Bridging the gap in infrastructure is vital to economic advancement and sustainable development. However, this can only be achieved through regional and continental co-operation and solution-finding, which calls for greater political will and buy-in.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, appointed Honourable Raila Odinga of Kenya as High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa on 20 October 2018. This decision is part of the African Union’s drive to expedite the integration of the continent through infrastructure, in order to promote economic growth and sustainable development. It comes against the backdrop of renewed efforts in this regard, as exemplified by the adoption, last March in Kigali, of the Agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and the African Passport, as well as by the launching of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), in Addis Ababa in January 2018. The Chairperson of the Commission expressed appreciation to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his support to this decision, consistent with his commitment to African integration.

As High Representative for Infrastructure, Hon. Odinga will work to support and strengthen the efforts of the Commission’s relevant Departments and those of the NEPAD Agency, within the framework of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), which was endorsed by the Assembly of the Union in January 2012. In this respect, his mandate includes mobilising further political support and development assistance from Member States and Regional Economic Communities, as well as facilitating greater ownership by all concerned stakeholders on the continent. He will also support the NEPAD Agency initiatives to encourage increased commitment from development partners.

In the discharge of his mandate, and building on the work and leadership of the PIDA Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, the High Representative will pay particular attention to the missing links along the transnational highway corridors identified as part of the Trans-African Highways Network, with a view to facilitating their development and modernisation. He will also focus on the continental high-speed train, which is one of the flagship projects of the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063, in the context of the relevant African Union decisions. He will also interact with the current Champions of related African Union and NEPAD Agency initiatives and seek their guidance, to ensure the required synergy and coherence. The Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative was born out of a proposal by the NEPAD Agency and the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation. It was initially championed by South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma to accelerate regional infrastructure development enabled through the political championing of projects.

Dr Ibrahim Mayaki pointed out that the role of the champions is to bring visibility, unblock bottlenecks, co-ordinate resource mobilisation and ensure project implementation. It presents the opportunity for African Heads of State and Government to be actively involved in the development and implementation of projects. The projects cover four infrastructure sectors that is, transport, energy, ICT and transboundary water projects. “We warmly welcome Hon. Raila Odinga and look forward to support him in achieving sound results,” Dr Mayaki said. The official communique can be viewed at: http://www.peaceau.org/uploads/auc.com.appointment-of-high-representative-20.10.2018.pdf

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