Africa needs a collective effort by all countries to address telecoms, rail and freight infrastructure challenges to improve business opportunities in the region, states global investment research and communications group Africa Investor (Ai).
Fund manager and adviser Africa Infra-structure Investment Managers MD Andrew Johnstone said the continent needed to focus on core infrastructure projects, such as airports, and provide a concrete framework of expenditure for public–private partner- ships. He was speaking at the Ai CEO Infra-structure Investment Summit at Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, on April 23.
“Lately, there has been an increase in infrastructure projects, particularly in Southern Africa, but the challenge is the complexity of the tender process,” said Johnstone.
The complexity of the finalisation of such tender deals has led to delays in constructing the necessary infrastructure.
French corporate and investment bank Natixis MD Frederic Mariette said Africa had been proven to provide healthy business returns but the risks were high owing to political uncertainty and the challenge of convincing management to allocate money for investment in projects.
Mariette added that, when funding was made available for investment in infrastructure projects, the lengthy approval process of signing off projects, owing to legislation, slowed progress. “To deal with this, greater political involvement is needed to speed up the process. For example, in South Africa, there have been talks about exploring nuclear power for over a decade, but the lack of commitment and concrete decision-making to finalise the necessary regulations are slowly eroding the eagerness of willing investors.”
Meanwhile, State-owned transport utility Transnet CEO Brian Molefe said that Africa was currently dealing with the challenge of increased maritime traffic by constructing the necessary infrastructure to improve trade relations between the East and West Africa.
He added that small interventions with significant outcomes needed to be put in place and explained that Transnet was currently involved in three projects, namely the Coega port, the Swazi rail link and plans to develop a railway line to the Waterberg area, in Limpopo. These would address the lack of rail infrastructure between Southern African regions such as Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Limpopo for coal transportation.
In conclusion, transport solutions provider GE Transportation CEO Tim Schweikert said the company saw Africa as a significant region for its transport business, which included locomotives and mining trucks, besides others.
“But there is an urgent need for critical infrastructure development to help modernise railway lines. Currently, we have an order for 143 locomotives from Transnet and the locomotives will assist in improving service delivery for the client.”