Africa committed to building common infrastructure

A Caucus of African finance ministers attending the Spring Meetings have emphasised the importance of regional integration and their commitment to building common projects such as infrastructure to link their various countries.

The African finance ministers said the unprecedented growth the sub-continent had seen over the last decade could become sustainable and benefit its peoples, especially the poor and vulnerable, if common infrastructure such as transportation, ports and power were built to link economies.

“This will boost demand from within Africa itself, spur industrialisation and private sector participation in our economies to make the growth sustainable and inclusive,” the Minister of Finance from Nigeria, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, stated  at the 2013 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington DC, United States.

The ministers paid tribute to modest progress such as a highway linking Cameroon and Nigeria, another under construction to link Lagos and Senegal. 

Ghana is also working on its Eastern and Western Corridor roads that will link it with Cote d’Ivoire and Togo. There are also roads in the northern part of the country that will link Burkina Faso.

The minister later told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in an interview shortly after the press briefing by the African finace ministers that Sub-Saharan Africa was taking bold steps to build infrastructure across the continent, but “this will not be overnight; it will take time and we are at it steadily.”

She said Nigeria was ready to lead the way in establishing a regional shipping line for West Africa to be known as Sea Link, with the support of that country’s Export Import Ban (EXIM BanK), to facilitate trade among West African states.

The Finance Minister of Cameroon, Mr Alamine Ousmane Mey, added that said sub-regional integration should be pursued to accelerate growth, adding “it is time for Africa to catch up with the developed world and provide the catalyst for global growth.”

SSA economies have been growing at an average rate of five per cent and on target to reach six per cent by the close of 2013.

However, there are gross inequalities among the citizens on several fronts including income, access to education, healthcare and sanitation, with a large segment of girl child not in school, while women are marginalised from the development process.

Mr Mey said projects such as the Inga Power Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as a port and power projects in the Comoros Island, would be pursued going forward to boost and sustain economic growth and also make it inclusive.

The Finance ministers from two fragile and post-conflict states, Mr Ali Soilihi of the Union of Comoros and Mr Kosti Manibe Ngai of South Sudan, acknowledged the challenges that their countries had emerged from and pledged that they were determined to use dialogue and institutional reforms to growth their economies.

Mr Soilihi said the archipelago of Comoros would emphasise on agriculture, construction and th services industry, particularly banking and finance, to keep the track.

“Our growth rate was three per cent in 2012 as against 2.6 per cent in 2011. This has ben accompanied by dropping inflation of about six per cent,” Mr Soilihi said, but pointed out that the economic situation still remained fragile that needed consolidation.

He also called on SSA region to work together to confront challenges such as recurrent conflicts, drought to end food insecurity as deal with priority sectors – infrastructural development, education and healthcare – to improve the continent’s competitiveness.

Mr Ngai of South Sudan said though it had to build institutions from scratch and deal with fragile war situations, it would continue to rely on dialogue and determination to build its infrastructure.

He said with the country set to absorb its first assistance from the World Bank amounting to about US$200 million in July, the country would harness its oil resources, agriculture and also build road infrastructure to link the northern part of the country to the south, while tackling “agricultural roads”. 

 Story: Samuel Doe Ablordeppey, Washington DC, USA/Graphic Business

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