Road-related cross-border rail expansion work? This half-day seminar provides a rare opportunity for African planners to learn lessons from the experiences of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project.

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