Experts urge infrastructure development to create jobs in Africa

By Magret Nunuhe

Windhoek – If Africa is to achieve the desired economic growth envisioned by the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, it will have to provide employment opportunities for its growing young population, which is the largest the world has ever known, comprising about half of Africa’s population of 1.1 billion under the age of 25.

This is the view of Cheikh Bedda, the African Union Commission (AUC) Director for Infrastructure and Energy.

Bedda was speaking at the opening of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Week on 11 December 2017 in Swakopmund, Namibia.

He said failure to effectively deal with deepening unemployment among Africa’s growing youth population could seriously erode the economic gains achieved across the continent in recent years.

“The challenge of creating enough jobs and opportunities for the large African youth population for entering the labour market is one of the major challenges our continent faces,” he noted.

He emphasised on the need for PIDA to play an important role in narrowing the gap between job creation and unemployment, with public decision-makers and private sector management actively undertaking training and skills acquisition in infrastructure development.

He particularly stressed the need for training in building roads, rail systems, power generation, power transmission systems and information communication technology connectivity to prepare young Africans for the implementation of complex programmes such as PIDA.

The African Heads of State and Government adopted PIDA in 2012, as the continental strategic infrastructure framework for the African Union’s stakeholders and partners to address the infrastructure deficit, boost intra-regional and international trade, increase growth and create jobs on the continent.

The Third PIDA Week opened in Swakopmund, Namibia, this week with the theme “Promoting Job Creation and Economic Transformation through Regional Infrastructure Development”.

The AUC has the mandate to promote regional integration and sustainable development in Africa, and drive the vision towards regional infrastructure development through many initiatives, including PIDA.

The annual PIDA Week offers a valuable opportunity for decision-makers, private sector, civil society, and academia to exchange views towards sound realisation of PIDA projects on the ground.

Since the inception of the PIDA programme in 2012 by African Heads of State and Government, a lot of progress has been made in the implementation of regional projects across the continent such as power interconnectors, the construction of major highways and strengthening linkages with potential financiers.

Some examples are the Dar es Salaam port expansion, which is expected to generate US$2.6 billion revenue per year if effectively implemented by the Tanzanian government and neighbouring countries.

The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor is also expected to boost goods trade and the performance of other sectors such as tourism, mining and agriculture in West Africa, while the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Inga III hydroelectric project is geographically beneficial to the entire continent and will lead to increased power trade and supply to millions of Africans.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), highlighted some of the achievements since PIDA’s implementation being the PIDA Priority Action Plan (PIDA-PAP) comprising 51 cross-border infrastructure programmes with more than 400 individual projects in the sectors of energy, transport, water and information and communication technology.

Mayaki said through the PIDA Service Delivery Mechanism (SDM), they worked with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to set-up a supranational project management authority for the Abidjan-Lagos Corridor – a road corridor which transports more than 75 percent of all traded goods in West Africa.

The ministers of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo adopted the legal and institutional set-up of the Abidjan Lagos Corridor Management Authority (ALCoMA) and the African Development Bank committed initial funding to ALCoMA.

“With its supranational mandates, ALCoMA will be the first of its kind on the continent. It will manage and coordinate the entire project cycle,” he stirred.

Mayaki stated that in the five years following the adoption of PIDA, they concentrated on power generation projects and through significant progress, many countries closed the generation gap where some are currently experiencing excess capacity of power generation, like South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia. “We therefore need to double our efforts on regional transmission projects such as the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya Power Interconnector.

These projects have the potential to promote power interconnection across the continent and facilitate the creation of a Pan-African power market,” he said. Directing his attention to air traffic, Mayaki said that 80 percent of air traffic in Africa is carried by non-African airlines with African airlines only having a share 3 percent, while the African continent constitutes over 17 percent of the world population.

“We need to increase our participation to the global market,” he said, adding that there was a need for designing national and regional aviation master plans towards a Single African Air Transport Market.

Emilie Mushobekwa, SADC Deputy Executive Secretary-Corporate Affairs, said that the SADC Secretariat has embarked on an ambitious agenda of setting up multi-modal development corridors.

She indicated that the SADC PIDA Acceleration Programme on Experts urge infrastructure development to create jobs in Africa the Beira and North South Corridors, which was initiated in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, in June 2016 culminated in the singing of the corridor governance instruments for both the Beira and North South Corridors in Beira, Mozambique in July 2017.

“The corridor states wish to use the corridors as anchors and transformative for catalysts to regional economic development as prioritised under the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan of SADC. This approach will be replicated to other corridors within the SADC region,” she said, noting the importance of infrastructure development needs to be focused on inclusive approaches that take into account the entrepreneurship and employment needs of young people.

Namibian Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb, said the implementing partners of PIDA have recorded significant achievements and progress in various aspects from establishment of institutional and operational structures to facilitation of project preparation and implementation.

He said some of those achievements include the decomposition of the 51 PIDA PAP Programmes into 443 individual projects in order to provide track implementation progress and facilitate discussions with investors and operationalisation of the Institutional Architecture for Infrastructure Development in Africa Structures.

Other achievements were the establishment of the Council for Infrastructure Development and the Infrastructure Advisory Group, the implementation of the PIDA Capacity Building programme funded by the African Development Bank.

December 2017
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