Interview with Mohamed Hassan, Coordinator

8 December 2013

On a crisp, cool December afternoon, ICA Coordinator, Mohamed Hassan sat down at the Secretariat office in Tunis to reflect on the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa. In a rare moment Hassan was able close his office door for a few minutes and talk candidly about the status of the ICA and his thoughts about the infrastructure development picture in Africa. 

Q.  The Infrastructure Consortium for Africa recently celebrated an anniversary – tell us about that.   
M.H:  “… Oh yes, we had a very important anniversary this year. The ICA celebrated a complete cycle of G8 sponsorships at our annual meeting. As you know, the ICA was founded at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in the United Kingdom in 2005.  Since then, our annual meetings have been hosted by the other G8 members.  Our annual meeting sponsors are aligned directly with whomever is hosting the G8. Since The United Kingdom hosted the G8 this year they sponsored the ICA meeting this year as well … so it was a full cycle - and we were back with our original sponsor. It was great …”

Q.  What was great about it?   
M.H:  “… First of all, the ICA annual meetings are always great because they bring together the worlds’ leaders in Africa infrastructure. These meetings provide an opportunity for dedicated professionals to share thoughts and ideas and to collaborate whenever possible on projects and initiatives. The 2013 ICA Annual Meeting was held in November in Arusha, Tanzania at the newly designed East African Community headquarters.That was a beautiful venue! The theme for the meeting was Boosting African Trade: Cross-Border Harmonization of Transport Policy and Regulation: a critical issue for Africa. We had some power-house presentations on the topic – and the participants in this discussion were engaged and very interactive. At the ICA members’ meeting [which is closed] we were able to welcome the Republic of South Africa as a member. We also presented a very ambitious strategic work plan to the membership – which was approved – this includes the establishment of a Project Preparation Facility Network … so we are now busy getting that work in place …”

Q.  As you reflect on the progress of things, how do you think the ICA has grown?
M.H:  “… Well, for starters we have expanded our membership. The ICA is no longer a G8 members-only consortium. As I said, this year we welcomed our first G20 country. The Republic of South Africa joined the ICA as the first G20 country and first African country member. This was a good milestone. I think perhaps the ICA has also grown into a more interactive and communicative consortium of engaged members. Through the ICA, our members have been able to communicate openly and constructively about tacking the complex Africa infrastructure challenges. The ICA is still a ‘light-touch’ consortium of members -- which means participation and financial investment in ICA activities is voluntary.  Most organizations that are structured like this don’t last as long as the ICA. To me, this indicates two things: first there is continued commitment to transformational infrastructure development in Africa, and secondly: we are doing a good job...” 

Q.  How do you think the ICA is doing a good job?   
M.H:  “…The Infrastructure Consortium for Africa does a great job in advocating for the development of a sustainable infrastructure system in Africa. This is a long-term objective and we are regularly in touch with hundreds stakeholders. We, and by ‘we’ I mean the entire the members and the secretariat office here in Tunis – are always talking about water, energy, ICT and transport in Africa. We have a large cadre of knowledge products and, like I said, we are a very determined team. We are also very good at convening. As a consortium, we have been able to bring hundreds – maybe even thousands of stakeholders to the table – where we facilitate meaningful dialogue with an aim toward mobilizing resources to infrastructure projects…” 

Q.  What are some of the challenges you face here at the ICA Secretariat?
M.H:  “…Well, our secretariat office is made up of a very small staff. I’m very proud of the team, but the challenge of filling the gap between a never-ending demand for up-to-date infrastructure information, tools and knowledge products and the limited supply is not easy. However, I am pleased to note that the ICA has made substantial contributions to address this issue. The ICA produced a Project Preparation User guide. This was later converted into a great web tool called the ‘Fund Finder’. This Fund Finder tool is ideal for project promoters looking for funds at each stage of the project cycle. 

We also created an online Knowledge Centre for sharing reports and studies on African infrastructure issues. This Knowledge Center has hundreds of publications and reports about infrastructure. These come from all over the world.  The ICA also produced a number of our own topical publications - all aimed at deploying specialist knowledge on Africa’s infrastructure landscape. For example:  When the Power Comes: An Analysis of IPPs in Africa is an analysis of power pools. It compliments another ICA report called, Regional Power Status in African Power Pools. We also produced a study to assess the potential for enhanced private participation in the maritime and air transport sectors in Africa; and we just finished an assessment of project preparation facilities in Africa, commissioned by the G20.

These studies and other updates about infrastructure development in Africa are also promoted in our quarterly electronic newsletter called @ISSUE. We also use these publications as advocacy tools – in that we disseminate them to policy- makers – who then take the necessary steps for implementing the recommendations within those reports and publications... “

Q.  So many of the planned African infrastructure projects we hear about seem to be large, regional projects that cross country borders. What does the ICA do to help move these projects forward? 
M.H:   “…There is not a short answer to that question. I can tell you that we are wholly committed to regional integration, but it is a well-known fact that regional infrastructure projects are much more complex to implement than national projects. The ICA supports efforts led by the African Union and Regional Economic Communities and specialized continental institutions. The center of convergence in all this effort is the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa. PIDA is an initiative that was developed by the African Union Commission (AUC), NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency), African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). 

There are 51 different PIDA projects – in varying stages of readiness. All the PIDA projects are regional or continental infrastructure projects that strengthen transport, energy, information communications and technology (ICT), and trans-boundary water issues. PIDA projects are expected to lead to an integrated [African] continent, fuelling international trade, job creation and sustainable economic growth.  Our work at the ICA is set up to support, compliment and strengthen the PIDA objectives.

Some ICA members champion specific programmes under PIDA such as the Eastern & Central Transport Corridors, Horn of Africa Initiative, North South Corridor, and West African Power Pool.  Under its regional programmes activities, ICA assists in resource mobilization for project preparation and implementation of projects by advising on sources of financing – and by supporting investment and donor conferences. For example, we recently supported the Lake Victoria Basin Commission’s (LVBC) Investment Conference where 22 project concept notes were presented and received firm commitments by participating financiers. We helped in every step of the process. We helped develop the concept notes. We hosted a donors conference and followed up with specific match-making activities … so again, it’s not a simple answer to your question – but suffice it to say, we do many things to promote regional integration…” 

Q. There is now a widespread recognition that the private sector will need to play an increasing role in funding PIDA’s priority projects. Recognizing that ICA serves as a platform to broker increased financing of African infrastructure projects, how can ICA become involved in efforts to help mobilize private sector funding for PIDA projects?
M.H:  “…ICA actively participated in the task force for PIDA implementation to provide support on the mobilization of funds. We are currently undertaking financial structuring for PIDA projects to examine the possible modalities of financing the PIDA PAP. It is worth noting that, ICA’s second Strategic Business Plan (SBP) 2014-2016 will allocate more resources to the facilitation of regional infrastructure programmes -- particularly PIDA PAP.

We will also support more matchmaking, investment conferences and other resource mobilization activities. ICA members will continue to support upstream project activities such as project preparation (feasibility studies, economic and financial analysis etc.) to improve the bankability of projects and programmes.

As I just said, the ICA convening and coordination power is unparalleled. Our consortium encompasses 13 key members which are the G8 countries, three multilateral banks – World Bank, African Development Bank and European Investment Bank – European Commission and the Development Bank of South Africa, all of whom are significant players with leverage in terms of infrastructure development in Africa.

The ICA, via the Initiative for Risk Mitigation in Africa (IRMA; an ICA initiative) will promote risk mitigation instruments and other innovative credit enhancement/ financing instruments to the private sector to help leverage additional resources. We strongly believe that all these efforts will bridge the institutional capacity and regulatory constraints and contribute to the enhancement of the private sector’s participation in infrastructure development on the continent…”

Q.  Last question:  What do you hope the ICA will be doing in 10 years?   
M.H:  “… Well, it would be great to see all the G8 and G20 countries actively engaged within the ICA by that point.  Developing a sustainable infrastructure system in Africa – where there is convenient transport interconnectivity via well designed roads, water transportation and air travel – along with a desperately needed reliable water and electricity supply – and an integrated ICT strategy in all parts of Africa is our goal. If we keep working at this pace we should be see real changes that improve lives…”


Categories: General News

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