• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Bridging Africa’s infrastructure gap to unleash economic growth

Bridging Africa’s infrastructure gap to unleash economic growth

By Ota Akhigbe

You know that feeling of frustration, inching forward in bumper-to-bumper traffic, knowing you could be achieving so much more elsewhere? Imagine that feeling extending to every aspect of life: unreliable power cutting out your phone call with a client; a bumpy road adding hours to a vital medical delivery. This is the daily reality for millions across Africa, a continent abundant with potential entrepreneurs, fertile farmland, and rich resources. But this potential is choked by a deteriorating infrastructure. Think about a hospital forced to delay life-saving surgeries due to power outages or a farmer’s harvest rotting on the side of the road because a damaged truck cannot travel the treacherous terrain. These are not hypothetical scenarios; they are the harsh realities that hold back Africa’s economic engine and keep millions in poverty.

Q: “Governments must play their part by streamlining regulations, offering incentives for innovation, and investing in infrastructure projects that complement private sector initiatives.”

The African Development Bank estimates the infrastructure gap in Africa to be between $130 billion and $170 billion annually. This leads to unreliable power, limited internet access, and poor transportation networks, all of which are significant roadblocks to business growth. These challenges stifle economic activity, trap people in poverty, and prevent businesses from reaching their full potential.

The good news? Africa has a unique opportunity to leapfrog traditional development methods. We do not have to follow the same slow, expensive path taken by industrialised nations. We can build a future that is efficient, sustainable, and enables everyone to participate in the continent’s economic rise by embracing innovation and technology.

Imagine a continent powered by solar mini-grids, bypassing the need for extensive national grids, or rural communities connected through mobile broadband networks, eliminating the need for expensive copper cables. These are not some futuristic pipe dreams. Across Africa, these innovative solutions are already transforming lives. Bustling marketplaces in remote villages are lit by solar lanterns, powered not by a distant grid but by the very sun overhead, or by farmers in previously isolated regions using mobile apps to access real-time market prices, empowering them to fetch fair value for their crops. These are just a few examples of how innovation is not merely a buzzword but a powerful force driving Africa towards a brighter future.

Read also: Bridging infrastructure gaps will attract more foreign investments into Nigeria – Adenuga

Innovation in action:

Let’s tackle these challenges, sector by sector. In the energy sector, we can move beyond unreliable centralised grids by exploring innovative solutions like M-Kopa’s solar home systems, powered conveniently by mobile money. For remote areas entirely off the grid, investment in solar mini-grids can provide a dependable energy source.

Transportation can be transformed by embracing drone technology, similar to Zipline’s medical supply deliveries. Partnerships with logistics startups specialising in efficient last-mile delivery solutions are another way to improve the movement of goods.

And to address limited internet access that hinders communication, we can investigate mobile broadband network solutions offered by companies like Airtel Africa. They are deploying a mix of technologies to bring high-speed internet to even remote villages. This not only improves communication but also unlocks a world of educational resources, e-commerce opportunities, and vital information sharing for rural communities.

These are just a few examples of how innovation can address specific infrastructural challenges in Africa.

Leadership with vision:

Business leaders have an important role to play.

Embrace a long-term view and see innovation as an investment in both your company’s future and Africa’s prosperity. Allocate resources for research and development or consider partnering with African startups developing cutting-edge solutions.

Promote a culture of experimentation within your organisation, encouraging employees to think outside the box. However, remember, data is king. Ensure data-driven decision-making to measure success and continuously improve.

Bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. Partner with governments and local communities to combine resources and expertise. Work together to develop clear shared goals and create public-private partnerships to tackle complex infrastructure challenges.

Business leaders can become true catalysts for Africa’s economic rise by taking these steps.

Building a collaborative ecosystem:

Building a successful collaborative ecosystem is key. Governments must play their part by streamlining regulations, offering incentives for innovation, and investing in infrastructure projects that complement private sector initiatives. This creates a strong foundation for growth. Businesses bring their technological expertise and investment capital to the table, developing and implementing these innovative solutions. Finally, the voice of local communities is crucial. Actively involving them in planning and implementation ensures solutions are culturally appropriate, sustainable, and meet their specific needs. This three-pronged approach—supportive governments, innovative businesses, and engaged communities—is the foundation for bridging Africa’s infrastructure gap.

Unlocking Africa’s potential:

We can bridge Africa’s infrastructure gap by leveraging innovation and technology. This will not only enable economic growth but also create jobs, improve access to education and healthcare, and empower communities. The path forward requires visionary leadership, a collaborative spirit, and a commitment to embrace the future. Africa is a continent filled with potential. We should bridge the gap and build a brighter future for all, together.

Ota Akhigbe is a results-oriented leader with extensive experience in driving impactful change across diverse sectors. She is passionate about leveraging innovation and technology for Africa’s development.