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|Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 59· No. 3 > New Links to South Africa|
New Links to South Africa
This article is adapted from information provided by the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of International Programs and the National Highway Institute (NHI).
FHWA's Southern African initiative began with the free election of a democratic government in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) and the U.S. government's expression of support for RSA President Mandela. (FHWA Administrator Rodney E. Slater attended the inauguration as part of the U.S. delegation). Since the historic event, FHWA has undertaken a significant number of steps to establish a relationship with RSA Department of Transport (RSADOT), including having small teams of FHWA experts travel to South Africa and South African teams to the United States.
Federal Transit Administration Administrator Gordon Linton, RSADOT's Director General Ketso Gordhan, and Slater signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in March 1995. Since the signing of the MOU, FHWA and the RSADOT entered into a comprehensive cooperative agreement facilitating the transfer of appropriate technology and road-related information, including information about human resource development.
The cooperative program with South Africa supports three broad goals: (1) develop a two-way transfer of technology/information, (2) promote U.S. industry in South Africa and throughout Africa, and (3) cooperate with South Africa to strengthen the transition to a post-apartheid, fully democratic governing system in South Africa.
FHWA is cooperating with RSADOT in the establishment of technology exchange centers in South Africa. These centers will transfer technology from the United States, from within South Africa itself, and from other countries to all parts of the RSA and to other countries south of the Sahara Desert (sub-Saharan) in Africa.
RSADOT has established a technology exchange center at RSADOT headquarters in Pretoria. This technology exchange center in Pretoria is in the process of publishing their first newsletter; it is expected to be distributed in January 1996. Additional technology exchange centers are anticipated one in Durban and one in the Cape Province and some in other sub-Saharan countries.
FHWA is working with RSADOT to develop and present a number of demonstration projects in selected areas of road reconstruction, road maintenance, and urban passenger transport. The objective of this effort is to provide jobs and training as well as to reintroduce American technology, equipment, and businesses to the RSA. (No FHWA funds will be expended on actual construction.)
The first of these demonstration projects had an open house in George, RSA, with approximately 100 attendees on Nov. 30, 1995. FHWA Regional Administrator Dale Wilken and representatives of the Office of International Programs, Director Robert Ford and Suneel Vanikar, participated in this event.
An FHWA-sponsored scanning tour to South Africa is planned for May 1996. The scanning team will include federal and state highway officials and representatives of the U.S. private sector. The primary purpose of this proposed visit to South Africa is to observe, discuss, and document detailed information on South Africa's successful practices in highway technologies for dissemination to the U.S. transportation engineering and contracting community. Other purposes are to share U.S. technology with the South Africans and to introduce American and South African counterparts to one another as a means of facilitating cooperation and exchange.
This effort will provide a good opportunity to twine U.S. private-sector institutions/associations, such as the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the American Consulting Engineers Council, with their South African counterparts.
In addition, FHWA and RSADOT are undertaking a program to enhance transportation-related education and training. The legacy of apartheid is a set of historically disadvantaged communities poorly trained in mathematics and science. This, in turn, has created a shortage of skilled transportation manpower in the these communities.
The present RSA government has implemented development plans that require well-trained people in the field of transportation. The government recognizes that a weak transportation infrastructure is a deterrent to private business, commerce, access to health care, urban development, and delivery of goods to historically disadvantaged communities. Education is primary to the provision of a transportation infrastructure in the historically disadvantaged communities of South Africa.
From June 16 to June 23, 1995, Ford and two NHI officials Moges Ayele, director of special strategic NHI initiatives, and Hana Maier, manager of NHI's International Technology Transfer Program met in Pretoria with South African officials to discuss the development of a RSADOT-FHWA Transportation Education and Training Program. On the FHWA side, the framework for cooperative education and training activities is managed by the Office of International Programs along with NHI. Activities in this area will include exchanging teachers, linking institutions of higher learning, visiting transportation construction and maintenance sites, and cooperating with the technikons in South Africa.
In September 1995, Bill Brown of NHI and Steve Gaj and Vanikar from International Programs traveled to Durban to help professors W.M. Onsongo and A.K. Sarkar of the University of Durban-Westville develop a proposal on education programs for the Kwazulu-Natal region of the country.
The proposal being developed by the University of DurbanWestville is to create model programs in basic education, build faculty capacity, establish a center of development in mathematics and science, and improve the quality of education. The proposal would set up the following programs which would be spread over a period of five years:
The overall purpose of the programs is to attract more students from historically disadvantaged communities into transportation engineering. Good education programs will help provide qualified manpower in transportation and, in turn, will help foster sustainable economic growth and development in South Africa.
Working with and sharing information with colleagues from abroad benefit all parties by improving the transportation of goods and people in our countries, resulting in stronger economies.
From left: Suneel Vanikar of International Programs; Bill Brown of NHI; Prof. Winston Onsongo, head of the Civil Engineering Dept. at the University of Durban-Westville; Prof. A.K. Sarkar, chairman of transportation studies at the University of Durban-Westville; and Helius Visser, an RSADOT engineer.
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