MIDRAND, March 7, 2011 – A new, virtual network focused on public-private partnerships (PPPs) is set to serve as a one-stop shop for policymakers and practitioners seeking advice and information on best practices to close Africa’s infrastructure gap.
“Networking among practitioners is a key element of our public-private partnership development strategy for southern Africa because it is only through dialogue and interaction that new ideas can be forged for making sustainable improvement in Africa’s infrastructure,” said João Caholo, Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Recently inaugurated at an SADC-convened forum held at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the new network will bring together over 100 practitioners, financiers, technical specialists, and sector experts, with a singular focus on finding solutions to bridge southern Africa’s infrastructure gap.
“Given the infrastructure backlogs and the limitations of the public sector, there can be no denying that PPPs remain a significant part of the solution to Africa’s infrastructure development problem,” said Admassu Tadesse, head of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) International Division. “The pertinent question is not whether, but rather how to make PPPs happen in a manner that creates a win-win for both the public interest and private partners involved.”
The network will pool technical expertise and knowledge to facilitate successful PPPs, review associated regulatory and policy environments, and explore new financing sources and mixes for accelerating infrastructure development across southern Africa.
“We strongly believe in the power of networks," said Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute. "As a global connector of knowledge on development, the World Bank is committed to providing practitioners with a variety of sources of knowledge and innovation to better tackle Africa's infrastructure deficit for sustainable poverty reduction."
The new network comes at a crucial time for infrastructure development in Africa. It is true that the continent has benefited over the past few years from significant improvements in infrastructure: Over 50 percent of Africa’s population now lives in range of a GSM signal; five African countries have already met the Millennium Development Goal for universal water access, and 12 others are on-track to do so; and around 80 percent of Africa’s main road network is in good to fair condition.
Yet, daunting challenges remain. Only one in three rural Africans has access to an all-season road; more than 20 percent of the population in Cameroon, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger, and Tanzania must travel more than two kilometers to their primary water supply; African consumers pay twice as much for basic services as people elsewhere in the world; and a monthly basket of prepaid mobile telephone services costs $12 in Africa compared to only $2 in South Asia.
An increasing amount of evidence is emerging that sound infrastructure is essential to poverty reduction, economic growth, and human welfare. A recent study covering 24 African countries, Africa’s Infrastructure – A Time for Transformation, finds that the poor state of infrastructure in Sub Saharan Africa – its electricity, water, roads, and information and communications technology (ICT) – cuts national economic growth by 2 percentage points every year, and reduces business productivity by as much as 40 percent.