It is broadly understood that public-private partnerships (PPP) are a procurement tool that encompass design, financing, construction and long-term operation of a public infrastructure by the private sector. They can be cost-effective thanks to adequate risk transfer and performance criteria, and help bridge Africa’s large infrastructure gap in many sectors.
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Solar power is experiencing a surge in popularity across the globe. It prevents carbon emissions, helps diversify the power generation mix, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, and can increase off-grid energy access.
With falling costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, advancing storage technology, and grid integration, prices for solar PV electricity have been falling rapidly around the world and solar is now in many countries price competitive with traditional energy sources and has become particularly attractive for developing countries.
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This World Water Day, the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) is celebrating the success of the Kigali Bulk Water Project in Rwanda’s capital.
The large-scale water treatment plant, due for completion in 2020, will produce 40 megaliters of clean water per day, equivalent to one-third of Kigali's total supply. Water will be drawn from the Nyabarongo River to be treated before distributing a clean supply to up to 500,000 domestic, commercial, and industrial customers. Kigali Water is one of the first water projects to be developed using a public-private partnership (PPP) model in sub-Saharan Africa.
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Some regard institutional investors—with their deep pockets—as the white knights filling the huge investment gaps in infrastructure development in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs). The IMF estimates that some 100 trillion dollars are held by pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, mutual funds, and other institutional investors. Unquestionably, the long-term nature of their liabilities matches the long-term financing requirements of infrastructure projects. So, it’s no surprise that institutional investors are seen as the white knights of infrastructure finance.
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The potential economic benefit from the cooperative use of the Nile’s water is estimated to be worth well over $11 billion—from irrigation and hydropower generation alone. But being able to harness those benefits is a far reach; the Nile Basin—a vital source of drinking water, irrigation, hydropower and transport—has a growing need for infrastructure investments to attain the full potential of this resource. Many of these infrastructure investments need to be coordinated between the basin’s 11 countries to ensure they are creating mutual benefits and are not causing harm to neighboring countries.
The Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program - Coordination Unit (NELSAP-CU), one of the Nile Basin Initiative’s two investment programs, plays a prominent role in the region’s development. NELSAP supports poverty alleviation, economic growth, and the reversal of environmental degradation in the sub-region through cooperative development and water management. Between 2005 and 2015, we mobilized $90 million of cumulative finance for pre-investment programs (e.g. the Lake Edward and Albert Fisheries Project) and $930 million for investment projects (e.g. the Regional Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project).
Between 2004 and 2017, some 30 African countries have adopted laws regarding Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). If we were to add to this list the countries that have implemented PPP policies, and those who are in the midst of drafting PPP laws, the tally would rise, leaving us with less than just 10 African countries that are entirely without a PPP framework.
What this tells us is that the calls by international financial institutions have been heard by decision-makers in Africa:
But how does reality measure up to the theory? How many projects, based on PPP law, have actually reached financial close? Given the time required to prepare a PPP, it is maybe too early to see PPP laws translated into concrete PPP projects, especially as more than 20 countries have in fact adopted their laws only in the last five years.
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Sector reform is a familiar concept for anyone working in the energy sector, particularly in developing countries. Typically, reforms involve measures such as building an institutional framework that allows for an independent regulator, improving the operational efficiency of utilities (for example, by unbundling vertically-integrated utilities), creating an environment for private sector participation, and last but not least, introducing tariffs that reflect costs. All these measures are designed with one goal in mind: to put the sector on a sustainable path and improve the quality of service for end-users.
While acknowledging the many benefits that sector reforms can bring, one issue we continue to face is the poor financial state of key power utilities. In other words, a lack of creditworthiness. Often, their lack of financial creditworthiness is the most critical obstacle to implementing investment programs. This makes utilities even more dependent on continuous government subsidies.
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Two years in the making, last week the Islamic Development Bank Group (IsDBG) and the World Bank Group officially launched the landmark report Mobilizing Islamic Finance for Infrastructure Public-Private Partnerships at a discussion broadcast online from Washington, D.C. We illustrated that, through partnerships, the power of Islamic finance can be instrumental in unlocking financial resources necessary to meet the tremendous demand for critical infrastructure.
In fact, infrastructure PPPs funded with Islamic finance have proliferated in the Middle East, and have flourished in other countries throughout Africa and Asia. Both of our institutions are committed to leverage our competitive advantages, achieve effective interventions, and yield measurable results in scaling up and broadening the use of Islamic finance.
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Africa is a continent rich in natural resources and boasts a large young, ambitious, and entrepreneurial-minded population. Harnessed properly, these endowments and advantages could usher in a period of sustained economic growth and increased well-being for all Africans.
However, a lack of modern infrastructure is a major challenge to Africa’s economic development and constitutes a significant impediment to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to a recent report by the World Bank, there are varying trends in Africa’s infrastructure performance across key sectors and regions. In telecommunications, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a dramatic improvement in the quantity and quality of infrastructure, and the gains are broad-based. Access to safe water has also risen, with 77% of the population having access to water in 2015, from 51% in 1990. In the power sector, by contrast, the region’s electricity-generating capacity has changed little in more than 20 years. At about 0.04 megawatts per 1,000 people, capacity is less than one-third of that of South Asia, and less than one-tenth of that of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Photo: Scaling Solar project in Zambia
What is a common thread between Argentina, Maldives, and Zambia? In each of these countries, the World Bank provided guarantees to support transparent auctions for renewable energy. Through these, I have seen how the Bank’s involvement helped increase private investors’ confidence, attract world-class developers, and ultimately reduce tariffs.
Drawing on 10 years of diverse experience in the power sector in both public and private organizations, my role is to help bridge the divide between public and private parties and help each side better understand the other. The World Bank is ideally positioned for this. Both sides understand the World Bank carries out a detailed due diligence and ensures the auction meets international standards. Both sides appreciate the World Bank will be an honest broker if issues arise. Because of its long term and continuous involvement in our client countries, the World Bank can help identify and solve issues early on. As such, no World Bank project-based guarantee has ever been called.