Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), has called for huge investment in building better roads and power across the continent of Africa, assuring the continent that it is the only way to achieving economic success.
Adesina made this remark during his inaugural message on the second day of the 2023 Africa Investment Forum, taking place in Marrakesh, Morocco.
He explained clearly how having good roads and reliable power can help Africa grow and make more money.
He explained that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can create lots of opportunities for trade between African countries. But for this to work well, there needs to be good infrastructure, like roads and electricity.
He said, “The Africa Continental Free Trade Area, when fully operational, offers incredible opportunities for boosting intra-regional trade and the emergence of more competitive national, regional, and globally connected value chains. This can only be achieved through the development of infrastructure.”
Adesina also said that the AfDB has been working on this for the past seven years, spending over $44 billion on projects to build better infrastructure. He talked about one big plan called the Desert-to-Power initiative, where they hope to generate around 10 gigawatts of solar power in 11 countries.
The AfDB president said, “The African Development Bank and partners are implementing the $20 billion Desert-to-Power initiative to develop 10 GW of solar power across 11 countries of the Sahel zone, including the Sahel regional transmission lines.”
In terms of roads, Adesina explained how the bank has financed 25 transport corridors, which are like big roads connecting different places. These corridors, costing $13.5 billion, have helped countries trade more easily and make their economies better.
He explained that “driving our support for the development of regional transport corridors is the need to fast-track the integration of African economies, lower transport costs, connect landlocked countries to coastal countries, and improve regional trade and competitiveness.”
It is also to ensure that critical infrastructure, especially roads, ports, and rails, connects countries to zones of major agricultural potential or where there exist abundant mineral resources.
“As of 2022, the African Development Bank had financed 25 transport corridors, constructed over 18,000 kilometres of roads, 27 border posts, and 16 bridges, for a total amount of $13.5 billion.”
Adesina shared some success stories, like a bridge connecting Botswana and Zambia and a big project in Mozambique that helps them sell more goods to other countries.
He also talked about a new plan to connect Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, making it easier for them to trade. The African Development Bank is putting in $500 million to help make it happen.
He said, “The $2.7 billion Nacala rail and port project in Mozambique connects Mozambique and Malawi, strengthening export competitiveness. It was financed by the African Development Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), Mizuho Bank, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance, and the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa.
“The Senegambia Bridge, financed by the African Development Bank and the European Union, now connects Gambia and Senegal, reducing travel time by over 50 percent and improving trade between both countries.
“The Lagos-Abidjan highway, which connects Nigeria, Benin, Togo, and Cote d’Ivoire, secured investment interest of $15.2 billion at the Africa Investment Forum last year from multiple financiers and investors.”
“This strategic corridor will connect Angola, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, opening linkages to the mines and connecting them to the port in Angola. The African Development Bank will commit $500 million to this $1.6 billion investment opportunity.”
Adesina added that to enhance the impact of regional corridor development in Africa, the focus should be on five key priorities: 1) Utilise pooled financing for corridor projects. 2) Establish special industrial zones along corridors to maximise existing infrastructure. 3) Adopt a systematic approach and platform for identifying and collaborating on strategic regional corridors. 4) Accompany corridor development with one-stop border posts to facilitate trade and reduce travel times. 5) Leverage concessional financing, like the African Development Fund, providing invaluable resources for low-income countries to invest in regional corridors, showcasing remarkable leveraging effects.
He said that by improving roads and power, Africa can become more competitive and make more money. He encouraged everyone to work together to build more roads and power systems to make Africa wealthy.