Africa has been rapidly developing in recent years but there is more work to be done. So, how can Africa become even more competitive?
New efforts by Africa to develop key infrastructure facilities on the continent will help attract new investments and accelerate economic growth, as well as ease challenges faced by women. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), spearheaded by the African Union Commission (AUC), is the first master plan that has been supported by all AU members to guide infrastructure development on the continent.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing 27th African Union Summit in Kigali on Friday, Elham Mahmood Ibrahim, the AU commissioner for infrastructure and energy, said improving the continent’s infrastructure will play a huge role of helping Africa realise its immense potential, ensure sustainable growth, and reduce poverty and income inequality among the masses.
“We cannot talk about Africa’s development without addressing the question of infrastructure; its role is very clear. For instance, we cannot have good health or education sector, basic rights or any other aspects development without roads, and all the key facilities,” she said.
Ibrahim said improved infrastructure, including transport facilities, energy, and information and communication technologies (ICTs), could help the continent add up to 2 per cent GDP growth rate per year, and improve its productivity by 40 per cent.
Ibrahim added that infrastructure development will support intra-regional trade, spur growth and boost Africa’s competitiveness as a key foreign direct investments (FDIs) destination.
According to the commissioner, PIDA was jointly developed by AUC, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the African Development Bank (AfDB). Its key priorities include energy, transportation, water and information and communications infrastructure development programmes that were selected “on the basis of their expected overall economic impact, affordability and potential for regional integration”. PIDA is expected to cost nearly $75 billion between 2012 and 2020.
“Access to energy, transport, water and sanitation and telecommunications is essential to achieve sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty among the rural masses. These are the four major important areas, which PIDA focuses on,” she explained.
“The reason why we developed this important project is because there were many projects that were not in line with the continent’s priorities, making evaluation hard.”
In 2010, the World Bank attributed more than half of the recent improved growth performance in the region to improve infrastructure.
Experts at the summit said once the infrastructure is enhanced further, the continent will register tremendous growth in the medium-term.
Addressing human rights, women’s rights
Speaking on the contribution of infrastructure toward respect for human and women’s rights, in particular, Ibrahim argued that many of the challenges rural women face could be addressed by access to better infrastructure.
“Women make up half of Africa’s population and their social rights are important in all ways. The immense barriers rural women face are connected to lack of infrastructure, which affects their trading and farming activities. Therefore, PIDA seeks to address these problems to ease access to better markets, as well as ensure adequate water and sanitation to improve women’s living standards,” she said.
She also called for development of alternative sources of energy in rural parts of Africa that are not served by the respective national power grids to reduce their exposure to toxic fumes from kerosene lamps and firewood that endanger their lives.
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