History of Fesarta

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Wednesday, 5th September 2012

In the early 1990’s, several of the larger transport operators in Southern Africa, decided to get together and form an association that would address problem issues such as permit difficulties, border delays and disparate road traffic legislation, and work with the authorities to try to find solutions.  The Federation of Regional Road Freight Associations (FRRFA) was founded in 1993, by member associations of Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Operator associations from Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Tanzania subsequently joined the association when generous funding was received from the Canadian International Donor Agency (CIDA).  The funding, which eventually totalled US$ 98000, was used for training working groups and for travel expenses for delegates attending FRRFA meetings.  Lobbying government authorities to harmonize legislation throughout the region became a regular activity.

A concerted effort by the FRRFA brought for the first time, recognition by governments that road transport operators were an important factor in the economies of the region.  It became the first official association member of the Road Infrastructure, Transport and Traffic Committee ( Roads SCOM ) of SATCC-TU.

Regretfully, when the CIDA funds ran out towards the end of 1996 and member associations were asked to pay their own way to attend meetings etc., only the four major associations of Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe continued with support.  Zambia also fell by the wayside in 1999.

In the same year, a decision had to be made whether to close down the FRRFA, due to a lack of sustainable funding.  To prevent this happening, Barney Curtis agreed to run the association on a voluntary basis, until adequate funding was put in place for the FRRFA to pay a salary.  The post of Executive Officer was established.

For the FRRFA to be sustainable, it had to have a sound financial basis.  Hand-outs from donor agencies were not an acceptable form of funding.  There had to be regular financial support from the member associations and a commercial approach.  At that time, the latter was preferred, since it was unlikely the members would produce any sustainable funds for some time to come.  The commercial approach could include the FRRFA playing an active role, for a fee or commission, in regional projects such as the Yellow Card insurance system, weighbridge operation, cross-border road user charges etc.

After representation, USAID agreed to fund a project to assess the viability of the National Road Transport Associations ( NRTAs ) in the region, their ability to support the FRRFA and to find commercial sources of revenue for the FRRFA.  The ensuing proposal identified the need for a Business Plan, which was then drawn up by MEC Consultants of Harare.  It identified several feasible commercial ventures, including a website, AIDS initiatives, training and cross-border road user charges.  USAID continued to fund the secretariat for a further two years.

At the AGM held in Mombasa in November 2000, attended by representatives from Uganda and Tanzania, it was agreed that the FRRFA extend its’ services to include East Africa and change its’ name to FESARTA (Federation of East and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations).

There were two reasons for this change:

  • Intraregional trade was growing and the East and Southern African region and this, together with improving connectivity, was bringing the East and Southern African countries closer together.  Following on from the above, some transporters were operating between Gauteng in South Africa and Nairobi in Kenya.  And, between Malawi and Uganda.   The association’s sphere of operations should not be restricted to Southern Africa.
  • A few member National Road Transport Associations (NRTAs) eg Malawi and Zimbabwe, opened their membership to passenger-carrying companies.  It was therefore felt that membership should not be restricted to freight companies.

FESARTA’s unofficial membership then expanded to include:  Angola, Botswana, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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