East Africa: UN Supports EAC Infrastructure Model
15 August 2013
East African Business Week
A senior United Nations official, Carlos Lopes, supports the self-help attitude shown by the East African Community (EAC) to improve regional infrastructure. The Kenyan government for example has this financial year introduced a railway development levy of 1.5% on all imports to pay for a new railway between Mombasa and Kisumu.
He said there cannot any economic growth without infrastructure. "A rising East Africa and Africa as a whole will require adequate infrastructure as a key catalyst for the continent's transformation agenda, industrial development and intra-African trade," he said. Carlos Lopes is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) based in Addis Ababa.
"We have to step back, critically examine, and have a good understanding of the different elements of the bankability of Africa's mega- infrastructure projects," he said at a roundtable on financing Africa's future infrastructure held recently in Tunis, Tunisia.
Tunis also hosts the African Development Bank (AfDB) who organized the launch of Africa50 Fund recently. Africa50 Fund is intended to be Africa's vehicle to help pull together large sums of money and expertise needed to bridge Africa's infrastructure gap.
However Lopes said cross-border infrastructure projects in Africa are not attracting investors. This is mainly because of the need for long term finance, political stability and the complexity of managing large scale infrastructure projects. Lopes said other reasons hurting infrastructure development include the perceived lack of guarantee and return on investment.
He said the necessity for effective coordination among the relevant agencies and organisations in the different countries involved was also another problem. He said although much remains to be done, in the last decades significant progress has been made in many areas.
"Africa should weave the various initiatives together into a coherent whole," he said, and added that in order to ensure ownership within the continent, Africa needs to set its own objectives as well as concrete development goals.
These must be anchored on existing development frameworks, such as industrialisation, towards which the continent has to define its own path.
EAC Secretary General Amb. Dr. Richard Sezibera said the main objective of the roundtable was to discuss and find solutions to scaling up financing of infrastructure in line with Africa's vision for the next 50 years.
Amb. Sezibera thanked Dr. Donald Kaberuka, the President of the AfDB, and other major financiers for supporting regional integration projects.
The meeting issued a Communique as a show of commitment by the key A frican institutions to implement the mandate from Heads of State and Government for the development of the Africa Agenda 2063, as a transformation vision for Africa over the next 50 years.
Original article written by David Muwanga