It is infrastructure that connects us.
Whether it is telecommunication networks, roads, railways, ports, and airports, it is infrastructure that facilitates the movement of people, products, and information. Building the right infrastructure can connect millions of people, shorten arduous travel routes, reduce logistics time and costs thereby improving both the competitiveness of our products but also reduce end-cost to consumers, improve our access to markets, drive innovation and ultimately facilitate economic development and job creation.
And yet Africa has an infrastructure deficit, with limited access to almost all forms of infrastructure including modern energy infrastructure, limited access to quality water, and largely poor roads, rail, and ports infrastructure. This is the hard infrastructure, alone, that we are a looking at.
Extend this to soft infrastructure, including the cumbersome visa processes for the movement of people within the continent, the inefficient logistics due to a lack of bi-directional flow of goods, limited digital penetration and adoption and an overall lack of skills and institutional capacity and what you have is a continent whose competitiveness is inhibited before the first ball has been kicked.
That is, we do not have the right enabling environment, with infrastructure as one of the key enablers, to facilitate competitive industry that can form the backbone of regional economies. And the sheer size of the continent does not help us. Our relatively low population density and small economies means that unit economics will always be unfavourable, requiring a staggered and strategic approach to infrastructure development. Building out economic corridors that connect large metropolitan, resource and industrial zones with the right infrastructure to enable development is a key strategy that is being pursued, while cross border harmonisation and standardisation is a further necessity.
Regional integration in this regard can connect large markets with large resource bases, thereby facilitating further development and unlocking value across the zones of development.
Yet sovereign balance sheets are constrained, with lack of funding a real challenge to African economies. Leverage private capital and undertaking private public partnerships through concessions and other arrangements is becoming more widely acceptable creating an environment within which public and private entities collaborate for the betterment of the continent.