Closing infrastructure gap in Africa a key catalyst for investment, says G20

30/05/2017
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The G20 says closing infrastructure gap on the continent represents a key step to achieving better youth employment and economic transformation.

Under the current German G20 Presidency, the key objective to advance the sustainable economic development of the African continent is of particular importance.

But this objective cannot be realized without good infrastructure, says Thomas Silberhorn, Germany Parliamentary State Secretary, whose country currently heads the G20.

The Group of 20, known as the G20, was formed in 1999 in response to the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. Its purpose was to gather Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors from advanced and emerging economies to discuss how to support the stability of financial markets and to promote economic cooperation.

“It is important to close the infrastructure gap on the African continent, not just somehow, but in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, by building sustainable infrastructure especially in the energy sector. That is  why we are advocating for more support for the African Renewable Initiative of the African Union with the Secretariat hosted at the African Development Bank,” Silberhorn said Wednesday during a session on the “G20 New Partnership with Africa: Dialogue for Better Youth Employment and Economic Transformation” at the 2017 African Development Bank Annual Meetings in India.

The dialogue centered on the need to build on existing regional and international strategies of the G20-Africa Partnership, which comprises several initiatives that support private investment, sustainable infrastructure and employment in African countries.

And the focus is mainly on youth. According to AfDB, there are nearly 420 million young Africans between the ages of 15 and 35 today. Within 10 years, Africa is projected to be home to one-fifth of all young people worldwide. These millions of young people are sources of ingenuity and engines of productivity that, if well prepared, could ignite a new age of inclusive prosperity on the continent.

“But there are no guarantees,” said Jennifer Blanke, AfDB Vice-President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development. “While the youth population is Africa’s asset, it can also easily become a liability, and this is the whole question about demographic dividends. Let us be clear, it is only the existence of opportunity and the young person’s belief that they can access that opportunity that prevents pessimism and political unrest.”

AfDB is spearheading Jobs for Youth in Africa, an initiative to turn this population explosion into a wealth creation force. But the initiative requires African Governments to put in place strategic measures to tap into available opportunities.

And one country that has been making positive headlines in this area is Rwanda. Rwanda’s Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Ambassador Claver Gatete, said Rwanda’s success is not accidental but the result of a well thought-out strategy.

“We set ourselves a target to create 2, 000 jobs for youth in agriculture every year, and that is a yard stick we use to measure ourselves,” he said, attributing success largely to the private sector.

Other African Ministers on the panel from Ghana and Morocco emphasized the need to train youth according to job market needs and de-risking private sector investments. Silberhorn described the AfDB as the right institution to mobilise and catalyse investments in order to address the most urgent infrastructure gap in Africa.

“The new cooperation with Africa is gaining momentum. It must not end at the G20 summit in Hamburg. On the contrary, it should be continued and strengthened further. It is the starting of a marathon, and I am glad that just like the Ethiopian, Kenyan and other African long-distance runners, the African Development Bank is going the distance with us,” Silberhorn emphasized.