To reach its full potential, Africa must invest time and resources into developing its infrastructure
Africa is a land of opportunity. From its possible graduation to a key player in the transitioning energy future to its formidable, growing workforce distinguished by an ambitious youth participation, there is plenty to suggest the years ahead will be promising.
As bright as this future could be, it is still overshadowed by a number of underlying problems that continue to impede its prospects. At the top of this list is a lack of key infrastructure, a well-recognised issue that (despite its prominence) continues to linger as a fatal barrier to sustained growth.
According to the Wilson Center, while infrastructure maturity varies across the nations of the continent, inadequate water and sanitation costs Africa around 5% of its GDP while the poor quality of roads, railways and ports increases the cost of intra-African trade by some 30-40%. The Africa Union has suggested infrastructure inadequacy across the region has been found to strangle national economic growth by as much as 2% annually and result in up to 40% reduction in industrial productivity.
UNCTAD’s latest Economic Development in Africa Report 2023 explains the industrialisation of Africa (bolstered by its vast raw material stockpiles) will only be achievable and international investors and global suppliers will only be encouraged to deepen their presence on the continent if the infrastructure deficit is reduced. It states, “In many African countries, the state of infrastructure development is not yet at a standard and quality comparable to other developing and emerging countries.”
This understanding is not, however, one lost on the stakeholders operating across the continent. As regional initiatives such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) are being pursued to re-address the infrastructure deficit. At the ten-year mark of its implementation, the programme celebrated notable achievements including the development of 16,066 km of road and 4,077 km of railway lines; close to 30 million people gaining access to electricity; and ICT broadband penetration more than 25%, exceeding the 10% target.
Largely these initiatives support, are supported by and compliment national drives to establish sufficient infrastructure networks, alongside private sector support and investment. Indeed, the determination to mitigate this problem is apparent in the wide- range of projects being planned, toiled over and delivered.
Projects pushing ahead
The presidents of Zambia and the DRC broke ground at the future 345 m cable-stayed bridge site across the Luapala River, an essential aspect of the GED Africa Route, commonly referred to as the as Kasomeno-Mwenda Toll Road Project (KMTR). Representing a unique model of two harmonized public-private partnership(s), GED Africa has the unwavering support of both Administrations and the project sponsor Duna Aszfalt Zrt, the largest asset to the Hungarian construction conglomerate, Duna Group. GED Africa has invested in local entities through, GED Zambia and GED Congo and each entity is committed to a minimum of 30% of work contracted to local companies. Each concession agreement is between GED Africa's subsidiary and the respective Ministry of Infrastructure and their road development agencies; GED Congo and Agence Congolaise des Grands Travaux (ACGT) and GED Zambia and Road Development Agency (RDA).
The entire US$850mn KMTR undertaking is a regional corridor development initiative between Kasomeno in the DRC and Mwenda in Zambia. The workscope includes the construction or modernisation of road infrastructure, the establishment of the bridge over the Luapala River and the erection of the first one-stop border post between the two nations – representing a significant achievement in terms of bilateral cooperation and legal harmonisation.
The project is structured as a 25-year build-operate-transfer model (three years to build and 22 years to operate) that will ultimately unlock great regional potential through enhanced trade efficiencies and socio-economic development. Currently, preliminary civil works is being conducted with the start of major works projected for 1 April 2024; all current work done so far is therefore demonstrations of confidence from all stakeholders.
In Kenya, work continues to progress at Tatu City, the country’s first operational special economic zone that will fill 5,000 acres with homes, schools, offices, a shopping district, medical clinics, an entertainment complex and a manufacturing area.
In the most recent update, Tatu City Ltd., Chandaria Properties, M&T Construction and Steel Structures have commenced the construction of The Link, a small and medium enterprise warehousing and logistics park providing businesses a platform to optimise operations to local and global markets.
“The Link will undoubtedly serve as an essential hub for trade and commerce, contributing significantly to Kenya’s economic progress and, in particular, Kiambu County,” commented Nancy Gichung’wa, CEC Trade, Tourism, Industrialization and Investments, Kiambu County.
Elsewhere, Lepelle Northern Water has celebrated the practical completion of the Nandoni-Nsami Bulk Water Pipeline Project in South Africa. The approximately US$40mn project began in 2016 and involved the construction of two bulk water pipeline of 500 mm and 800 mm in diameter to provide water to Giyani and the greater Malamulele areas and an upgrade of the existing pump station at Nandoni Water Treatment Plant for bulk raw water transfer to Nsami Canal.
Several challenges were overcome in the delivery of the project including intermittent access denied to the contractor between 2016 and 2022 and floods in February 2023 leaving the chanbers and pipeline trenches unworkable for around 17 days. LNW’s CEO, Cornelius Ruiters, remarked, “We are proud to be contributing to the mandate of the government in providing bulk raw water to the people of Giyani, Limpopo and South Africa through this project.”