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Africa's Infrastructure is Key to Economic Growth
By Bathandwa Mbola. Addis Ababa - Africa's current infrastructure, which has long been identified as a key requirement for economic growth, needs to be developed to an adequate and efficient standard. "Despite the global economic crisis which can have implications for the availability of finance for infrastructure development in Africa, with determination, the challenges can be met." This was the message from the Infrastructure Day Conference and Exhibition in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, the eve of the African Union Summit where infrastructure development in Africa will be the theme.

Addressing delegates from the 53 African countries, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the AU Elham Ibrahim said: "Infrastructure should be integrated and interconnected, making it easier for Africa to meet its goals on socio-economic development". She said infrastructure is an important element in the development of peoples and nations as it facilitates socio-economic activities which will lead to the achievement of the MDGs. Presenting Infrastructure Consortium for Africa's (ICA) perspective, Coordinator Alex Rugamba outlined a number of challenges facing the development in Africa due to the global financial and economic crisis.

The ICA was set up by the 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit with the aim to build a strategic partnership among donors and stakeholders in order to facilitate the development of infrastructure in Africa. Stressing that Africa was making progress, he reinstated the strong commitment from African countries to tackle the infrastructure challenges facing the continent. Mr Rugamba also emphasised that, despite the economic downturn, official development assistance was expected to continue at current levels.

Turning to the role of private sector, Mr Rugamba said: "development partners on their own cannot meet all the needs. It is important that private capital be tapped in the more financially viable sectors to make urgently needed investments. "Infrastructure in Africa offers significant investment opportunities for long-term investors, even in time of global crisis." He outlined a number of possible African responses to the crisis, stressing that there is a need for a "one size fits all" solution and that responses would vary from country to country.

Some of the responses included the accelerating interregional trade and investment, reducing the cost of doing business by strengthening and improving local and regional financial markets. On Tuesday AU Commission chairman Jean Ping said the AU wanted to put together a programme of concrete action for infrastructure development. He specifically mentioned the Cairo-Capetown and Dakar-Djibouti Highways, adding that although there were missing links along these routes there were projects in place.

"For example, the road between Khartoum and Cairo is under construction and a feasibility study has been undertaken for the Dakar-Djibouti Highway," he said, adding that the African Development Bank has donated funds to achieve this and they were looking for additional partners. The aim of Infrastructure Day Conference and Exhibition is to facilitate and establish links between the AU, RECs and specialised institutions, member states and international organisation on how best to address the development challenges faced by the African continent. - BuaNews
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