The Sunday Mail
INFRASTRUCTURE plays a pivotal role in the development of our country and the aspirations of creating an upper middle class economy by 2030, as enshrined in the Second Republic’s vision, cannot be realised unless huge investments are channelled towards supporting structures.
Infrastructure development in areas such as road, rail, telecommunications, ICT, aviation, water and sanitation, energy, health and education is a key enabler for development.
The just ended Infrastructure Summit Expo in Victoria Falls, under the theme: “Infrastructure Key to Economic Growth and Shared Prosperity,” was a reflection for Zimbabwe to realise the strategic importance of infrastructure development as a driver of growth and inclusive development.
The Infrastructure Expo was attended by high-level Government officials including the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Minister of Energy and Power Development and Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
It also drew participants from prominent regional, international and local infrastructure development consultants and entrepreneurs.
The challenge for Zimbabwe is to develop its infrastructure to attract both domestic and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) critical in rejuvenating the economy and steering it into future growth. To better understand the importance of infrastructure development to growth, we need to look at what is happening across Africa.
Zimbabwe should not look at its development aspirations in isolation, but must tie this to the broader continental development aspirations, envisioned under the African Union Agenda 2063.
African countries generally are on overdrive mode in areas of infrastructure development.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) projected a 4 percent economic growth rate for Africa in 2019, surpassing the 3,3 percent world growth focus. This growth is being driven mainly through infrastructure development.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) launched at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) in Niamey, Niger, in July 2019, becomes operational in July this year with Ghana hosting the continental secretariat.
AfCFTA is set to become the world’s biggest economic trading bloc integrating 55 countries with 1,3 billion people and a combined GDP of US$3,4 trillion. African countries can only take full advantage of intra-African trade if they develop their infrastructure.
If the national economies fail to develop their infrastructure, intra-African trade will be cumbersome and African countries will not be able to realise the full benefits of AfCFTA.
Major African infrastructure projects
Afreximbank estimates Africa’s infrastructure financing gap at US$100 billion annually.
This gap offers African entrepreneurs vast business opportunities to invest in infrastructure.
China remains the biggest partner in Africa’s infrastructure development programmes through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The Asian economic giant, at the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac) held in Beijing, pledged US$60 billion towards Africa’s infrastructure development and other investment projects.
Some of the major infrastructure projects under construction or recently completed across Africa include the following:
- Ethiopia-Djibouti (completed in 2016): US$4 billion construction of a 756km rail linking Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the Port of Djibouti
- Ethiopia (under construction): US$4 billion, Grand Renaissance Dam, the biggest man-made dam in Africa, with hydroelectric generation capacity of 6 000MW.
- Tanzania (under construction): US$11 billion, Port of Bagamoyo, 60km northwest of Dar es Salaam, set to move 20 million cargo containers annually.
- Congo Brazzaville (under construction): Special Economic Zone at Pointe Noire, comprising an industrial park, mineral port, processing plants for petrochemicals, food and timber. Project to create more than 100 000 jobs.
Egypt sticks out as the country with the biggest infrastructure projects in Africa in terms of size and capital outlay.
The country has just completed the Suez Canal widening project at a cost of US$8 billion.
Egypt is developing a new capital city, New Cairo, 60km east of Cairo, and in the middle of the desert. This project, covering an area of 700sq km, will cost around US $45 billion and will be completed by 2022. China has already invested US$24 billion into the project.
The new green capital will host a population of five million people, house all government ministries and foreign embassies and also create: a central park double the size of New York Central Park, 663 hospitals and clinics, 40 000 hotel rooms, a theme park like Disney, new airport, an advanced metro system, tall monument to resemble Eiffel Tower and 1 000 mosques, among other facilities.
Kenya is on an overdrive mission to develop infrastructure. The most notable projects being the following:
- Construction of the 609km Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) linking the port of Mombasa and Nairobi, was completed in 2017 at a cost of US $3,8 billion. The SGR has reduced travelling time between the two cities from 12 hours to less than five hours.
- The Konza Techno City, a US$14,5 billion project is being built on over 5 000 acres of land, 64km south of Nairobi as part of the Kenya Vision 2030. This project is dubbed: “African Silicon Savanna.”
- Development of Nairobi Public Transport System (NPTS), a US$3,5 billion modernisation of the Nairobi public transport system and expansion of the Uhuru Super-highway commenced in 2017 and is jointly funded by the Kenyan government and World Bank.
The challenge for Zimbabwe is to take existing infrastructure rehabilitation and development of new projects seriously.
It needs to stimulate domestic investment and attract FDI into the country as well as drive economic growth towards Vision 2030 targets.
There are a number of infrastructure projects which are either on the drawing board, but are taking time to start or have started, but are moving at a snail’s pace.
Apart from financial resources, we also need strong political will to successfully implement infrastructure projects.
The Government cannot go it alone in infrastructure development as most of these projects are capital intensive and require components of FDI.
Government on its own does not have capacity to single-handedly develop and meet all the country’s infrastructure requirements.
Partnerships between Government and the private sector are the key to infrastructure development. This could be in the form of direct private sector investment or joint ventures between Government and the private sector or on Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangements.
Additionally, there is a need for collaboration with other regional countries on strategic infrastructure development projects as the African continent drives integration of its economies under AfCFTA.
Allen Choruma can be contacted on e mail: hoziadvisory [email protected]