There is good news and then there is more good news. The first is that Africa is on the rise, but amid this rise there are challenges. The second is that solving these challenges will leapfrog Africa into a wholly industrialized, economically diverse and interconnected continent. Getting to this point, however, is a challenge. Demand for transport infrastructure has far outstripped the supply. While there have been pockets of infrastructural projects dotted around Africa, they are insufficient and cannot meet the demand created by exponential growth within the continent.
In addition to issues of supply are challenges in the form of institutional roadblocks due to complicated border control management, such as customs delays and complicated documentation procedures, high freight costs and indirect travel routes, resulting in expensive travel within the continent compared with travel outside Africa.
Funding and investment shortages also cripple investment opportunities, particularly in terms of front-loading project finance, which would enable project maturity to a stage that could encourage the appetite of would-be investors. The high cost of capital due to a high perception of risk also heavily constrains the development of projects within the continent.
The solutions to these challenges lie in the use of four buzz words: Standardization: Planning, homogenization and integration. Standardization of documentation and processes across African borders and ports as well as the homogenization of markets will create ease and free flow of commodities and people within and around the continent. The potential earnings in terms of tourism and reduced custom hassles will greatly promote integrationwithin the continent. Proper planning of projects using regional master plans as a vehicle to create an overarching programme that connects all cities in Africa by all modes of transport will also enhance integration.
We all have roles to play in turning these solutions into action. The first is the role of both the private and public sectors through public-private partnerships, which will provide much-needed investment. The African Union also plays a strong coordinating role by ensuring implementation of regional infrastructure master plans.
We mustn’t constrain the efforts of infrastructure provision in Africa to physical infrastructure alone; there is also need to upgrade human resources by way of training, education and skills provision. This will not only provide jobs and income to African citizens but will also further promote the safe use of such infrastructure.
World Economic Forum