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AEC 2008 - Private Sector Participation in Infrastructure in Africa
The last two decades have witnessed a profound global reassessment of public policy towards infrastructure, with a clear shift in orientation towards private management and ownership. This study appraises the record of private sector participation in infrastructure in Africa. The results of almost two decades of regulatory reforms, implementation of the privatisation, and liberalisation agenda, combined with the influx of private investment in infrastructure, have decidedly been mixed. There has been a “policy mistake” founded on the dogma that infrastructure would be financed by the private sector. For various reasons, mainly involving investment climates and rates of return, private investment has been limited in terms of volume, sectors, and countries. The current global economic and financial crisis poses a new threat. Its effects are already being felt in greater delays in financial closures, more cancellations, and higher financing costs for PPI projects. The lessons of experience, however, show that most countries will be better off working out a partnership with the private sector. To begin to solve Africa’s infrastructure investment problems, broad institutional reform along with greater financial commitments by governments and the private sector will be required. Private participation in infrastructure requires fiscal reform and improvements in public sector management. It also requires careful attention to the basics of project design, including identifying and allocating risk, and ensuring sound procurement practices.