Africa Union Urges Accelerated Infrastructure Development

Poor infrastructure is having a major impact on Africa's competitiveness.

By Sneha A on
25th September 2023

African Ministers of Transport and Energy agreed to accelerate project implementation at the Africa Union's 4th Ordinary Session of the Specialized Technical Committee on Transport, Transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructure this month.

The ministers agreed to harmonise strategies, strengthen cooperation and speed up the implementation of projects to facilitate access to modern, sustainable, climate-resilient infrastructure services in order to achieve the goals of the AU Agenda 2063 for continental integration.

They acknowledged that inadequate infrastructure is having a major impact on Africa's competitiveness and participation in global markets. 

The committee heard that the cost of transportation in Africa is on average 50-175% higher than other parts of the world as a result of poor infrastructure.

Between 60,000km and 100,000km of new roads are required to provide effective intracontinental connectivity in Africa by 2030.

The poor state of infrastructure is causing a 2% reduction in national economic growth each year in most African countries and as much as a 40% decrease in industrial productivity.

The committee discussed the status of the AU’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), which aims to accelerate infrastructure development across the continent and is being developed in phases, known as Priority Action Plans (PAPs).

PIDA-PAP 1 ran from 2012-20, and comprised more than 51 cross-border programmes, covering energy, transport, ICT and transboundary water management projects.

Out of the more than 430 projects in PIDA-PAP 1, about 50% failed to reach the construction stage while 30% failed to go beyond the feasibility stage. 

The programme was beset with financing and implementation challenges. However, successes were recorded in the transport sector where 16,066km of roads and 4,077km of railways were developed, strengthened by nearly 120 single border posts.

In the energy sector, 3,506km of transmission lines were installed, lighting the way for 232GW of electricity and connecting African electrical networks. On the ICT front, 17 nations are now digitally interconnected.

The current PIDA-PAP 2 contains 69 large-scale projects, expected to cost more than US$160 billion over its 10-year implementation period. 

The AU Commission and other bodies were tasked with engaging development partners and development finance institutions to mobilise resources for project preparation and the implementation of PIDA-PAP 2 projects. They were also tasked with developing capacity building initiatives to support member states in structuring, implementing, and monitoring the execution of infrastructure projects, and creating an enabling environment for public-private partnerships. 

Progress recorded on PIDA PAP I
Progress recorded on PIDA PAP I
Source: PIDA

Financing remains a critical issue for infrastructure development in Africa.

AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Amani Abou-Zeid noted that while African governments have spent about 3.5% of their GDP on infrastructure development over the past 20 years, this is low compared to China and India, which spend 7.7% and 5.2% respectively.

The African ministers emphasised the importance of designing climate-resilient and smart infrastructure as well as using new emerging technologies to design and enhance transport and energy projects and services.

They also recommended the AU adopt the African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) with its Continental Power Systems Masterplan (CMP) component as an AU Agenda 2063 flagship project. 

AfSEM seeks to harmonise policies and regulatory frameworks to facilitate the creation of a single electricity market, while the CMP aims to identify and mobilise resources for the building of large-scale power plants and interconnectors across the continent. 

The committee resolved that the development of different modes of transport in Africa requires a coordinated approach to ensure seamless and efficient inter-modal transport services across the continent.  

A call was extended to member states to fast-track the ratification process for the Road Safety Charter, the Maritime Transport Charter and the Luxembourg Protocol on railway rolling stock, as well as initiatives to accelerate the implementation of a single African air transport market.

Top photo: The AU committee meeting (Source: Twitter/X @GreenCorridors)

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