Recognizing the urgent need to address the persistent barriers affecting the provision of universal infrastructure services on the continent including policy, regulatory, financial, technical and capacity challenges in addition to the urgency required to respond to new challenges impacting Africa’s development including climate change, Russia-Ukraine crisis, and disruptions in global supply chains, African Ministers of Transport and Energy have adopted far-reaching decision to accelerate project implementation in the sectors.
At the just concluded 4th Ordinary Session of the Specialized Technical Committee on Transport, Transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructure, and Energy, the ministers forged solutions for Member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to harmonise strategies, strengthen cooperation and accelerate implementation of projects to facilitate access to modern, sustainable, climate-resilient and universal access to infrastructure services to achieve the goals of the AU Agenda 2063 for continental integration, prosperity and peace.
The cost of transportation in Africa is on average 50 – 175% higher than other parts of the world as a result of poor infrastructure. About 60,000km and 100,000km of new roads are required to provide effective intracontinental connectivity in Africa by 2030.
The current pace of infrastructure development in Africa cannot keep up with rising demand from communities and markets, subsequently having an impact on Africa’s competitiveness and participation in global markets.
The poor state of infrastructure has led to the reduction of national economic growth by 2% annually in most African countries and as much as 40% reduction in industrial productivity.
To accelerate implementation of commitments and projects supporting transcontinental and Interregional Infrastructure, the ministers made emphasis on the importance of designing climate resilient and smart infrastructure projects and the importance of digital solutions and new emerging technologies in designing and enhancing efficiencies of transport and energy infrastructure projects and services.
The AU Commission in collaboration with African Union Development Agency-( AUDA- NEPAD), the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) were tasked with engaging with development partners and Development Finance Institutions to mobilize resources for projects preparation and implementation of PIDA-PAP 2 projects; develop capacity building initiatives and provide technical assistance to support Member States and the RECs in structuring, implementing, and monitoring the execution of infrastructure projects as well as for member states to create an enabling environment for the private sector and public-private partnerships, build institutional capacities and implement the necessary policies and regulatory frameworks to facilitate the implementation of PIDA-PAP 2 projects.
A call was extended to Member states to fast-track the ratification process for the Road Safety Charter, the Maritime Transport Charter and the Luxembourg Protocol on railway rolling stock, additionally, to complete the harmonisation and domestication of the Yamoussoukro Decision, and to join the Project Implementation Pilot (PIP) initiative to accelerate the implementation of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
As at September 2023, 36 Member States, representing 90% of air transport traffic, have joined SAATM. The AU Commission and African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) in collaboration with partners are working on the liberalisation of markets through the development of polices, regulations and dispute settlement mechanisms, among others.
To accelerate implementation of commitments in the Energy Sector, the ministers recommended the adoption by the African Union, of the African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) with its Continental Power Systems Masterplan (CMP) component as an AU Agenda 2063 Flagship Project.
They further lauded the establishment of the African School of Regulation (ASR) as a pan-African centre of excellence to enhance the capacity of Member States on energy regulation. Proposals were made on convening an African Energy Summit in 2024 to rally continental action in the energy and related sectors.
The African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) seeks to harmonise policies and regulatory frameworks that will facilitate the creation of a single electricity market. Complementing the AfSEM, the Continental Power Systems Masterplan (CMP), aims to identify and mobilise resources for the building of large-scale power plants and interconnectors across the continent.
Recognising the huge challenges of Island States in accessing sustainable energy, often relying on expensive fossil fuel imports and subsidies, and the special needs in terms of integration to regional initiatives, the AU Commission is in the process of implementing a programme on Renewable Energy in Africa Island States to implement strategies and action plans to facilitate mobilisation of climate and innovative financing for sustainable energy infrastructure.
The implementation of the second Priority Action Plan of the PIDA Programme – PIDA-PAP 2, is underway. The PIDA-PAP 2 contains 69 large-scale projects expected to cost more than US$160 billion over its ten-year implementation plan. Despite the laudable achievements and the learning curves over the first ten-years implementation of PIDA faced challenges of projects financing and implementation.
Out of over 430 projects in PIDA PAP 1, about 50% of the projects failed to reach the construction stage while 30% failed to go beyond the feasibility stage.
However, successes were recorded in the transport sector where 16,066 kilometers of roads and 4,077 kilometers of railways have been developed, strengthened by nearly 120 Single Border Posts. In the energy sector, 3,506 kilometers of transmission lines were installed, lighting the way for 232 GW of electricity and connecting African electrical networks.
On Transboundary Water Management several achievemnets were realised including the Lesotho Highlands project which has transferred approximately 17,990 million cubic meters of water to South Africa. On ICT, the digital infrastructure has seen an increase with a capacity of 9 Terabits, and 17 nations are now digitally interconnected. Given the paramount importance of cybersecurity, the AU Convention on Cybersecurity has been established and ratified by 15 states.
Adequate financing remains a critical issue for infrastructure development in Africa. African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid notes that while African Governments have spent about 3.5% of their GDP on infrastructure development over the last 20 years, the amounts are low compared to China and India, who spend 7.7% and 5.2% of their GDP on infrastructure, respectively. More spending is needed on infrastructure development to ramp up domestic investments.
Commissioner Amani noted, “the task at hand is great but it is not impossible. I can assure you that the African Union Commission is fully committed to continue delivering on key initiatives in collaboration with Member States and our partners. Our major goal is to accelerate implementation of projects on the ground and the development of cohesive, impactful, and harmonised policies as well as mobilisation of financial and technical resources to support the provision of universal infrastructure services on the continent.”
Underscoring the significance of the infrastructure and energy as critical enablers if the African Continental Free Trade Area objectives of socio-economic development, and unlocking the potential of other sectors, Doto Biteko, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, observed that the AfCFTA and regional infrastructure development will open more possibilities for African Island States like Zanzibar to integrate with other AU Member States through trade and efficient infrastructure services.
“Infrastructure is critical to our economies in enhancing trade and job creation, especially for Africa’s youthful population. African countries stand to gain from a continental approach. Leveraging on essential technologies like digital solutions is critical. Enhancing efficiencies and modernising port services is essential.”
“I am pleased to note that the Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy and the African Maritime Transport Charter seek to promote cooperation among Member States including maritime transport as well as port-related activities.”
Neo Matjato Moteane, Lesotho’s Minister of Public Works and Transport and STC Chairperson called on Member States to collectively as a continent, find ways of mitigating the impacts on the energy and infrastructure sectors as a cushioning mechanism for the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other present global crisis.
“It is also time to fast track implementation of priority projects under Transport and Energy sectors to ensure sustainable recovery of our economies and to contribute to our continental efforts. One of the objectives of this 4th ordinary session of the STC is, therefore, to take stock of our ongoing efforts and consider the prevailing global and continental issues touching on infrastructure and energy, and to agree on specific interventions as the way forward.”
The development of the different modes of transport in Africa require a coordinated approach to ensure seamless and efficient inter-modal transport services across the continent. Dr Khalid Salum Mohamed, Zanzibar’s Minister for Infrastructure, Communications and Transport restated the government’s commitment to develop infrastructural projects not only for its own people but as a gateway for many other countries in the Eastern and Southern Region.
“Tanzania is committed to enhancing efficiencies and modernising service delivery along the central corridor to ensure that the Member States that depend on us receive the quality of service that they deserve.”
“We are therefore improving the services at our ports in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam, improving the road network connectivity and building a modern electrified Standard Gauge Railway to serve the Tanzanian people as well as our brothers and sisters in neighbouring countries. In the energy sector, the African Single Electricity Market (AfSEM) and the Continental Power System Master Plan (CMP) are expected to be game changers in how the development of electricity evolves in Africa.”
Amine Idriss Adoum, Director of Infrastructure, Trade, Industrialization, and Regional Integration, AUDA-NEPAD, underscored the impact of the PIDA projects noting, “these efforts have illuminated the homes of nearly 30 million Africans, improved intra-African exports by 16%, and catalyzed job creation with 112,900 direct and 49,400 indirect jobs.
In 2020, PIDA financing exceeded expectations, reaching $82 billion, with a generous contribution of 42% from AU member states. However, our journey is dotted with challenges that require unwavering attention and redefined strategies.”