RESILIENT and quality stock of infrastructure is an indispensable component of the United Nations-led sustainable development agenda.
The World Bank — in line with its mandate of providing technical and financial support to assist countries to implement socio-economic and environmental projects — proposed infrastructure models that countries can adopt to finance infrastructural development.
Of these, and relative to the resources-based financing model, the public private partnership (PPP) model appears to have gained wider acceptance in many African countries, including Zimbabwe.
Several African countries have instituted specialised PPP units. The essential task of a PPP unit is that of ensuring that projects are supported by sound analysis in terms of value and to ensure that principles of fair competition guide the partner selection.
In some countries, PPP units assume an advocacy role, motivating for policy reforms that enhance the quality of legal frameworks that govern PPP projects implementation.
While it is an established fact that many projects have been successfully executed through the PPP modality, in some cases, the infrastructure finance model has encountered a fair share of criticism.
In Zimbabwe, the Pomona waste to energy €304 million concession contract provides an example of a PPP deal that has received disapproval from diverse avenues of society.
The media, civic society and independent analyst shared opinion on the shortcomings of the PPP infrastructure investment.
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Expectedly, the strongest criticism of the transaction came from the information marginalised, especially the ratepayers who through their representative body categorically rejected the project on the ground that they should have been consulted.
That being the case, with the objective of enhancing the legal-political and termination risk profile of sustainable infrastructure projects in Zimbabwe, one can argue in favour of more inclusive forms of partnerships for public infrastructure financing.
Perhaps, as opposed to the traditional PPP model, a policy shift towards multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) is an alternative.
As a construct, the MSP first appeared in the development discourse at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The adoption in 2015 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) further brought the concept to the fore.
In fact, SDG 17, target 17.6 advocates for the revitalisation of partnerships for sustainable development through operationalising MSPs that mobilise and share knowledge, expertise, technology, and financial resources, to support the achievement of the goals.
Even though varied conceptualisation of what MSPs are, and why they are defined as such has been promulgated, it is a widely accepted view that, by and large, MSPs are voluntary initiatives jointly undertaken by government, intergovernmental organisations, major representative groupings, and other stakeholders for the implementation of agreed socio-economic developmental goals and targets (Stibbe, Reid, & Gilbert, 2019).
This viewpoint to sustainable development, in synch with the 2030 Agenda implies that as a key tenet, MSPs should embrace inclusivity; and leave no one behind with regard to the implementation of public infrastructure financing plans.
MSPs thus transform the conceptualisation of partnerships from just a tool for supporting government-led developmental initiatives where a binding contract is ratified between the government and a private entity into a means for implementation through inclusive engagement.
A transition away from the traditionally hierarchical developmental approach where government actors are the subjects of control with the non-government actors being the object of control is advocated for under MSPs.
This article identifies five key groups between which effective partnership need to be secured to operationalise successfully multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable infrastructural development and financing agenda in Zimbabwe.
Reputable international development institutions such as the World Business Council for sustainable development and the UN-Global Compact have made the case for the more active engagement of the business community with sustainable infrastructure financing and the SDGs at large.
Private sector by-in is important since industry and business are the key drivers of both social and economic development in any country.
Business and industry, in playing their part in addressing the pressing infrastructure financing challenges can harness opportunities that arise from the need for green infrastructures for instance.
Even though some have questioned whether MSPs could be an effective platform where profit-oriented business can make meaningful contribution towards sustainable infrastructure finance, the realisation that the 2030 Agenda is broad in scope and as such governments in low-income economies in particular lack the financial capacity to singularly bridge the infrastructure gap justifies the need for private investments.
Thus, an effort should be made to encourage business and industry to finance infrastructure projects through inclusive collaborations with other stakeholders.
Harrington (2015) argued that partnerships for development ought to be knowledge based.
Precisely, the SDGs require the creation of a knowledge base that extends far beyond the exchange of information that is already known to co-creating knowledge in order to promote the culture of shared understanding in the development processes.
The exchange of knowledge can be a catalyst for in-depth collaboration among stakeholders on the development landscape.
Institutions of higher learning have an advantage when it comes to knowledge creation and dissemination, especially during this era of big data and artificial intelligence.
The academic community, through training and consultation services, innovation and research, can contribute to better sustainable infrastructure decision out-comes.
The South African Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub hosted by the University of Pretoria is an example of a scientific institute playing an active role in supporting sustainable development through linking the academic community with government and business as a way to promote science-based policy decisions.
Society counts on universities to equip the next generation of development thinkers and practitioners.
Collaboration should thus be established between the academic community and other development partners.
Civic society organisations have the capacity to pioneer transformation towards sustainable societies and economies, hence the need for functional collaborations between civic organisations, business and government.
The civic community can be instrumental in championing progressive projects, especially in the developmental areas of health infrastructure, environmental awareness and finance, economic justice, campaigning for the rights of people with disability, addressing gender imbalances as well as spearheading the instituting of transparent and accountable government systems.
The 2030 Agenda is built on the philosophy of inclusivity and not leaving any one behind.
Through the bottom approach commonly applied within the civic community, the organisations are better positioned to solicit and incorporate the views of the often vulnerable and marginalised segments of society.
Indonesia is among the countries that have sought to strengthen the role of the civic society in its development process and reports say policy position the Government of Indonesia has taken is positively impacting on the attainment of SDG targets.
Similarly, policy frameworks can be modelled in ways that promote civic-business-academia and government co-operation in Zimbabwe.
Publicly-owned institutions, based on their governance and implementation mandate, shoulder the responsibility regarding the achievement of SDG targets.
Government responsibility goes beyond the mere execution of State-led infrastructure financing initiatives to include co-ordinating and integrating non-State actors in a partisan neutral way in the development and implementation of SDG programmes.
Concerted effort is required from higher levels of government to ensure a functional MSP environment.
It is Haywood et al (2018)’s view that local development finance institutions be recognised as critical components of the multi-stakeholder partnership ecosystem.
The Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, for instance, through designing inclusive hybrid infrastructure finance structures can be a catalyst of the country’s infrastructure agenda.
Much the same way, the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe can act as a key enabler of the industrial infrastructure development.
Multilateral development institutions
The MSP ecosystem would be in complete without recognising the role of multi-lateral development banks.
In fact, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda specifically recognises the importance of these institutions in supporting the 2030 Agenda.
Multilateral development banks for instance have a traceable record of co-operation with domestic institutions to design bankable infrastructure projects.
The infrastructure tentacles of the multilateral development banks extend far and wide to include active networks with capacity to design infrastructure policies as well as practitioners with specialisation in structuring and implantation of projects.
Besides helping countries to access concessionary infrastructure finance, through policy advice and the “signalling effect”, the multilateral development banks can be instrumental in positioning Zimbabwe as an infrastructure investment hub.
Thus, multilateral development institutions are integral to Zimbabwe’s multi-stakeholder partnership design.
Munyua (2016) credits the evolution and development of Kenya’s Information technology infrastructure land scape to the embrace of the MSPs concept by the government of President Mwai Kibaki.
Kibaki’s government sought collaborations first to develop institutions, design frameworks after which ICT infrastructure initiatives were then rolled out.
The government of Indonesia, through appreciating the centrality of MSPs has gone as far as instituting guidelines that direct MSP engagement in the country.
The partnership frameworks in Zimbabwe ought to extend beyond the traditional PPP model and encompass MSP as tangible instrument to expand the innovation and resources base for infrastructure finance.
Justice Mundonde is a researcher and a finance lecturer at Bindura University of Science Education. He can be contacted on just[email protected]. He writes here in his personal capacity.