ARUSHA - Let me first congratulate you, President Kikwete, and the Board of Directors of the Sullivan Foundation for organizing this Summit that deals with a number of very important and related issues, including regional economic infrastructure, a matter on which I wish to focus my remarks.
To say that regional infrastructure is vital for socioeconomic development may sound banal – but it must be stated repeatedly, because this remains one of the major hindrances to Africa’s growth and socioeconomic transformation.
Consider the fact that, for example, each additional day a product is delayed prior to shipping reduces trade by more than one percent.
Researchers from IMF and World Bank have also explained it in this way - each additional day an export transaction is held up, is equivalent to a country distancing itself from its trading partners by one percent.
It must be pointed out that these delays are not only due to poor regional physical infrastructure – but are also the result of regional bureaucratic obstacles, such as cumbersome trans-border customs procedures, clearances, cargo inspections, as well as corruption.
The challenges become even greater for landlocked countries, most of which are in Africa, including Rwanda, whose products need to comply with different requirements at every border point.
It was discovered that in one African country, for instance, preparation for exporting involved eleven documents, seventeen visits to different offices, twenty nine signatures, and sixty days to move goods from the factory to the ship.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average time to get a container of products to a ship is said to be forty eight days! Is it any wonder then, that the cost of doing business on our continent remains very high, and our competitiveness dismal?
How can our products become competitive when, for example, moving a container from Rwanda to the coast in Mombasa costs five thousand, six hundred US dollars, while moving the same container from Mombasa to Antwerp costs just one thousand, two hundred dollars?
Regional infrastructure challenges, including administrative hurdles are, in effect, factors that contribute to poverty on our continent – because they limit trade and investment. It is a well-known fact that intra-African trade amounts to only ten percent of our continent’s global trade – itself only two percent of international trade.
In order to change this disabling situation, Africa urgently needs to adopt a different mindset and effect corrective measures. The good news is that we in East Africa are on a promising course for dealing decisively with this issue.
Our East African infrastructure strategy 2010 calls for the rehabilitation of five major inter-connecting road corridors, and the renovation of railways and airports.
Rwanda ’s objective of building a railway that links to an existing line in Tanzania and to the seaport of Dar Es Salaam is also to be understood within this regional context.
Designed by the East African Ministers of Infrastructure, the Heads of State will endorse the Infrastructure strategy later this month at the Kigali Summit.
This brings me back to the importance of the 8th Sullivan Summit whose purpose, among other things, is to advance regional physical and economic infrastructure.
The strength of the Sullivan Foundation lies partly in its advocacy for the mobilization of resources to strengthen Africa’s private sector, including the building of economic infrastructure, and to leverage the investment power of the Diaspora in support of these goals.
Let us use these assets to build first rate regional infrastructure that our continent needs and deserves, for its development and greater prosperity for African people.