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International organisations, development agencies and individual states across Africa and beyond are increasingly aware of the development opportunities and challenges in Africa, including the building and upgrading of infrastructure connectivity across the continent. They are placing continental connectivity and infrastructure development high on their political and economic agendas.
“There is no question about commitment to infrastructure development on the continental and national levels in Africa,” stressed Mthuli Ncube, Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) (2010-2015).
This commitment can be seen in the inclusion of infrastructure as one of the pillars of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, the continent’s strategic framework for socio-economic transformation, and in the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) led by the AU Commission and the AfDB.
The financing needs of such development are enormous, however, with the latest AfDB estimates suggesting that upwards of €200bn will be needed to update Africa’s infrastructure and keep up the continent’s rather resilient economic performance, noted Shada Islam, Director for Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe. “There is a financing gap of $100bn to meet Africa’s infrastructure needs,” she added. “This money needs to be found in the next ten or twenty years.”
With this financing gap, funding these projects remains daunting, though the European Union, Japan, the United States, China, India, and a host of others are focusing their efforts on the continent through development aid and public investment.
In addition, private sector perspectives on financing are shifting worldwide, as investors increasingly consider Africa’s economic growth possibilities and resilience as positive indicators for investment. As domestic revenues increase across Africa and foreign investors see business opportunities coalesce, it is becoming clearer to many in the development community that much remains to be done to improve governance, stakeholder management, and maintenance of infrastructure.
“Africa’s weak institutional situation means that we must really work on improving coordination,” said Francesca Di Mauro, Head of Unit for Central Africa at the European Commission Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development.
Infrastructure development alone is not enough to ensure sustained development in Africa. “When you have fragility and poverty, it reads as terrorism, radicalisation, conflict, and unhappiness,” Islam said. “For stability in Africa, we need to work on peace and security at the same time as development.”
One of the key issues in peace and security for Europe and Africa is the migration crisis. Participants agreed that dealing with the current influx of refugees and economic migrants from Africa to Europe requires efforts on both continents, most notably in education and in fostering a more positive narrative about Africa.