Ministers of Infrastructure representing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) have called on regional states to scale up programmes to upgrade and maintain infrastructure and facilities.
This would also see the adoption and implementation of COMESA transit instruments to improve transport corridor efficiency.
In their 12th joint meeting conducted virtually, on Wednesday, the ministers responsible for transport, energy, and information and communication technology (ICT) acknowledged the huge infrastructure efficiency gap across the region as a pressing policy priority.
Estimates made in 2018 by the African Development Bank (AfDB) places the annual infrastructure funding gap at between $68bn and $108bn across the continent. In their communique, the ministers invited Member States to take up the financing, technical assistance, and capacity building opportunities available under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF) of the World Bank and other development partners to help address the gap.
The RIIF is one of the latest major infrastructure financing facilities, signed in August last year, aimed at expanding long-term finance to private firms in selected infrastructure sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa.
It has two components, the first of which is a $10m grant to COMESA, to provide technical assistance and capacity building to member states, with special focus on private sector.
The second is $415m in credit to the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) for infrastructure projects covering: renewable energy; ICT; and transport and technical assistance facility.
Madagascar’s Minister of Transport, Tourism, and Meteorology, Joël Randriamandranto, who chaired the meeting, said the infrastructure gap needs to be narrowed if the region hopes to accelerate regional economic development.
“Our region has found itself in this predicament due to lack of resources, both financial and technical,” he said, “It is therefore imperative that we mobilise adequate resources to address this challenge in line with national and regional priorities.”
In their decision on facilitating transit infrastructure, the ministers urged Member States to connect Border Posts to the national electricity grid or install backup power services to reduce down time due to load shedding and power outages.
They called on all agencies working at border posts to be harmonised, by adopting Integrated Border Management systems to complement the One Stop Border Points (OSBP).
The ministers also urged Member States to deploy regional ICT systems such as Corridor Trip Monitoring Systems (CTMS). This will enhance data and information sharing, improve regulation, and progressively digitise border transactions and avoid paper-based transactions which are easy to falsify and are a COVID-19 vector.
The system enables operator, vehicle, and driver information to be readily available along regional transport corridors at the roadside, at border posts to all regulatory, and law enforcement agencies.
In her address, COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe underscored the importance of infrastructure in protecting the economy and people’s lives.
“The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of the African health infrastructure, the fragility of the transport sector, and particularly the aviation sector,” she said.
Kapwepwe also noted the vital role played by the ICT sector in sustaining economic, as well as social activities during lockdowns, in addition to implementing social distancing.