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African Transport Conference

Volume 466: debated on Monday 4 July 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement about the Central African Transport Conference which took place in Lisbon at the end of May.

At the invitation of the Government of Portugal, an International Conference on African Transport Problems was held in Lisbon from 24th to 31st May. Sir Nigel Ronald, K.C.M.G., C.V.O., His Majesty's Ambassador at Lisbon, headed the United Kingdom Delegation, which included representatives of the various interested Departments of His Majesty's Government, representatives of the Governments of Southern and Northern Rhodesia and the British East African territorities. The other participating Governments were those of Belgium, France, and the Union of South Africa. The United States Government sent observers.The Conference provided a valuable forum for the exchange of information about existing conditions of transport and plans for the development of surface communications in Africa south of the Sahara. Its main purpose, however, was to make plans and draw up the agenda for a further and more detailed conference; and among the recommendations of the Conference which are now being studied by the participating Governments is one that the invitation of the Government of the Union of South Africa to hold this further conference in Johannesburg in October, 1950, should be accepted.Among the items on the agenda recommended by the Lisbon Conference for consideration at the second conference is the establishment in Africa by the Governments and Administrations directly interested of a permanent inter-territorial organisation to advise upon problems of surface transport south of the Sahara. In addition to this agenda, the Lisbon Conference proposed the immediate setting up of an interim body at Pretoria to make detailed preparations to collect information for use at the later Conference. It also urged the Governments concerned to undertake during the interim period the fullest exchange of information about their plans for the development of surface communications.The urgency of certain transport problems in Africa, and in particular those relating to the access of the land-locked Central African territories to the sea, led the Conference to make certain recommendations for immediate action which should not await the deliberations of the second Conference. The most important of these recommendations concern the expansion of the capacity of the port of Beira, and the construction of a new railway link or links between the Rhodesia Railways system and the port of Lourenco Marques. An outstanding feature of the Conference was the spirit of willing co-operation between the various delegations. Thanks to this and to the excellent and businesslike chairmanship of the leader of the Portuguese delegation, Dr. Rui Ulrich, the Conference was able to proceed harmoniously and expeditiously with the formulation of its several recommendations.