Africa is able to spend about $72-billion a year on infrastructure, but there remains a $480-billion shortfall over the next decade, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
He told delegates at the International Trade and Investment Conference hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry at Sun City, in the North West, that additional funding was required, particularly in water, power and transportation, and that much scope existed for private participation and investment.
“Should Africa continue to narrow its infrastructure gap, economic growth could be boosted by as much as 2 percentage points a year,” Zuma noted.
He commended initiatives geared towards promoting the African economy, such as the African Union’s (AU’s) Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, a continental committee of eight New Partnership for Africa's Development heads of State and government, to champion high-level infrastructure projects.
The President also pointed out that South Africa chaired the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project that cuts across eight countries in eastern and southern Africa and aims to facilitate trade by upgrading road, rail, power and port facilities, as well as simplifying cross-border regulatory procedures.
“This will enable producers and traders to access regional and international markets more easily,” Zuma said.
The projects had passed the feasibility studies phase and were expected to reach the implementation stage by 2016.
Zuma stated the domestic infrastructure development programme, which he announced in his State of the Nation address, in February, would improve access to basic services, while boosting job creation and the competitiveness of the South African economy.
He also commended the AU’s decision to integrate and to promote intra-African trade, particularly through the Tripartite Free Trade area that unites the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Southern African Development Community and the East African Community to create larger regional markets and increase specialisation, competition and manufacturing.
Zuma said the impact of an increased focus on major projects was evident, with International Monetary Fund figures showing that region-wide gross domestic product growth has averaged 5.5% from 2000 to 2010, more than double the rate during the 1980s and 1990s.
However, he pointed out that companies have been slow to enter Africa, with some questioning whether the continent’s rise was merely the result of a short-lived boost by the global commodities boom.
The South African president urged that this perception could be turned around if Africa’s people contributed to establish the continent’s reputation as a primary investment destination.
“We need Africans to stop being pessimistic about their continent, and to be the leading spokespersons and ambassadors.
“I challenge all Africans today, to accept the fact that their continent is changing. They must release themselves from the shackles of self-doubt and celebrate these new developments.”
Further, Zuma pointed out that Africa's demographic composition was bound to fuel long-term growth, as the continent will have the world's largest workforce of 1.2-billion by 2050.
“What is left for the business sector is to grab the opportunity and reap the rewards of this growth, in a manner that promotes inclusive growth and that creates decent work for the African people,” the president said.