UK dept earmarks £21.4bn for African infrastructure development

29 March 2018

The UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT) is pledging funding for infrastructure development in Africa, including £4-billion in South Africa, £1-billion in Kenya and £750-million in Nigeria, through export credit agency, UK Export Finance (Ukef).

These investments are to help aid and address “a chronic infrastructure backlog” that the World Bank estimates to be about $93-billion a year in the sub-Saharan Africa region – with 319-million people in the region not having access to reliable drinking water, 620-million not having access to electricity, and only 34% of people having adequate road access.

Although Africa is the second-fastest urbanising region in the world behind Asia, with estimates showing that more than half of its projected 2.2-billion people will live in cities in the next 30 years, the continent still struggles with a lack of infrastructure, states DIT.

UK Africa trade commissioner Emma Wade-Smith says Africa’s infrastructure challenges not only inhibit its ability to trade with the rest of the world, but are also a significant obstacle to intra-African trade – both are critical to the continent’s economic growth agenda.

Africa Insight

Wade-Smith urges that there is enormous scope for Africa to boost its exports to the UK and other parts of the world if it can address its infrastructure backlog.

“Research shows that, in the long term, trade is better than aid and, without adequate infrastructure, it will be difficult for Africa to boost its ability to buy and sell globally.”

DIT in Africa has been instrumental in establishing the Africa Infrastructure Board, which brings together Ukef, the UK Department of International Development, as well as UK infrastructure and mining companies that are already active in Africa.

DIT in Africa is currently tracking numerous active infrastructure projects across the continent which it believes could benefit from Ukef funding.

For example, a project that has already benefitted is Uganda’s Kabaale International Airport which, when completed, will be the East African nation’s second-largest airport, owing to the £215-million loan it received from Ukef in December last year. 

Wade-Smith highlights that the continent is becoming increasingly democratic and economically stable, “which is heartening, as with infrastructure commitments one needs to be in it for the long haul”.

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