“The linkage between the necessity for infrastructure and industry go hand in hand now. Ministers of public work, ministers of finance – they’re putting infrastructure at the centre of what tomorrow’s society means,” Johnstone told a delegation of media and business representatives at Infrastructure Africa 2014.
“The other strong theme is the recognition that the private sector has a very important role in the delivery of infrastructure and, increasingly, there are very few jurisdictions where the private sector is not involved, and that’s fantastic.”
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Johnstone, who is an active member of investment firm, African Infrastructure Investment Manager (AIIM), stated that the source of funding has changed as well.
“In the old days, most of Africa’s infrastructure was paid for by public money. It drifted then to donor financing – no hope of getting it back and you didn’t expect to,” he said.
“That evolved into development financing [and] looking for the trickle-down benefits of spending money in jurisdictions that have economic and social good. That then moved people like ourselves – this created a thinking around a space for private sector financing.”
While the financing of infrastructure is a must, Johnstone emphasised that maintaining that infrastructure is also crucial.
“Increasingly you’re seeing opportunities arise for the privates sector in maintaining what currently exists as well as building the new stuff,” he added.
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The infrastructure funding story in South Africa, Africa’s most advanced economy, is slightly different to that of the rest of the continent and Johnstone noted that a lot of development has taken place in the country.
“The last 15 years have seen the progression of project financing, PPPs, move through various other sectors – we’ve seen toll roads, water projects in South Africa. There’s been a number of combination-style projects, prisons have been privately financed, hospitals too, so too have a number of government buildings and, most recently, it has moved into the power sector,” he stated.
“Undoubtedly, over the last five years, the biggest success story globally has been the renewable programme in South Africa – that’s caused a lot of excitement, it’s mobilised in excess of 100 million rand over the past three years and it’s a fantastic example of what can be done if done properly.”