NAIROBI – Kenya on Wednesday urged the African continent to prioritize infrastructure development in order to boost regional integration.
Peter Munya, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of East African Community, told a business forum in Nairobi that the level of infrastructure network development in Africa, especially the cross border modes of transport such as railways and seamless port to port modes are fairly underdeveloped.
“This makes it hard to undertake meaningful trade and the realization of regional integration difficult,” Munya said during the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI) Technical Task Team Workshop.
The two-day event was organized by African Union’s (AU) New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency to review ways to accelerate regional infrastructure development across Africa through political championing of projects.
Currently, ten countries are implementing the PICI projects across the continent including Algeria, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.
Munya said that the continent is spearheading development initiatives in a challenging environment.
“The continent is facing hurdles in achieving a stable and predictable political climate which makes long-term investments difficult,” he observed.
Munya added that technological deficiencies have made exploitation of Africa’s abundant natural resources either impossible or have to be done by foreign companies.
“These hurdles derail us collectively therefore we highly appreciate when continental initiatives are designed to overcome these impediments,” he said.
Munya said Kenya is spearheading the development of the most ambitious projects in the continent which is the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Transport (LAPSSET) program.
He said the LAPSSET program is not just for the two neighboring countries, but a continental one by all standards.
Munya noted that the LAPSSET corridor feeds into the existing ones such the Great North Corridor from Cape Town to Cairo, but more important, it provides a platform and infrastructure for port to port business in the continent.
“This is all possible because the Lamu port area is very deep and has a wide channel, and therefore shaping the logistics and sea transport business in a revolutionary way,” he said.
“Soon as a continent, we shall be able to undertake massive business and cut down on cost which we believe will catalyze the industrialize sector greatly,” he noted.
Munya said the Lamu Port is now 48 percent complete for the berths that are being developed by the government.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the CEO of the NEPAD Agency, said that infrastructure is the backbone of Africa’s socio-economic growth and development.
Mayaki said Africa has developed several initiatives to act as catalysts for the rapid and sustainable development of regional and continental development.
He noted that African Heads of State and Government deemed it necessary to select projects with high development impacts and personally champion them to ensure rapid implementation within a five year threshold hold.
According to NEPAD, Africa is highly endowed with diverse natural resources such as diamonds, oil, gold and wildlife but it is intriguing that the continent has not been able to exploit them for the benefit of its people.
He noted that Africa has an advantage of a huge population that every year is rising into the middle class category.
“The middle class in society have more purchasing power and this provides a crucial market for produce which is key for growth,” Mayaki said.
He added that the continent is also well endowed with human capital and is therefore possible for any investor to set up in almost any part of Africa and commence operations without having to think about the labor which is abundant and affordable.
Mayaki noted that the through the AU, the continent is more focused and committed to making African integration a reality.
Julius Muia, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Planning, said development of regional and cross-border infrastructure can only be done efficiently when countries come together to unlock the economic potential of the continent and provide development opportunities for regions, countries and people.