AfDB to launch grand vision for Africa infrastructure

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) plans to launch 15 major infrastructure initiatives with the African Union to link landlocked countries and promote trade among countries in the continent, a senior bank official has said.

AfDB’s chief of Infrastructure, Dr Ini Urua said in an interview that efforts to improve roads, rail and electricity networks within Africa have remained ‘piecemeal’ and uncoordinated, even with the availability of funds to undertake such initiatives.

The bank, jointly with several African countries, plans to launch a grand vision for the continent’s road, rail and electric power rejuvenation, saying more concerted efforts are needed if Africa is to fight poverty using its capacity to trade with the world.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is coordinating the continent’s connectivity on behalf of the AU with the aim of increasing trade among countries in Africa, most of which lack basic communication connections amongst themselves.

“The infrastructure program seeks to facilitate an accelerated development and delivery of regional and continental infrastructure to foster the continental integration, intra-Africa trade, and trade between Africa and the rest of the world,” Urua said.

Africa’s regional economic blocs, including the CEMAC, ECCAS, UMA, EAC, COMESA, SADC, IGAD, ECOWAS, UEMOA, CEN-SAD, the Economic Commission for Africa and the NEPAD are working on the joint infrastructure plan for the continent.

Urua said the need for effective development of regional infrastructure on the continent in a well-coordinated manner has been widely accepted.

“These organisations (economic blocs), as pillars of the integration agenda of the AU, are devoting their time and resources to facilitate the development of regional infrastructure on the continent,” he said in an interview.

ADB has completed 33 new projects over the few years, including a major fuel pipeline connecting Mozambique to South Africa.

The 33 projects have been financed between 2002-2006, including 18 physical projects, one private sector project, 12 studies, and three capacity building projects.

The Bank said its group financing for these projects has totalled US$1.6 billion some of which it mobilised through co-financing.

“A number of these projects are at an advanced stage of implementation and some have been completed,” Urua, who heads the Bank’s NEPAD Division, said.

NEPAD has consistently been dismissed as a “talking shop” having contributed to not a “single inch of a road in Africa.”

However, the ADB NEPAD Division chief said the division’s success stories include the construction of the Mozambique-South Africa Gas Pipeline project, which has been completed and entered into service and the Morocco–Algeria-Spain Electricity Interconnection project and the West Africa Gas Pipeline project.

“Infrastructure, no matter how small in nature cannot be put in place in a flash. Typically, one needs a gestation time of 3-5 years before seeing the actual results,” he said, in a veiled reference to criticism consistently directed at NEPAD’s failure to achieve its visions.

The other major projects in the ADB stable include Benin-Togo Ghana Electricity interconnection, which has been financed and is entering the implementation stage.

The Kenya-Uganda Oil Pipeline, also on its financing list, has secured a strategic investor and has entered the physical implementation stage while the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Electricity Inter-connection is in the final stages of getting financiers for physical implementation.

“I am optimistic that in the next few years, these projects, which have achieved financing, will begin to yield the right fruits for all to see,” he said.

“We have in the pipeline more than fifty regional infrastructure projects that require funding for their preparation prior to being packaged for financing and implementation,” he added.

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