The African Union (AU)’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Raila Odinga has called for the creation of an Africa-wide infrastructure fund to cut a funding gap estimated at as much as $90 billion.
Odinga, a former Kenyan Prime Minister, told African ministers of infrastructure the fund would be a long-term solution to Africa’s continuous underfunding of infrastructure which he estimated at between $60 and $90 billion annually.
“Such a fund would focus on a combination of domestic sources and private sector financiers,” Odinga told the virtual meeting. “We need effective and efficient plans to mobilize resources to fund the identified PIDA (Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa) projects.’’
PIDA is a continent-wide program to develop a vision, policies, strategies and a programme for the development of priority regional and continental infrastructure in transport, energy, trans-boundary water and Information Communication Technology.
Africa has the fewest road and rail networks of any region in the world because of colonial planning and chronic shortages of funds. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the underfunding as governments scrambled to protect incomes and source funds to buy vaccines.
The African Union estimates the continent needs $12 billion to buy enough vaccines to cover about 60 percent of its 1.3 billion people.
Egypt’s Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker El Markabi said the AU was determined move Africa’s infrastructure development agenda forward despite the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the same meeting, the AU Infrastructure and Energy Commissioner Abou-Zeid said the post-COVID-19 recovery strategy requires the fast-tracking of Africa’s infrastructure development to improve resilience and improve livelihoods and economies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated digitalization, exposed gaps in energy in rural areas and highlighted the need to develop infrastructure that is smart, inclusive and sustainable.”
The African Development Bank’s Infrastructure and Partnerships Division Manager Mike Salawou highlighted the $7 billion the bank has spent on African infrastructure projects in the past ten years to spur economic development.