Quality Infrastructure in 21st Century Africa

July 10, 2020
Friday, July 10, 2020 –– By 2050, Africa will be home to 2.5 billion people, almost twice as many as today. In the face of this impending transformation, the continent urgently needs to accelerate the delivery of infrastructure—such as roads, bridges, energy, water and broadband—while ensuring its quality, according to a new report published by the OECD Development Centre and the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and other partners.

The report, Quality Infrastructure in 21st Century Africa, was released at a July 9 high-level launch event held online. It marked the culmination of the first phase of a collaborative initiative between the OECD and ACET that dated back to the 2018 International Economic Forum on Africa, held in Paris.

In a prepared statement shared at the beginning of Thursday’s launch event, Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo stressed the need for Africa to chart its own future and build the necessary capacity of key professionals such as financiers, project developers and managers, engineers, lawyers, evaluators, and construction professionals in order to overhaul infrastructure processes.

“We have many world-class African experts in these areas, but we do not always manage these human resources well,” he said. “We all recognize that we must be able to build rapidly quality infrastructure to meet the needs of our development.”

Participating panelists included ACET President and Founder K.Y. Amoako; Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre; Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD); and Stefan Oswald, Director of the Marshall Plan with Africa, Migration and Displacement, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of Germany.

Amoako noted that given Africa’s infrastructure deficit, the project and the report produced was a real milestone. The African Development Bank estimates Africa’s infrastructure needs to be between  $130 and $170 billion per year. However, financing for African infrastructure currently falls short by between $68 billion and $108 billion per year.

“If Africa can lead its own development, including ensuring quality infrastructure projects and developing our own capacity, we will see true economic transformation across the continent.”

The report argues that traditional business models for project development have failed to deliver the infrastructure needed to match Africa’s demographic growth and urbanization. It identifies the bottlenecks to infrastructure development—including institutional capacity constraints, multiple regulatory and technical standards—and proposes two key mechanisms for the way forward:

  • Expanding the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Quality Label System to recognize quality infrastructure; and
  • Creating a platform to enhance real-time peer learning and the sharing of good practices among African infrastructure professionals.

Akufo-Addo praised the findings as “well-positioned recommendations” to address core challenges around project preparation, funding, and implementation. He also called the report an important step for harmonizing and accelerating infrastructure processes in Africa.

The recommendations are expected to feed into the PIDA priority action plan for 2021 to 2030, which is now in development. The report benefited from the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation  (GIZ) on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

A second phase of the project is proposed to expand the collaboration and take the report’s recommendations forward. In this phase, the OECD and ACET would work with the African Union, African Development Bank, and PIDA to apply quality criteria to all infrastructure projects in Africa, while ACET, AUDA-NEPAD, and the African Capacity Building Foundation would establish the peer learning platform.

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