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AfDB tackles Africa’s infrastructure gap

African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka made a strong case for the importance of tackling private investment impediments in the African infrastructure agenda during the joint AfDB, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and International Growth Center (IGC) event held on July 15, 2014 at the OECD headquarters in Paris.

The event, a roundtable discussion on “Addressing policy impediments to private investment in African Infrastructure,” was attended by a number of key players in the African infrastructure domain, including government officials, and representatives of international development agencies and the private sector.

The scale of the continent’s infrastructure needs is too large for its existing funding sources. On the other hand, investors are not yet fully seizing opportunities in infrastructure. Many continue to view African infrastructure as highly risky and credit rating agencies often provide a negative picture of investment opportunities in African infrastructure.

The mining industry, which contributes to the growth of many African countries, relies heavily on existing ports, road and rail to get natural resources from pit to port, as well as bulk infrastructure services such as water and sanitation. Pit to port logistics have for many years been one of the greatest challenges faced by mining companies.

The roundtable thus comes at the opportune time as more and more African countries are stepping up to the challenge and forging ahead with fresh policies, reforms and new initiatives to rewrite their future.

The AfDB President pointed to the great leap in the Bank’s work on infrastructure development to become the largest African lender, and its sustained importance as one of the Bank’s key operational priorities for the continent. Kaberuka also shared the Bank’s intention to scale up development of transport infrastructure and regional trade corridors, urban-rural connectivity, broadband ICT infrastructure and projects promoting water and energy security and access.

Kaberuka spoke of new innovative initiatives such as the $2 billion “Africa Growing Together Fund (AGTF)” financed by China which augments the Bank’s own resources and represents “a good example of mobilizing non-traditional sources of finance for development”. He also spoke of the Africa50 Fund, to mobilize African resources and to demonstrate that Africa is keen to underwrite many of the risks and ready to develop an environment that aids private sector participation.

The roundtable was an opportunity to engage and challenge all the key actors in the African infrastructure space on the concrete actions to be taken, including policy reforms. The outcomes will inform a policy paper that will propose actionable reforms at national, regional and international levels.

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