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Infrastructure highlighted as ‘crucial’ for industrialization in Central Africa

Experts on Infrastructure in Central Africa stated on 21 September that the sub region is “characterized by insufficient and poor infrastructure,” and that an integrated approach to infrastructure development is crucial to enhance trade-driven and natural resources-based industrialization.

This is contained in a report presented at the 34th Intergovernmental Committee of Experts for Central Africa (ICE2018) in N’Djamena on the need for improved infrastructure for industrialization and economic diversification.

During his presentation at a session titled “Infrastructure Development in Central Africa: Beyond the Missing Links,” Tidjani Chetima, Head of Special Initiatives at the office of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Central Africa noted that “roads constitute the main mode of transportation in Central Africa but due to their poor state and low interconnectivity, trade across the sub region is plagued by delays and high transportation costs.”

He also cited inadequate border posts, non-tariff barriers, and low competitiveness of products as some of the factors affecting regional integration, trade and industrialization in Central Africa.”

Mr. Chetima pointed out that five countries in the sub region have railway infrastructure but that there is “no interconnection within and between the countries, no complementarity with road networks, and the infrastructure is used mainly to export natural resources,” instead of enhancing industrialization.

In his assessment of the Consensual Master Plan for Transport in Central Africa (CMPT-CA), adopted in 2004 by ECCAS Heads of State with the long term goal of establishing a reliable and low-cost transportation system for economic integration, Mr. Chetima said the project has not yet achieved its short term goal of interlinking all the capital cities with asphalt road by 2010 “despite efforts made by the heads of state.”

This, he cautioned, “is largely due to the lack of private sector involvement in the financing of certain infrastructure projects” and that “the significant funding needs are beyond country capacity.”

The experts concluded, after intense deliberations, that other approaches to transport infrastructure development such as “development corridors involving the private sector in partnership with the public sector” need to be explored.

An estimated $68 billon is needed yearly for the transport sector.  To mobilize such funds, the experts called on the sub region to look beyond national budgets and ODA, and explore alternative sources such as insurance, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, bond markets, and the Africa50 Infrastructure Fund, among others.

In order to attract private investors in financing development corridors, Mr. Chetima said “a conducive regulatory framework, good project preparation and solid financial risk assessment will be a good place to start.”

They urged governments to identify and prioritize high quality infrastructure projects in the mining,  manufacturing  and agricultural sectors that can leverage resources to finance infrastructure projects.

Other recommendations included the need to “identify bankable project opportunities, develop corridors with high potential to become structural transformation axes, and strengthen the technical, institutional, financial and human capacities of member states,” among others.

The expert group meeting took place in N’Djamena alongside with ICE2018 from 18 to 21 September under the theme “Financing Industrialization in Central Africa.”

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