BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
African governments have been asked to create an enabling environment for the private sector to participate more in the development of critical infrastructure which is lacking in most parts of the continent.
President Uhuru Kenyatta believes that public-private partnerships supported by robust national institutions to ensure accountability and transparency hold the key to closing the prevailing infrastructure gap in Africa.
According to him the continent must work to address the insufficient stock of functional and quality infrastructure in energy, water and transport services to enable companies to produce competitively for both domestic and international markets.
Good infrastructure, he says, is the backbone upon which African nations will achieve economic growth that will in turn create the much needed jobs for the youth as well as generate wealth to deal with the challenge of poverty.
“High quality infrastructure reduces transactional and other costs; enabling efficient use of labour and capital, but more importantly, enhancing connectivity between production points and market points,” he adds.
The President was speaking when he officially closed the inaugural AfroChampions Boma forum on African Infrastructure Financing and Delivery organized by the AfroChampions Initiative in Nairobi.
The AfroChampions Initiative is a set of innovative public-private partnerships and flagship programs designed to galvanize African resources and institutions to support the emergence and success of African private sector in the regional and global spheres.
The initiative is driven by prominent private and public sector players in Africa.
Therefore, the dream of connecting the continent cannot be realized unless viable solutions to mobilise the required infrastructure financing are found.
“We need to connect Africa, but this cannot be possible without investing in critical infrastructure,” Mr Kenyatta says.
He adds that African economies must also be diversified through promotion of value addition and manufacturing to create job opportunities for the more than ten million young people joining the labour market each year.
“Indeed, industrialization is the way to go if we are to achieve and sustain shared prosperity and job creation for our peoples,” he continued.
The AfroChampions Initiative is important as it presents an exceptional opportunity for government agencies, private financiers and other stakeholders to come together and share their knowledge, expertise and experience.
This, according to the President, will lead to innovative solutions to the challenges in financing and implementing world class infrastructure systems in Africa.
Nairobi being home to over 50 international development and several global multinationals, Mr Kenyatta pledged Kenya’s commitment to continue assisting African companies to thrive.
On Pan-Africanism, the Head of State says the African dream is that of a continent brimming with promise finding its feet in the modern world and striding confidently into a future of peace, prosperity and unity.
“The Pan-African dream of peace, prosperity and unity is set to be spurred by the imminent entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. This continental feat presents an extraordinary opportunity for Africa to become the single largest market in the world,” he added.
The President underscored the need for Africa’s companies to take cross-border leadership in key industries and for leading hubs – like Kenya – to play their proper role as accelerators for the expansion and triumph of African home-grown champions.
The Head of State informed the meeting that Kenya has already taken giant steps in facilitating free movement of persons on the continent by offering visas on arrival to all African citizens.
In his address to the same function of key public and private sector players from across the continent, African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga expressed optimism that Africa is capable of addressing its infrastructure needs.
He called on African countries to remove barriers that hinder the free movement of people, goods and services by abolishing policies that curtail the involvement of the private sector in infrastructure development.