Africa needs $93 billion annually for infrastructure

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The responsibility for building infrastructure projects is under the remits of regional and local governments, while central government is generally responsible

AFRICA needs about $93 billion annually until 2020 to close the infrastructure gap, a very critical component in the implementation of intra-regional trade and economic development in the continent.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Speaking at the on-going 23rd edition of inter-governmental committee of experts of Southern Africa yesterday in Bulawayo, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, deputy executive secretary, Giovanie Biha said the financial cost of meeting the continent’s infrastructure needs were quite huge.

“According to the African Development Bank, it is estimated that Africa needs about $93 billion annually until 2020 to close the infrastructure gap. Africa must look inwards in financing its infrastructure development and dismantling obstacles to intra-Africa trade and the movement of persons across the continent. We need to prioritise and sequence the implementation of our infrastructure needs,” she said.

Biha said the infrastructure deficit remained a major challenge to trade facilitation, intra-regional trade and economic development and transformation in Africa.

She said the continent’s road freight cost was about four times more than other regions of the world. Specifically, intra-Sadc cost of export is $1 904 per container and to import is $2 428 per container.

Biha said the equivalent figures for intra-Association of South-East Asian Nations trade were $743,5 and $787,5, respectively.

“Other RECs (regional economic communities) in Africa register even higher figures. Up north of the continent, a truck transporting millet/sorghum on the Koutiala–Dakar corridor has to pass through almost 100 checkpoints and border posts, and the driver can expect to pay bribes of about $437,” she said.

Finance minister Ignatius Chombo said the African region was suffering from a critical infrastructure deficiency, particularly access to electricity, transport, information and communication technology (ICT), water and sanitation and irrigation.

“You will agree with me that in general, power deficits are the biggest infrastructure challenge, maritime transport has limited berth and storage capacity, rail infrastructure in generally poor and continues to deteriorate, air transport services are expensive and inefficient, and access to ICT, though improving, remains poor,” he said.

“The gap is real and needs to be addressed for industrialisation and socio-economic development. Let me remind you, developing infrastructure is not cheap.”

Chombo said investing in such infrastructure requires both public and private sector effort through various strategies including public-private-partnerships.

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