African highways and information superhighways
The Third Meeting of the Steering Committee of the EU-Africa Infrastructure Partnership took place in Tunis, Tunisia on 7 April and focused on ways to build and consolidate African infrastructure, which has been labelled a cross-cutting priority for the eight EU-Africa strategic partnerships..
The African Union Commission (AUC) and the European Commission (EC), led by Mr. Baba Moussa (AUC) and Mr. Riera (EC) chaired the Third Meeting of the Steering Committee of the EU-Africa Infrastructure Partnership. The event managed to highlight and further support the critical role of infrastructure in Africa, which is widely recognised as contributing to sustainable development objectives. The aim of the Infrastructure Partnership is to improve the regional infrastructure networks in Africa, thus actively reinforcing regional integration and enabling this region to obtain economic benefits and growth, regional public goods such as, for example, food security and energy, and contribute to peace and political stability, as expressed by Mr. Riera.
The Meeting included presentations delivered by the AU and the EC on the PIDA Project, the status of Trans-African Highways, the Institutional Architecture for Infrastructure Development in Africa or The EGNOS-GALILEO system. The European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank and the Secretariat of the EU Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund were other agents that contributed to the Meeting. In the case of the Infrastructure Trust Fund, a review of the achievements in number of projects and funding provided for these infrastructure projects was presented. The World Bank attended the meeting as observer.
Overall, the event was viewed as a great success by the participants, the African Union Commission and the European Commission.
PIDA and the infrastructure deficit
The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) covers four sectors: energy, transport, ICT and water, and is implemented in two steps: a study step and an implementation step. The expected results of the study phase include prioritising projects, developing a vision for future African infrastructure needs, financing and monitoring and evaluation. The PIDA budget, estimated at €7.8 million, is funded by a variety of sources: the European Union, the Islamic Development Bank, the African Water Facility and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
Among the key features of PIDA are building a strong consensus while making good use of existing knowledge. The need for PIDA projects being African-owned was raised during the meeting whilst making sure that the overall programme still managed to be orientated towards the four policy sectors mentioned above.
PIDA was confirmed during the meeting as a strategic tool and reference for the continued development of infrastructure in Africa.
Financing Africa's Missing Links
The European Commission is a long-standing partner in improving infrastructure in Africa and today has a portfolio of around € 3 billion in already approved infrastructure projects on the way. Since 1995 the EC financed the rehabilitation of about 13,000 km of these corridors with grants, which is about 30% of the total lengths and with the 10th EDF the EC will triple its annual corridor investments through the national programmes, from € 100 million per year over period 1995-2007 to € 300 million per year for period from 2008-2013.
The EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund blends its grants with loans from the EIB and other financing institutions in order to finance infrastructure projects. To date, € 120 million in grants have mobilised a total financing of about €1.5 billion in 20 earmarked projects, achieving a leverage factor of 1 to 14.
On the road: Trans-African highways
Dr Maurice Niaty Mouamba, an infrastructure and transport consultant, briefed participants at the meeting on two major transportation projects that are currently in the study phase: with one highway starting in Dakar, Senegal, and ending in Djibouti, and the other starting in Djibouti and ending in Libreville, Gabon. The projects receive joint funding from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the African Union Commission.
The Dakar-Djibouti highway has been in the study phase for six months, while the Djibouti-Libreville highway is in the final stage of the procurement process and is awaiting confirmation from the African Development Bank. Its study phase is expected to take 12 months.
Dr Niaty Mouamba indicated there was strong political willingness from all stakeholders to complete the trans-African highways as they would foster deeper infrastructure development in the region.
Plugging the digital gap
An update on the status of the ICT sector in Africa was given by Moctar Yedaly, head of telecommunications and post at the African Union.
In order to interconnect Africa and bridge the digital gap, as concluded by the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 and again in 2005, it was important to harmonise policies and regulations across the continent, he said.
The project to achieve this goal is a three-year programme funded by the EU with an approximate budget of €4 million, with 43 sub-Saharan countries set to benefit from it. There is ambition on both sides of the Mediterranean: the EU and Africa want to connect all African capitals to capitals of neighbouring countries through fibre-optic broadband cable by 2012. Subsequently, these will be linked to the rest of the world through underwater cables.
Yedaly likened the planned ICT revolution in Africa to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, and insisted Africa cannot let this opportunity pass. He favoured a holistic approach to the strategic partnership, whereby investment in the energy and transport sectors, for example, would be matched by ICT investment. By seeing ICT as a public utility, it would receive similar funding from development financing institutions as other public utility infrastructures do.
Stefano Scarda of the European Commission (DG Enterprise) gave an overview of the benefits of satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) which improve the accuracy, reliability and availability of satellite navigation and the possibility of extending the coverage of the actual European system EGNOS to cover Africa.