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A rail future for Africa

Written by: Anazi Zote Piper

At the 5th edition of Smarter Mobility Africa summit we had a conversation with Sipho Sikhosana, CEO of uBumbano which means “solidarity” in Zulu.

It certainly is a collaborative initiative between Gibela, Alstom and uBumbano aimed at promoting sustainable and inclusive transportation solutions. uBumbano, a dynamic and forward-thinking organisation, joins forces with Alstom, a global leader in sustainable and cutting-edge mobility solutions, and Gibela, renowned for its expertise in manufacturing and supplying railway rolling stock. This strategic alliance brings together a diverse range of skills and resources, fostering a synergy that is poised to revolutionise the rail transport industry. 

Gibela specializes in producing modern, electric commuter trains that are designed to enhance the efficiency, safety, and environmental sustainability of urban transport in South Africa. These trains are equipped with cutting-edge technology, such as regenerative braking systems and energy-efficient components, which contribute to a more eco-friendly and economically viable transport networks. 

uBumbano hosts historical Gala Dinner

uBumbano partnered with the Smarter Mobility Africa summit this year to host the first ever Gala Dinner for this event. All attendees came dressed to the nine with attendance from representatives of media, government, CEOs, startups and internationals. One key highlight from the event was the keynote speech by His Excellency Paul Mashatile, Deputy President of South Africa. This flamboyant occasion was also met with other keynote speakers Kedibone Diale-Tlabela MPL, Gauteng MEC for Transport and Logistics, Kagiso Khaole, General Manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa. 

“We are part of this conference because firstly we are part of the mobility ecosystem by producing components for the train industry. Secondly, it gives us an opportunity to meet different partners,” says Sikhosana. 

Through this partnership both parties focus on projects like integrated public transport systems, last-mile connectivity, and the deployment of electric buses and trains. They also look to address challenges of congestion and pollution while creating opportunities for economic growth and job creation within the local communities. 

The future of electric trains

On the last day of the SMA summit delegates who attended the conference went to see the Gibela plant, located in Nigel South Africa. With the world’s fastest production rate, Gibela spans over 600,000 square meters. It stands as a testament to advanced rail production capabilities on the African continent. This manufacturing facility has the capacity to produce 62 trains a year, 1,5 trains a week and 2 cars daily. When one train is manufactured, 15 cars are created for the train, an extraordinary production line.  

“The first of its kind in Africa where we are producing passenger trains on behalf of our client PRASA. Gibela is part of the mobility community, by us manufacturing passenger trains we are moving millions of people,” says Sikhosana. 

With companies like Gibela, Alstom and uBumbano, South Africa is poised to be a successful case study in revamping urban transport while paving the way for sustainable, accessible, and technologically advanced mobility through rail.  

About the author

Anazi Zote
Mobility Content & Stakeholder Manager
Anazi Zote is a multifaceted woman with a passion for creativity and innovation. With her diverse skill set encompassing creatives arts, technology, and entrepreneurship, she continuously pushes boundaries and explores new frontiers. She is known for their unique perspective and out-of-the-box thinking and strives to inspire and challenge conventional norms.
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