COMMENT: Africa needs quality infrastructure for sustained economic growth and inclusiveness

“Building quality into every stage of the life-cycle of projects is essential if investment in infrastructure is to have a positive impact on Africa’s economic development:” This was one of the key messages from participants at this year’s annual meeting of the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) held at the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, under the theme “Building Quality Infrastructure for Africa’s Development.”

The 12th Annual Meeting of the ICA, which took place on 21 and 22 November 2016, was officially opened by Côte d’Ivoire’s economic infrastructure minister, Patrick Achi. The two-day meeting was attended by Japan’s ambassador for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Seiji Okada; African Union commissioner for infrastructure, Elham Ibrahm; Former energy minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo and current head of the Inga II hydropower project, Bruno Kapandji. AfDB Acting Vice President Stefan Nalletamby attended on behalf of the Bank.

The 150 participants agreed that while increasing funding for infrastructure development was important, it must be accompanied by improvements to the quality and sustainability of infrastructure.

“Adequacy of infrastructure helps determine one country’s success and another’s failure in diversifying production, expanding trade, coping with population growth and reducing poverty. Building quality infrastructure is not an option, it is critical if we want to see success along our journey to transform Africa,” Moono Muputola, Director of Nepad, Regional Integration and Trade told delegates during the closing ceremony.

There was broad consensus on the need to include, during the investment phase, life-cycle costs of projects for adequate maintenance, environmental and social considerations. Delegates also insisted on adopting a participative approach to involve beneficiary communities when designing infrastructure projects.

Building in concepts of quality throughout the project life cycle, from feasibility planning and design to operation and maintenance was cited “as a key element in providing economically efficient and socially inclusive infrastructure.”

As Africa is likely to be impacted severely by climate change, delegates called on policy makers and infrastructure project owners to ensure climate resilience measures are built into infrastructure projects. This will require additional investment costs estimated at 10% and 15%.

Deliberations ended with a call for greater involvement and stronger support from the private sector to Africa’s infrastructure development despite issues of country risk, governance and capacity.

The official outcomes statement for the Plenary Session of the 12th ICA annual meeting will be posted on the ICA website.

Hosted by the AfDB, ICA was launched at the 2005 G8 Gleneagles Summit. Its mission is to help improve the lives and economic well-being of African people by supporting and promoting increased infrastructure investment from both public and private sources.

ICA also acts as a platform to increase infrastructure financing, helping to remove policy and technical barriers. In addition, the ICA facilitates greater cooperation among stakeholders, and fosters knowledge exchange through monitoring, reporting and sharing best practices.

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