Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
The African Development Bank has supported the preparation of more than 15 regional projects as part of its assistance in upgrading infrastructure in Africa, Dr. Ini Urua, NEPAD division manager at the African Development Bank, says in this interview in Tunis, in which he discusses the Medium to Long Term Strategic Framework for Infrastructure development in Africa (MLTSF). What is the MLTSF study and how was it conceived ?
This is the Medium to Long Term Strategic Framework for infrastructure development on the continent. It seeks to institute a coherent strategic framework to serve as the basis for defining, implementing and monitoring infrastructure development on the continent as well as establishing partnerships that can best promote economic integration and support the development of trade on the continent.
The development of infrastructure on the continent has often been piecemeal in nature, with little or no coordination among agencies that support the development of infrastructure thus leading to a situation of slow progress even when reasonable resources are being committed and tangible progress is being recorded.
In this regard, the MLTSF will institute a well coordinated response to the development of infrastructure on the continent including measures to mobilise local and foreign private sectors in the development of infrastructure on the continent.
The availability of adequate and functional infrastructure is key to accelerating the socio-economic development of any country or region. Africa, in general, lacks the basic infrastructure to facilitate its sustainable development and trade between its countries and with the external world.
Given the critical nature of infrastructure for ensuring competitiveness of any sub-region, Africa with 53 countries of which a large number are tiny in physical and economic terms, and a significant number are landlocked, with poor infrastructure, especially those that connect the countries of the continent and provide access to markets for land locked countries, is unable to compete effectively in the global market place as well as sustain its socio-economic development.
The infrastructure development program under NEPAD seeks to facilitate an accelerated development and delivery of regional and continental infrastructure to foster the integration of the countries of the continent, intra-Africa trade, and trade between Africa and the rest of the world.
The Medium to Long Term Strategic Framework for Infrastructure development is the second part of the two pronged strategy adopted by the African Union/NEPAD for infrastructure development.
This strategy consisted of the development and institution of a Short Term Action Plan (STAP) to kick-start the process that was to be complemented with a Medium to Long Term Strategy (MLTSF) for sustainable infrastructure development.
The STAP formed the foundation for a coherent and structured approach to the development of a regional infrastructure. It placed emphasis on projects and initiatives with a strong facilitation element in order to create an enabling environment for accelerated development and sustenance of infrastructure assets and, therefore, emphasised policy, regulatory, and institutional measures necessary to ensure the efficiency of existing and planned regional infrastructure assets.
Representatives of Regional Economic Communities including CEMAC, ECCAS, UMA, EAC, COMESA, SADC, IGAD, ECOWAS, UEMOA, CEN-SAD, the Economic Commission for Africa, NEPAD Secretariat, members of the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA), Basin Organisations (RBOs), Regional Sector Organisations (RSOs), and other bilateral and multilateral development partners and agencies have been invited to MLTSF workshops. Why is there so much interest from the southern, eastern, central and western regions of the continent in the first phase of the study ?
These organisations are embodiments of the wider African stakeholders in the development of infrastructure. The need for effective development of regional infrastructure in a well coordinated manner has been widely accepted. These organisations, as pillars of the integration agenda of the AU, are devoting their time and resources to facilitate the development of regional infrastructure on the continent, hence their interest and devotion to the study.
According to existing documents, the key objective of the study is to define a strategic framework for the continuous and effective development of infrastructure on the African continent based on coherent strategic goals and clear achievable targets. The framework will seek to foster networking and dissemination of good practices in infrastructure development among countries, Regional Economic Communities, sub-regional and continental sector organisations, and infrastructure development partners, as well as establish a common vision among all stakeholders on the development of Africa’s infrastructure, to support social and economic development and trade in the continent.
How feasible is this objective, given the complex political set-up in some countries, the incapacity for some countries to support funding of infrastructure projects and the imbalance in existing infrastructures among the regions ?
The objective is realisable. The MLTSF seeks to set the guidance and steps for achieving this objective. There has been demonstrated political will between countries to work together and drive the integration agenda of the continent. The perennial problem of country versus sub-region is beginning to fade away and the emergence of the global world is adding impetus for the integration of the various countries and economies. Furthermore, in developing the MLTSF, institutional and technical capacities in the various infrastructure sub-sectors have to be developed and sustained. The MLTSF will also elaborate on these issues and set a template to guide future activities.
Sector stakeholder workshops are addressing STAP issues and the infrastructure gaps related to the African continent. At the regional workshop in Addis Ababa in July 2007, experts reviewed the findings and recommendations of the first part of the MLTSF study to the four subject sectors (water, ICT, energy and transport). Discussions are also underway to identify measures to accelerate implementation of the STAP. For example, in the transport sector, it is recommended that more concrete action plans should be prepared for implementation of the Transport Sector flagship projects—road transport facilitation, Yamoussoukro decision-air transport liberalisation. What constraints do you foresee in the implementation ?
One of the biggest constraints is the commitment of countries to implement regional integration programmes and the regional integration agenda. Countries cannot give meaningful commitment if they are in conflict or are facing eminent internal or external conflict.
Sustained peace and security are pre-conditions for accelerated development. Over the past few years, excluding two or three hotspots, we have started to witness lasting peace and stability in most of the sub-regions of the continent, thanks to the concerted effort of our leaders to resolve some of these conflicts.
On the implementation of the NEPAD program on infrastructure development, we have noticed that where there has been strong support by countries, programs are implemented quickly and these programs always achieve their stated objectives.
A further constraint is the local capacity in countries and regions to support project development, implementation and maintenance of existing assets. Another important constraint is the availability of resources to do early-stage project development work.
Generally, most people do not fully appreciate the fact that for projects to be brought to a stage of financing and implementation, much ground work has to be done to prepare them.
Where the pre-conditions stated earlier are there, including strong commitment from countries, this preparatory stage can be accelerated. Given that early-stage project development is the most risky part of any project, most project development agencies are usually very cautious and generally shy away from committing funds for early-stage project development activities.
This situation becomes exacerbated for projects that involve more than one country – which by its nature has a level of complexity very different from an in-country project. For this reason, the African Development Bank with the support of Canada and Denmark established the NEPAD-Infrastructure Project Preparation Facility Special Fund (NEPAD-IPPF) to bridge this gap and provide the necessary risk capital for early-stage project development and packaging. However, there is a need for adequate funding of the NEPAD-IPPF to be able to properly fill in this gap.
On the specific programs highlighted, a key issue that needs to be addressed is the continued commitment of countries of a given region or sub-region to implement key actions emanating from the recommendations of the STAP.
The MLTSF workshops have been organised under the tutelage of the African Union and the NEPAD Initiative with support from the African Development Bank and the Nigeria Technical Cooperation Fund of the Government of Nigeria. Given the melange of political and development institutions in these activities, to what extent will final decisions be directed by political interests of the countries in which projects will be carried out ?
The MLTSF and other related activities are undertaken as part of the AU/NEPAD agenda for the integration of the continent. As such, the outputs of the study will be presented for endorsement by the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee (HSGIC) and subsequently by the African Union next year.
Once this process has been undertaken, I do not foresee complications arising from political interests. For example, with the development of the Short Term Action Plan (STAP), prior to moving into implementation, it was endorsed by the HSGIC and the AU. It formed the basis for soliciting increased partnership and support from all stakeholders after it was formally endorsed and approved by those policy organs.
Nonetheless, given that we live in a real and dynamic world, political interests of countries and sub-regions of the continent cannot be completely eclipsed. Often, they are important in informing the prioritisation of key actions to encourage and ensure broad and effective participation of all in the achievement of the goal of integration of the economies and countries of the continent.
NEPAD, which initiated the STAP and its follow up, the MLTSF, has been heavily criticised for not having a goal or results. Some development experts and even political leaders have publicly challenged NEPAD.
In a widely publicised interview, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), set up to commit African leaders to promote democracy and good governance in return for increased Western investment, trade and debt relief, had not delivered on its promise.
"Expenses adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on trips, on hotels. But not a single classroom has been built, not a single health centre completed. NEPAD has not done what it was set up for", Wade said June 12, 2007, during an interview on Africable, a West African TV channel.
As Manager of the NEPAD Division of the African Development Bank, which the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee mandated to provide technical assistance and advisory services in support of the implementation of the AU/NEPAD initiative in infrastructure development, how to respond do you this challenge ?
The majority of Africans as well as our partners want to see accelerated socio-economic development. For this to happen, there is a need to ensure the availability of reliable, efficient, and sustainable economic and social infrastructure. In this respect, we are all anxious to see acceleration in the implementation of infrastructure projects and programs on the continent.
Given this level of interest, it is proper and useful for interested persons to be critical of the pace of implementation and delivery of projects. Further, it is healthy for all stakeholders to interrogate the different programs and probe various activities and initiatives being put in place to respond to the various challenges of driving the NEPAD agenda. Overall, this is a good thing and demonstrates the interest of all stakeholders on the NEPAD program and its relevance to the socio-economic development of the continent.
We welcome criticisms, especially those that come with alternative view points and ideas.
As you are well aware, the NEPAD agenda on infrastructure development is about regional infrastructure to bolster the integration of the continent, thus, it is not helpful to expect NEPAD to have country-specific interventions. This is what governments of the various countries of the continent are there for.
As I had highlighted earlier, regional infrastructure development, be it in electricity interconnection, telecommunications broadband systems and interconnections, transboundary water resource management, or in trans-border transport networks (road, rail, maritime, and air transport/aviation), is a very complex activity that transcends all phases of project development, from early-stage project development through achievement of financing, delivery of the infrastructure asset, putting in place the right institutional framework to management of the infrastructure asset, to highlight a few.
On the preparation of regional infrastructure projects, using the NEPAD-IPPF in conjunction with other facilities, the African Development Bank has supported the preparation of more than 15 regional projects.
Examples are the Benin-Togo Ghana electricity interconnection which has been financed and is entering the implementation stage, the Kenya-Uganda oil pipeline which has secured a strategic investor and has entered the physical implementation stage, the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya electricity Inter-connection which is in the final stages of achieving financing for physical implementation, the East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) project, which despite additional complexity of encompassing more than 20 countries is about to achieve financial closure.
Other projects whose preparation is supported by the NEPAD-IPPF include the Gambia River Basin Organisation (OMVG) power transmission project, Botswana-Zambia (Kazanlunga) bridge project , the Senegal-Gambia bridge, the Senegal-Mauritania (Rosso) Bridge, cross border electrification project in Central Africa, the Kenya-Ethiopia electricity inter-connection project, Ghana-Burkina Faso electricity inter-connection project, SATA telecommunications back-haul project, just to name a few.
We have in the pipeline more than 50 regional infrastructure projects that require funding for their preparation prior to being packaged for financing and implementation.
On the financing of physical projects, I am pleased to note that through the STAP, a significant number of regional infrastructure projects have been successfully brought to financial closure and entered the implementation stage. The African Development Bank has contributed significantly to this success.
Over the period 2002-2006, the ADB financed 33 projects/programs consisting of 18 physical projects, including one private sector project, 12 studies, and three capacity building project for a total Bank Group financing of more than one billion dollars, and mobilised about US$1.6 billion in co-financing of some of these projects.
A number of these projects are at an advanced stage of implementation and some have been completed. Examples of the success stories include the Mozambique-South Africa gas pipeline project which has been completed and entered into service, the Morocco–Algeria-Spain electricity interconnection project and the West Africa gas pipeline project.
Other development partners such as the World Bank, the European Union, France, BADEA and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) have also financed STAP projects.
Between 2002-2006, the World Bank approved, in credit, equity and guarantees, a total of about US$1 billion for STAP projects. During that period, financing of regional infrastructure projects by the ADB and other developing partners stood at approximately US$3.6 billion representing about 45% of the original total estimated cost of the STAP.
Notwithstanding these, it is important to put into perspective the nature of infrastructure development. Infrastructure, no matter how small in nature cannot be put in place in a flash. Typically, one needs a gestation time of 3-5 years before seeing the actual results.
For regional communities, especially those involving more than two countries and where participating countries do not have the same level of commitment, the frame can be much larger. As such, I am optimistic that in the next few years, these projects which have achieved financing will begin to yield the right fruits for all to see.
You have served the African Development Bank for 10 years in different capacities. As an engineer by profession, how do you assess the Bank’s contribution to the development of infrastructure on the continent ?
The African Development Bank has always been at the forefront of infrastructure development on the continent both at the national and regional level. Given the limitations on its concessional financing window, the Bank has done well in supporting the design, development and implementation of key infrastructure projects.
Very often development institutions that support the development and delivery of infrastructure are usually faced with the issue of implementation capacity at the country level. This is sometimes as a result of the commitment of recipient countries to the project and sometimes due to acute shortage of local personnel. Incorporation of capacity building elements in project design is often used to ameliorate this.
Nevertheless, the commitment of countries and agencies to the active building and retention of technical capacity is important and should never be relegated in the hierarchy of priorities. With continued sound macro-economic management in our countries coupled with the sustenance of peace and security, I foresee in the long term a reversal of this capacity deficit and drain.
This interview was prepared and conducted by Emmanuel Ngwainmbi, NEPAD, Regional Integration and Trade Department, African Development Bank. Source : NEPAD, 21 septembre 2007