The recent appointment of Kenyan politician Raila Odinga as the African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure gives him the opportunity to lead us to the proverbial Promised Land.
He has been mandated to “mobilise our collective efforts towards the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).”
PIDA was conceived and initiated to strengthen Africa’s regional integration, develop multimodal corridors to link hinterlands to ports, and promote intra-African trade.
It provides a common framework for stakeholders in Africa to build the infrastructure necessary for more integrated transport, energy, ICT, and water networks. This will require an unprecedented mobilization of Africa’s financial resources to ensure greater ownership by concerned stakeholders.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) are development finance institutions that are committed to empowering people for a sustainable future.
They can catalyse a virtuous circle of investment in sustainable infrastructure and make it easier for Regional Economic Communities to attract institutional and private investors to public-private partnership ventures.
Over 400 investors with USD 25 trillion in assets joined the Investor Platform for Climate Actions and there are hundreds of trillions of dollars in assets under management held by pension and sovereign wealth funds.
These are funds that do not like to sit idle and need to generate revenue. Developed countries have exhausted their capacity to deliver attractive returns on revenue, and emerging markets seem to have emerged.
The next frontier for investors seeking significant returns for their investments is Africa. Investing in de-risked African regional and domestic infrastructure projects will ensure generous revenue.
Sustainable infrastructure projects like the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, the Menengai Geothermal Power Station, and the “Desert To Power” program to install 10 GW of solar power that will provide electricity to 250 million people in Africa’s Sahel region have proved that there are many stakeholders willing to participate in Africa’s socio-economic transformation.
Mr Odinga has the opportunity to mobilise Africa’s political and financial leadership to ensure the implementation of necessary infrastructure.
He could facilitate the championing of the Pointe Noire, Brazzaville/Kinshasa, Bangui, N’Djamena Multimodal Corridor that will resuscitate the river transport in the Congo-Ubangi River Basin and modernize road transport along the corridor.
The Dakar-Niamey Multimodal Corridor will modernize the most heavily travelled corridor in West Africa. Its implementation needs to be closely monitored to ensure that it unleashes the economic potential of West Africa.
The Lamu Gateway Development, designed to respond to the East African need to develop sufficient port capacity to handle future demand, also needs to be expedited. These are just a few of the many viable infrastructure projects that will be implemented through PIDA.
Millions of jobs will be created by the construction, operation and maintenance of PIDA’s projects, not to mention the millions more that will be created as a result of increased economic activity.
Africa’s potential in agriculture and manufacturing will be realized as enhanced regional trade spurs inter-regional and intra-African trade. As market accessibility increases and demand for African goods and services grows there will be more opportunity to add value to primary products.
This will widen Africa’s path to industrialization and attract more investors that seek to take advantage of local and regional comparative advantages. Increased entrepreneurship will bring a transfer of technology and development of the skills of African youth that secure employment.
A growing African population that can take advantage of the opportunities made available by increased mobility and economic activity will spur and sustain Africa’s socio-economic development.
Mr Odinga has always wanted to lead Kenyans to a better life of peace and prosperity and has spent his life competing for the opportunity to do so.
Fortunately, he has now been granted the opportunity to do much more, to lead Africans to the Promised Land.
It is now up to him to deliver on his commitment and mobilise Africa’s political and financial leaders to work together to secure Africa’s prosperous and peaceful future.
The writer is a social commentator based in Kigali
The views expressed in this article are of the authors.