Building quality infrastructure promotes sustainable economic development
2 December 2016
Infrastructure plays a vital role in Africa’s economic growth, and building quality into every stage of the life-cycle of projects is essential if investment in infrastructure is to have a positive impact on the economic development of the continent and its citizens.
This was one of the key messages from participants at this year’s annual meeting of the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA), where the theme was “Building Quality Infrastructure for Africa’s Development”.
Participants agreed that while increasing funding for infrastructure development was important, this must be accompanied by improvements to the quality and sustainability of infrastructure. Providing infrastructure that is economically efficient, socially inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable requires building-in concepts of quality throughout the project life-cycle, from feasibility planning and design, through to appropriate technology, operation and maintenance.
Further, as Africa is likely to be impacted severely by climate change, policy makers and infrastructure practitioners must ensure that climate resilience measures are built into infrastructure projects.
The co-chairs, moderators and presenters gather at the ICA Annual Meeting in Abidjan
The 12th Annual Meeting of the ICA, which took place on 21 & 22 November 2016, was jointly organised by the Government of Japan (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Japan International Cooperation Agency - JICA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the ICA and was hosted by the AfDB at its office in Abidjan.
Amongst the over 150 participants at the two-day meeting were senior figures such as Mr Patrick Achi (Minister of Economic Infrastructure, Government of Cote d’Ivoire), H.E. Mr Seiji Okada (Ambassador for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan), Dr Elham Ibrahim (Commissioner for Infrastructure, African Union), Mr Bruno Kapandji (former Minister of Energy of DRC and current head of the Inga III project), and Mr Stefan Nalletamby (Acting Vice President, African Development Bank).
The first day of the annual meeting on 21 November was attended by ICA members and invited stakeholders only, while the Plenary Session on the second day, where the theme was “Building Quality Infrastructure for Africa’s Development”, was open to wider participation.
Moderators join to lead discussions during the closing session of the ICA Annual Meeting
As well as highlighting the key roles that quality infrastructure can play in the continent’s economic growth and development, other conclusions from the discussions at the Plenary Session included:
- There was broad consensus that infrastructure provides the basis for economic development, and economic efficiency is central to providing quality infrastructure;
- Involving the private sector in infrastructure projects could enhance their quality, but Africa has rather limited experience with the private provision of infrastructure and of Public Private Partnerships, due to issues of country risk, governance and capacity;
- It was noted that during the investment phase, life-cycle costs of projects must be thoroughly considered including funding for adequate maintenance and environmental and social considerations;
- It was also noted that current procurement practice does not always allow optimal outcomes because of the rigidity of the processes, focusing mainly on the need for transparency;
- To ensure infrastructure projects have the desired impact it is important to involve stakeholders throughout the process, with consultations of potentially affected communities during the planning phase, and involvement of local businesses during the build, operation and maintenance phases;
- Africa is likely to be significantly impacted by climate change, through increased weather events (both droughts and storms) and rising sea levels. Ensuring climate resilience implies additional investment costs, probably of between 10% and 15%. However, there would be later benefits, both financial and societal;
- The concepts of quality infrastructure, together with information and best practice, must be shared and disseminated throughout the continent.
The official outcomes statement for the Plenary Session of the 12th ICA annual meeting can be viewed here: 'Financial commitments to Africa’s infrastructure development grow by 12%'.