UAE’s latest Mass Transport Dream System

UAE’s latest Mass Transport Dream System

All the GCC’s media reported recently that the UAE’s latest mass transport dream system being undertaken by the Hyperloop Transportation Technologies informing that progress of the current work ongoing in Toulouse, France, is quite substantive and not far from completion. This is about engineering and fabrication of a set of tubes, that will make the core element in this new mode of transport of both people and freight. These steel tubes with an interior diameter of 4 meter, once linearly assembled above and below ground into a sort of giant pipeline would allow passenger capsules and shipping containers to travel along it in record time.

Meanwhile, the UAE that is adopting this technology is also reported to reflect on the quality of life of its citizens and will still be trying to further enhance their happiness levels.  

“50 percent of government transactions on the federal level will be conducted using blockchain technology by 2021.”

Blockchain would seem to be the new buzzword as put by Sheikh Mohammed himself who added saying that the adoption of blockchain would allow the government not only to face future challenges but also to contribute in saving unnecessary expenditure.

Another notable novelty is that of Dubai trialling the use of digital number plates that can alert authorities if there is an accident. We reproduce this article of Jessica Miley for Interesting Engineering of April 11th, 2018.

Dubai Set to Test Digital Number Plates on Cars in the City

Dubai Set to Test Digital Number Plates on Cars in the City / Pexels

Dubai is set to launch digital number plates as part of a trial that will also see cars fitted with GPS and transmitters. The trialed number plates will also be able to alert emergency services if the car is in an accident. 


Dubai is determined to become a global leader in technology and is implementing a range of trials to test emerging technologies in everyday use. Drivers lucky to trial the digital number plates will receive a range of benefits. 

The number plates not only enable police or ambulance to find the car if there has been any sort of accident, the plates can also monitor traffic conditions and communicate that to other drivers. 

Digital number plates can make parking a breeze

The digital number plates can also be linked to the individual’s bank account so that all parking and fines are automatically deducted. Sultan Abdullah al-Marzouqi, the head of the Vehicle Licensing Department at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), says the plates will make life smoother and easier for drivers in Dubai. 

The small digital panel can also update with a message if necessary to alert or warn other drivers about changing conditions. The trial period will see the plates put the test in Dubai’s hot dry climate. 

The trial will start next month and end in November when a decision will be made about the ongoing use of the plates. Details of the cost of the possible plate rollout are not yet known. Sultan Abdullah says the financial details will only be able to be determined once the trial ends. 

Critics of the plates question how much knowledge about an individual’s whereabouts the government should have. If every car is fitted with the plates, then the location of every person connected to the government is basically known by the authorities at all times. 

Dubai wants to be a leader in emerging technologies particularly related to transport. The 3-million person city hopes to have self-driving cars accounting for s a quarter of journeys by 2030.

Police force could enforce from the air

Dubai city authorities have announced their desire to use drone taxis in the city as the possible method to overcome heavy traffic congestion. They are also planning a Hyperloop system between downtown Dubai and the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi. 

The Hyperloop would cut the 120km journey between the two cities down to just 12 minutes.

The rapidly growing city also announced it is investigating the possible use of flying hoverbike drones for its police force. The Dubai police force has outlined plans to add a bunch of the Russian designed Hoversurf Scorpion 3 to the team for both manned and unmanned missions. 

The force made the announcement at GITEX, the largest technology expo in the Gulf region. The futuristic devices can fly with a pilot at up to 70kmh and in their unmanned mode can reach top speeds of 100 kmh. Unfortunately, the hoverbikes only have a range of about 20-25 minutes and the batteries take about three hours to fully charge.

 More reading on Dubai are in:

Algeria’s 15 Best Places to Visit

Algeria’s 15 Best Places to Visit

THE CRAZY TOURIST in a coverage of Algeria’s 15 Best Places to Visit put it this way: the largest country in the continent of Africa, Algeria has a diverse landscape and lots to offer travellers . . .

Algeria has many charming cities with winding streets and stunning architecture, Mediterranean coast, lush landscapes and roman ruins to rival anywhere in the world.  The problem is therefore how to do it; travelling by road and / or by train.  The image above is that of Constantine, ancient and present day capital of the eastern provinces, it sits on a canyon that dramatically cut through the center to the amazement of trains, cars and pedestrians alike.

Taking the transport by train, The Algerian National Railway ‘SNTF’ in this article of Infrastructure DZ  elaborated on the country’s plans to multiply its railway network threefold within the next 15 years, to reach 10,000 kms (from 3,200 kms currently) of railways. Most of the 47 billion-dollar package set aside for transport will be allocated to railway development.

Meanwhile, Railway Gazette produced this other article republished below.

‘Modernisation, movement and beauty’ of Algeria’s future inter-city trainsets

27 Feb 2017


ALGERIA: National railway SNTF and Alstom have revealed the final design for the 17 Coradia Polyvalent electro-diesel multiple-units which are under construction in France for use on inter-city services between Alger, Oran, Annaba, Constantine and Béchar from January 2018.

The SNTF units will be similar to the Coradia Polyvalent units operated by France’s SNCF under the Régiolis brand, but adapted for local conditions including protection against sand and ‘highly efficient’ air-conditioning.

The six-car units will be 110 m long with a capacity of 254 passengers. They will have a maximum speed of 160 km/h, and be capable of operating from 25 kV 50 Hz electrification or by the six 350 kW diesel engines per unit.

The styling was developed by Alstom’s Design & Styling department in collaboration with SNTF and aims to evoke the ‘modernisation, movement and beauty’ of Algeria’s landscapes, according to Henri Bussery, General Manager of Alstom Algeria. The exterior will feature a ‘subtly reflective’ coating to reflect the cities, countryside, coasts and mountains that the trainsets will pass. The air-conditioned interior is ‘spacious and bright’, with comfortable seating and a dining area.

SNTF placed the €200m order for 17 units in July 2015. They are being manufactured at Alstom’s Reichshoffen site, with the bogies supplied from Le Creusot, motors from Ornans, traction systems from Tarbes and on-board electronics and passenger information systems from Villeurbanne.

‘The project is underway and is progressing extremely well at full speed’, said SNTF Managing Director Yacine Benjaballah on February 27. ‘This train will become a national asset, satisfying the needs of our passengers who will be proud to use it.’

We would also invite all to visualise this Youtube footage for a greater appreciation of the diverse variety of landscapes of the country.



African Union launching an all-Africa passport

African Union launching an all-Africa passport

 in the Washington Post covers the African Union launching an all-Africa passport as perhaps a phenomenon that is the opposite of the Brexit.

On June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.

Tourism numbers 1

But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.

The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent

The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.

The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.

Why is the single African passport important?

The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.

An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanists celebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africa designed the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.

Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.

Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.

In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.

Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,”according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.

Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.

Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.

The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example

The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.

Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.

An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.

For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.

Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.

And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.

In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.

Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

Read the article on the Washington Post .

Bridging global infrastructure gaps

Bridging global infrastructure gaps

The MENA is made of Oil and Gas (O&G) big exporting countries such as the GCC, non O&G exporters of the Mashrek and the small to medium exporters of the Maghreb.  Development of infrastructure has generally had a late start in all countries of the MENA until a decade ago where it is frantically gaining ground.  Especially in the GCC, where point in case, is the UAE, from roads, Railways to airports, to telecommunications, it has become home to world class facilities that have supported economic growth. Bridging global infrastructure gaps is one of the numerous handicaps that the MENA countries have first to live with and eventually cope with.

Here is a very short summary of the Status of the GCC’s.

An official person of the UAE was quoted as saying :

“If you want to have a strong economy, you have to have strong infrastructure.”

Dubai Metro


  • Roads

In effect, the UAE’s extensive road network not only connects all seven emirates but also links the UAE with neighbouring Oman. Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

  • Railways

Railways up until September 9, 2009 were inexistent in the GCC.

Dubai Metro was inaugurated ion that date and is the first urban train network in the GCC. Doha and Riyadh will soon have a network of their own.

The Etihad Rail project is set to bring rail transport to the entire country spearheading the whole of the GCC in deploying a network from Kuwait City to Muscat with a couple of loops midway of the track.   One is for Riyadh and the other for Doha via Manama.

  • Aviation

Aviation was one of the earliest drivers of non-oil economic growth in the UAE.  Today, the UAE is a global aviation hub.  Doha, Riyadh, Bahrain and Kuwait

  • Ports

The UAE’s unique location has favoured maritime activity to be centred at Dubai.  Port facilities all along the shores of the country, catering for general cargo, container shipping are of international standards.

The other countries of the MENA however are not in such luck but are not that behind the GCC.  The proposed article published today by McKinsey and Company give a fairly good summary of todate infrastructure development worldwide.  Here it is :

Bridging global infrastructure gaps

By Jonathan Woetzel, Nicklas Garemo, Jan Mischke, Martin Hjerpe, and Robert Palter

Global infrastructure systems are straining to meet demand, and the spending trajectory will lead to worsening gaps. But there are solutions to unlock financing and make the sector more productive.

The world today invests some $2.5 trillion a year on transportation, power, water, and telecommunications systems. Yet it’s not enough—and needs are only growing steeper. In a follow-up to its comprehensive 2013 report Infrastructure productivity: How to save $1 trillion a year, the McKinsey Global Institute finds that the world needs to invest an average of $3.3 trillion annually just to support currently expected rates of growth (exhibit). Emerging economies will account for some 60 percent of that need.

Despite glaring gaps and years of debate about the importance of shoring up backbone systems, infrastructure investment has actually declined as a share of GDP in 11 of the G20 economies since the global financial crisis. Cutbacks have occurred in the European Union, the United States, Russia, and Mexico. By contrast, Canada, Turkey, and South Africa increased investment.

If the current trajectory of underinvestment continues, the world will fall short by roughly 11 percent, or $350 billion a year. The size of the gap triples if the additional investment required to meet the new UN Sustainable Development Goals is included.

Would you like to learn more about the McKinsey Global Institute?

Years of chronic underinvestment in critical areas such as transportation, water treatment, and power grids are now catching up with countries around the world. If these gaps continue to grow, they could erode future growth potential and productivity. It is therefore critical to get finance flowing into urgently needed projects.

A great deal of attention has focused on connecting institutional investors with projects that need their capital as well as creating an expanded role for public-private partnerships. But the vast majority of infrastructure will likely continue to be financed by the public and corporate sectors.

Even in the face of fiscal concerns, there is substantial scope to increase public infrastructure investment. Governments can increase funding streams by raising user charges, capturing property value, or selling existing assets and recycling the proceeds for new infrastructure. In addition, public accounting standards could be brought in line with corporate accounting so infrastructure assets are depreciated over their life cycle rather than immediately adding to deficits during construction. This change could reduce pro-cyclical public investment behavior.

Corporate finance makes up about three-quarters of private finance. Unleashing investment in privatized sectors requires regulatory certainty and the ability to charge prices that produce an acceptable risk-adjusted return, as well as enablers like spectrum or land access, permits, and approvals.



Iran intends to purchase lots of Boing planes

Iran intends to purchase lots of Boing planes

At a time, when according to several well informed local media, the IMF is concerned about the GCC countries’ governments apparent reluctance to up deficit reduction measures, saying an additional substantial deficit reduction effort is required in the region and the World Bank lowering the same countries growth forecasts due to persisting lower than expected oil prices, Iran has recently launched a ginormous shopping spree for passengers airplanes. Reuters reported on 6 June 2016 that Iran intends to purchase lots of Boing planes.

Iran is dangling the prospect of significant business for Western planemakers as it emerges from decades of sanctions.  

This article is available to members of MENA-Forum only.

Maritime transport in Algeria

Maritime transport in Algeria

How many stationary ships in any Algerian ports and for how many days ?

This issue of Maritime transport in Algeria does not date from today since as First Counsellor and Director-General of the Department of economic studies at the Court of Accounts, I happen to have conducted an audit on the demurrage on behalf of the Government of the day (1).

At the time when Algeria is going through certain budgetary tensions as impacted by the drop of the price of oil and in order to mobilize all the creative energies and eventually adapt to the articles of the new Constitution that clearly are in favour of entrepreneurial freedom, no more distinction between local and international private sector and State sectors, all creators of wealth, is centred about the relaxation of article 649 of the Maritime Code.

It is understood that it is not interfering with those strategic sectors (this particular segment being not strategic) it is in the details of easing the 49 / 51% rule of ownership share of the SMB’s, and ideally the removal of all constraints on investment in all sectors that it is question here.

In effect, article 649 of the Algerian maritime code stipulates that :

Ship chartering activities may be performed by any physical person of Algerian nationality and / or any legal entity registered in Algeria as having the quality ship-owner and whose main activity centre is located on the Algerian national territory.

This ambiguous article which excludes other types of investors makes it difficult for an Algerian operator to charter vessels as per these conditions of owning a vessel, leaving freedom to foreign interests who do so through brokers who by the way receive commissions ranging from 2.5% to 3.75%.   All these operations of maritime transport of bulk, general cargo and freight come at high-costs, since buying FOB is not allowed because of this article.

If there were no such article in the Maritime Code, all these commissions will obviously be deducted from the amount of the freight costs, hence contribute to price decrease and possibly may be lead to the purchase of new ships.   Faced with this situation, and especially since the Government’s call to rationalize spending and encourage exports, it is URGENT to soften this section, encourage Algerians to Charter their own ships, and create shipping companies in Algeria like Dubai and Singapore.  Algeria, because of its strategic geographic location as Europe and Africa’s door has a good potential but is subject to a controlled and non-anarchic liberalisation of this business sector.

I recall that in 2009, the then head of Government sent to the Minister of Transport, a memorandum dated December 5, 2009, reminding of the prudential directives of the then President of the Republic of 2003, and on the freezing of all related investment applications.   The holding on to this measure was also recalled by another instruction of February 10, 2013, in response to a question from the same Ministry of Transport on the validity of the statement of 2009.   This measure has been reconfirmed, by the current Prime Minister at the ICM of February 22, 2015 that was generally devoted to the review of maritime transport.

At the time where Algeria is going with respect to its budget through a rough ride and tensions arising from the drop in the price of oil, it is an opportune time to mobilize all the wealth creative energies and opt generally for the lifting of all constraints on investments in all sectors of the national activities, that would in no way mean the end of the State’s presence, which has an important mission as a strategic regulator.

Dr Abdulrrahmane Mebtoul, Professeur des Universités, Expert International,

(1) Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul as First Counsellor and Director-General of the Department of Education at the Court of Accounts between 1980 and 1983 had to conduct an audit on the demurrage on behalf of the Government with operational recommendations, including the management of the ports, the function and interconnections customs/taxation/banks/ports.