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The Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate digital transformation of the rail industry in Africa, says Hao Guoqiang, President of Global Transportation Development Department in the Huawei Enterprise Business Group.

He was speaking at the first Africa Digital Rail Forum 2020 that took place online on the 19 August. The event was hosted by Southern African Railways Association (SARA), Siemens Mobility and Huawei Technologies on 19th August. More than 17,000 people from 300 companies and  22 countries joined this event.

The topic of the conference was “Accelerating Railway Digitalization, Boosting Economic Recovery” .The aim of Guoqiang's talk was to share ideas from China experience in using the opportunity presented by the fight against Covid-19 to accelerate digital transformation in rail industry.

Huawei has been actively involved in the railway modernization process in Africa. The company's digital railway solutions have been implemented in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and other African countries and globally.

Guoqiang said: “Lesson 1: The pandemic will accelerate digital transformation of the rail industry. Lesson 2: After the pandemic, the rail industry will rapidly help economic recovery, requiring advanced and unified technology.”

He added that with these lessons learned in China in mind, Huawei is addressing how railways can use new technologies to speed up digitalization, while helping customers at the same time. “New technologies like 5G and AI will be used in rail industry, he said.

Adapting to new demands

Dr. Joice Chidora, Finance Director of SARA, also shared some thoughts from the regional association side. In the advent of  a new norm of doing business due to Covid-19 railways, the organisation needs to embrace and catch up with technical advancement in the areas of digital technologies, she said.

She introduced the “Joint, Operating, Integrated, Control, Enhanced” (JOICE) system, which she said SARA would implement to address the challenges and opportunities brought about by Covid-19.

Real-time detection and mitigation

Patrick Moodly, Head of Sales and Business Development in Siemens Mobility South Africa and his team introduced potential solutions in the fight against theft and vandalism in the rail industry, which are based on digitalization. He explained that “theft and vandalism is an increasing threat to the rail industry, causing disruptions to operators and negatively affecting commuters' lives and freight operations.”

However, Siemens Mobility offers solutions that provide for real-time detection of acts of theft and vandalism, he said. “Our solutions leverage digitalization and provide innovative ways of identifying these criminal acts to our clients. With this insight, customers can put in effective measures to tackle theft and vandalism,” he said.

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