ECA optimistic on regional infrastructure projects

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Thursday stressed that the major outcomes of the just concluded fourth Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Week have created a new momentum toward the implementation of game-changing infrastructure projects in Africa.

The ECA made the comments as the PIDA Week, which was held from Monday to Wednesday in Victoria Falls of Zimbabwe, concluded with a joint call for the development of key trans-boundary infrastructure projects in Africa so as to integrate the continent economically and socially for the benefit of its people.

“Addressing Africa’s infrastructure gap remains an imperative that African governments should continue to take seriously if the continent is to realise the aspirations of its people as enshrined in the continent’s blueprint for development, Agenda 2063, and the global agenda for sustainable development,”

the ECA said in a statement on Thursday.  The ECA also commended the final outcome of the gathering as participants agreed to keep up the efforts to accelerate the development of key infrastructure projects in the continent.

PIDA projects, especially trans-boundary infrastructure projects, will bolster regional integration and are a prerequisite for unleashing Africa’s growth potential, the ECA said.  Experts and policymakers, who gathered during the past three days as part of the PIDA Week, also jointly called on African countries in particular and the continent in general to increase projects under construction from the current 32 per cent to 50 percent if it is to achieve its developmental aspirations, according to the ECA.  The joint call urged that “the continent should create an enabling environment for the private sector to have space to buy into the continent’s key priority projects,” the ECA statement read.

Establishing good governance frameworks and mechanisms for Africa’s infrastructure projects will not only boost investor confidence, but also guarantee timely delivery of projects within budget and to specification, according to the meeting outcome communique.

African countries were also urged to develop bankable and smart infrastructure with cross-border orientation to propel socio-economic growth on the continent with governments being urged to proactively engage all stakeholders, in particular communities, to make the projects inclusive and true enablers for development. Noting that de-risking of projects is necessary and critical to ensure they are bankable to attract capital that has remained largely elusive, the ECA also urged the involvement of the private sector in the development of infrastructure sector in Africa.  “Infrastructure should not remain in the public sector domain with governments being urged to engage the private sector for long-term projects,” the ECA said.

The ECA commended the meeting outcome for its recognition to the PIDA Quality Label as a framework needed to ensure projects fulfill set criteria, as well as the establishment of PIDA project specific working groups to focus on data transparency and dissemination, advocacy work, project development, review and funding, partnerships and capacity building.

 During the meeting, the four major pan-African organizations - the African Union (AU), the ECA, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, and the African Development Bank (AfDB), also vowed to continue working together for the development of Africa’s infrastructure sector, according to the ECA.

They agreed to put in place sustainable capacity building mechanisms for key infrastructure sectors on the continent and to invest in efforts to accelerate the development of key infrastructure projects.

The four continental organisations have also pledged to launch and use the PIDA Job Creation Toolkit as a part of the package and means to attract and convince pertinent stakeholders, including financiers and development partners, on the benefits of key PIDA priority projects in the construction phase. The 4th PIDA Week was held under the theme “Realising Africa’s Integration through Smart Infrastructure and Good Governance.”