Fifty years after independence, infrastructure in most African countries is still in a very poor state. These countries lack the necessary financial capacity to build new ones. Where can they obtain the means to construct these development projects? How can these countries attract investors to the continent? What is role of the diaspora in the continent’s transformation? These were the questions raised by experts on May 29 at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Marrakech, Morocco. The theme of the forum was “Financing Africa’s structural change – commitments for infrastructure and diaspora engagement.”
Africa cannot develop without infrastructure. This is the belief of many observers on the continent. The question is where to find the funding required to build roads, bridges, ports and railroads? Who is prepared to invest in these development projects? The diaspora is without doubt one of the answers to these questions according to the panelists. Africans abroad are ready and willing to invest in Africa’s growth, they said.
The African diaspora is important. There are around 140 million Africans living abroad. “About one third are middle class,” notes Olivier Eweck, Director, Financial Technical Service Division at the AfDB. “Total savings by the diaspora is estimated at $50 billion,” he pointed out. The majority are ready to inject these monies in their country of origin.
However, investing in Africa, a continent in development, can be risky. Therefore all the conditions for investment should be met. Transparency is one of them. “Indeed, investors need a follow-up to their investment. They want to know if they are beneficial and well-spent,” Daniel Berman, Director of Standard Chartered Bank, explained.
Therefore, it is important for them to know that when these funds are transferred to Africa, they are secure. For him, “they are generally put to use in the infrastructure sector with the belief that these investments contribute to Africa’s development.” Today, the setting for investment in Africa is promising,” he concluded.
To encourage the diaspora to invest in Africa, they need confidence and assurance – a critical step, according to Douka Sediko, in charge of Infrastructure Development at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria.
This opinion was shared by one of the speakers, Njuguna Ndung’u, from the Central Bank of Kenya. In his view, “it is of utmost importance to exchange with the African diaspora and disclose the investment opportunities offered by the continent.”