“Africa needs to unite and work hard to reverse colonial infrastructure systems which promoted the extraction of profitable agricultural and mineral wealth for export at the expense of local communities and the continent,” Zimbabwe’s Transport and Infra-structural Development and Transport Minister, Joel Biggie Matiza said as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Week opened on 26 November in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, buoyed by gathering momentum.

Speaking during the opening session of the 2018 PIDA Week in Victoria Falls, Mr Matiza said for Africa to fully develop and integrate, there was need for the continent to focus on infrastructure development, in particular transboundary projects, to ensure it was competitive enough to make a difference.

The official opening of PIDA Week in Victoria Falls town, Zimbabwe

“Historically African countries inherited underdeveloped infrastructure geared towards exports-imports transportation rather than focusing on transforming and improving local production capacity as well as promoting intra-Africa trade. This is rea-son for us to reverse this legacy and as a continent we have crafted a new trajectory through PIDA, a turning point we should follow to ensure we transform the current state of affairs,” he said.

Mr Matiza hailed PIDA for its efforts in trying to bridge Africa’s infrastructure deficit. He said PIDA Week offered a valuable opportunity for policymakers, project developers, private sector, civil society, and academia to exchange views and proffer solutions towards the implementation of regional infrastructure projects on the continent.

CEO of the NEPAD Agency, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki said Africa needs to accelerate the development of transboundary infrastructure projects if it is to fully integrate. He said a lot of progress has been made since African leaders adopted PIDA in 2012.

“We recognise that optimal solutions for continental problems lie in regional integration. We are getting there progressively, but we need to accelerate implementation if we want regional integration. It’s not a question of lack of financial resources, it is a question of lack of bankable projects and sound rules. So we need to do our homework,” said Dr Mayaki, adding that local, national and regional governance was key to the success Africa seeks in closing its infrastructure deficit.

The African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr Amani Abou-Zeid said the current low levels of infrastructure on the continent posed one of the biggest challenges to Africa’s industrialisation and development agenda, which is having a negative impact on Africa’s competitiveness and participation in the global markets.

According to the World Bank, the state of infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa in respect of its electricity, water, roads and ICT, reduces national economic growth by 2 percent annually and reduces productivity by as much as 40 percent. The financing gap in Africa for infrastructure development is estimated at between US$130 -170 billion per year.

African Union’s High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Honorable Raila Amollo Odinga, said Africa needs to move away from the conference and feasibility study syndrome and move to implement agreed projects if it is to successfully integrate and achieve sustainable development and change the lives of its citizens for the better.

“Transformational decisions have to be taken if we are to move ahead. Africa must deal with political bottlenecks that hamper its development or we shall never compete,” said Mr Odinga. “We must also overcome the habitual of feasibility study after feasibility study without implemention. We must change.”

Ms Carla Montesi, European Commission’s Director for Planet and Prosperity and a representative of COMESA Secretary General, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe, also spoke in the opening session in support of Africa’s desire to invest in infrastructural development that will support Africa’s growth. Ms Montesi said the EU will continue to support Africa in its quest for an integrated infrastructure that generates jobs for the youth; helps reduce poverty; and supports regional integration.

Mr Xiao Weiming, Director-General of the Belt and Road Unit, National Development and Reform Commission, the People’s Republic of China, said his country will continue to work with African nations to help build their infrastructure capacity.

The 2018 PIDA Week theme was ‘Realising Africa’s Integration through Smart Infrastructure and Good Governance’. It built on the relative achievements and the momentum created in the previous three events to continue to engage stakeholders on the effective delivery of infrastructure on the continent. The event welcomed more than 400 participants brought together through an impressive line-up of top-level government representatives, influential industry leaders, private sector, leading thinkers from international institutions, government, academia, business and finance.

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