Development finance agency highlights Africa’s infrastructure needs and opportunities

17th May 2024 By: Rebecca Campbell - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

The Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), which exists to catalyse private-sector investment in African infrastructure, on Friday released its latest report, 'State of Africa’s Infrastructure Report 2024: The infrastructure imperative: Igniting Africa’s Industrial Renaissance'. This found that the continent had an “unprecedented opportunity” to impel its development by bringing its substantial renewable energy resources, and solutions for its deficient infrastructure, into alignment.

“The report is not just about identifying challenges; it’s about unlocking the immense potential that lies within our collective resolve,” stressed AFC president and CEO Samaila Zubairu. “The State of Africa’s Infrastructure Report is a call to action for stakeholders across the continent to collaborate for a smarter, more targeted, and better coordinated investment approach.”

The report highlighted that infrastructure development across the continent had failed to keep pace with the increasing needs of its growing population. African countries were still dependent on “pit-to-port” models, which were outdated and hampering economic growth. But the global transition to green energy, plus global supply chain shifts, were creating the opportunity for Africa to recast its role in the global economy by taking advantage of its youthful population and rich natural resources.

“For Africa to capitalise on this pivotal moment, decisive and urgent action is required to develop the infrastructure and value chains that will enable industrialisation and climate-adaptive development,” affirmed the AFC. The continent’s logistics and transport networks had to be coordinated, to cut current high transport costs (which increased the price of goods by as much as 40%). Major investments were needed in road and rail networks as well as in port infrastructure. The report also specified opportunities for new cross-border rail and road networks to develop trade corridors, as well as for the expansion of air cargo infrastructure.

But, the report emphasised, the cornerstone to development was access to energy. The disparity in energy access was the biggest single barrier to industrial growth in Africa.

“For this reason, progress in the crucial area of energy access should be measured not just by reductions in household energy poverty, but also by the capacity to provide sustainable energy solutions that support industrial and economic development,” stressed the AFC. “The potential for growth by bridging Africa’s energy deficit is illustrated using new metrics such as the Modern Energy Minimum, and the application to the processing needs for commodities like bauxite and copper.”

Quite simply, African countries could not process their abundant raw materials, and thereby develop industrial supply chains, unless they had robust energy systems.