Addis Ababa, 28 January, 2009 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) on Wednesday played a lead role in events at the Africa Infrastructure Day hosted by the African Union Commission at headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Officially titled an ‘Open Day Dedicated to Infrastructure in Africa’, the one day event featured discussions by experts by African and non-African experts on a host of issues related to the development, financing and management of infrastructure projects in Africa.
Key presentations included that by the African Development Bank on the Infrastructure Development Programme in Africa. The African Union Commission presented a paper on the Coordination Mechanism of Infrastructure in Africa and the World Bank that on a Countries Diagnostic Study on Infrastructure in Africa.
Themes for later discussion included:
- Transport Programmes and Projects led by the African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
- Examples of the Trans-European (Transport) Network by the European Union Commission
- Energy Programmes and Projects by the United Nations Industrrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and
- The European Union Partnership for Energy.
Gilbert Mbesherubusa, Director of the Infrastructure Development at the African Development Bank, emphasized the need for good governance if Africa is so make significant strides in the improvement of its relatively poor infrastructure.
He said improved regional integration could help accelerate infrastructure development while also working as an important catalyst for narrowing infrastructure disparities at both the regional and national levels.
Alex Rugamba, Head of Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, established during the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005 and now housed by the African Development Bank said official development assistance to fund infrastructure projects in Africa could still be maintained at current levels, despite the global economic crisis.
The gathering, which drew experts from leading African and international institutions and a number of African ministers of energy and transport, was held as part of events around the 12th Summit of the African Union to be held 2-3 February, 2009. The theme of the summit is ‘Infrastructure Development in Africa’.
“This decision reflects the shared concern that the current state of physical infrastructure and services in transport, communications, energy and water in Africa remains inadequate and constitutes a serious impediment to Africa’s development and achievement of the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the African Union (AU) Commission said in a statement recently.
The AU said transport and energy infrastructure in Africa were grossly inadequate when compared to other regions of the world. Access to electricity, for example, averages 25 per cent of the population compared to rates ranging from 70 to 90 percent for other parts of the developing world, namely Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle-East and Latin America. Africa, with 13 per cent of the world’s population, consumes only 3 per cent of the world’s commercial energy.
Similarly in transport, road access rates average 34 per cent compared to 50 per cent for the other geographical zones. Road remain the most dominant mode of transportation accounting for some 90 per cent of passenger and freight transport within Africa compared to around 50 of freight in Europe.
Rail network coverage is sparse with low interconnectivity while maritime ports are uncompetitive and inland waterways are not exploited for travel. Transport costs in Africa are among the highest in the world, with those of landlocked countries often accounting for up to 70 per cent of the value of exports, the AU said.
The impacts of such deficits in infrastructure have helped make African countries are among the least competitive in the world. “Infrastructure appears to be the underlying factor that contributes most significantly to this relatively low competitiveness. A better-interconnected Africa, internally and with the rest of the world, will create larger markets and also help achieve its MDG’s,” the AU Commission said.
The Chairman of the AU Commission Mr. Jean Ping, told a media conference in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, that changes not foreseen a few months ago had now made it imperative that the global financial crisis will also be a key theme at the AU Summit.