Africa – Infrastructure and Cooperation

Experts discuss the findings of a report on infrastructure development, inclusive growth and the creation of a free trade area.

Overcoming infrastructure gaps remains critical if the continent is to unlock its economic potential, the executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Sogwe, told delegates at a major conference in Addis Ababa in November.

Participants at the ECA’s Tenth Session of the Committee on Regional Cooperation and Integration were considering a report which presents the “ECA’s articulations” of Africa’s structural transformation “through inclusive economic growth and sustainable industrialisation”.

Sogwe said there was a consensus that “quality economic infrastructure in Africa is a catalyst to its industrial development,” exemplified by current efforts that focus on scaling up infrastructure facilities at national and regional levels.

Continental market

“Implementation of initiatives for promoting regional investments… as well as the Continental Free Trade Area need to be supported by all member states to achieve the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour,” Sogwe added.

The African Union (AU) in 2012 adopted a decision to establish the CFTA, which aims to create a single continental market for goods and services and to expand intra-African trade.

ECA’s African Trade Policy Center Coordinator David Luke, speaking to allAfrica on the sidelines, said that to boost intra-African trade, tariffs needed to be brought down. The average tariff within Africa is 8%, he said, whereas with “our external partners, it’s 2%”.

Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Bekele Bulado said it was prudent that the CFTA negotiations take into account different levels of development to “accommodate the Least Developed Countries” and vulnerable economies with regard to improving their productive capacity.

1102 container port
Container port, Cape Town. CC 2008

Inclusive growth

Soteri Gatera, who heads the ECA’s Industrialisation and Infrastructure Section, said only “inclusive” economic growth will help resolve the “persistent social economic problems” Africa faces.

“For quite some time we have seen African economies grow steadily… but [the growth] is not creating enough jobs; it is not adding value which trickles down to everybody,” Gatera said.

One speaker pointed to the quality of Africa’s roads, which he said is “more than four times lower than the global average”.

The experts, who come from African governments, trans-national economic communities, academia and international institutions, acknowledged that many African countries have good policies, but that implementation of those policies is a problem.

The link between infrastructure and industrialisation was one of the key talking points of the expert session. The idea of convening the meeting, according to Gatera, is to try and “dissect” the findings and identify key policy recommendations.

Gatera said the report is based on country case studies and on extensive research into previous studies. Critiques of the draft report will be integrated into a final report, which he hopes will be released in two months.

economic banner

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DJIBOUTI: Regional Hub Plans
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21671B–21671C

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: Restarting the Growth Engine
Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21686A–21687C

Economic, Financial and Technical series
Vol. 54, Issue 4, pp. 21689B–21690B

Subscribe to the Africa Research Bulletin today.