The Stade Vélodrome in Marseille, France. Photo Credit: Ben Sutherland via Flickr Creative Commons
In June 2016, nearly 2.5 million enthusiastic spectators gathered in France to attend the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.
Those participating in matches in Lille, Bordeaux, Marseille or Nice would have noticed the brand new facilities and bold architectural design, but most probably didn’t realize these stadiums had been either constructed or modernized with financing through the relatively new “Contrat de partenariat” public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
One of my favorite songs when I was growing up was John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A few months ago, UNICEF created a project around it to highlight the plight of millions of refugee children. As 2016 drew to a close, I couldn’t help but imagine a world with high-quality, affordable, sustainable, well-maintained infrastructure services for everyone.
I’m not sure a video of infrastructure projects set to “Imagine” would fire people up as much as the UNICEF video does. But there is value in reflecting on what we have accomplished in 2016, and what we might hope for and imagine in 2017, to bring this vision closer to reality for millions of people.
- Public Private Partnerships
- Public private partnership
- Labor and Social Protection
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- Financial Sector
- Global Economy
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Law and Regulation
- Private Sector Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Urban Development
- The World Region
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Flickr Creative Commons
I love the TV show “The Big Bang Theory.” It gives a sympathetic view of geeks, where the nerdy guy gets the beautiful girl—I just wish it had been made when I was in high school. I was the geek, without the chic. At the mercy of the big, macho kids, who seemed to have gone through puberty years before I even knew what the word meant.
I thought I had left all of that in high school, but there is a tendency in PPP to perpetuate the macho stuff. Let’s take toll roads as an example. A few frustratingly macho myths about toll roads that only a geek can bust:
Photo Credit: J Endres via Flickr Creative Commons
I’ve spent the last 18 years in Sub-Saharan Africa working with governments on making public-private partnerships (PPPs) work for their countries. My interest is not just professional. My wife is Cameroonian and we live with our children in Senegal. I love this region! So I have a deeply personal connection that drives me, and it is important that my work has a positive impact. But the countries I work in are typically very difficult for businesses and investors to operate in and tend to have regulatory systems and investment climates that dissuade private sector investment, which is critical for PPPs to succeed. So, even though it is personally rewarding, this is not an easy job.
Photo Credit: Kathleen Bence via Flickr Creative Commons
I’ve been looking for a good definition of social enterprise. The information overlords at Google and Wikipedia suggested this:
“A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being—this may include maximizing social impact alongside profits for external shareholders.”
That’s a pretty broad and somewhat unsatisfying definition. I mean: “What organization in the 21st century wouldn’t put human and environmental development, social impact and profit high on their agenda?” – (He asks naïvely.)
Infrastructure professionals think a lot about social enterprise, but in a slightly different way. There is of course the unrelated term “social infrastructure,” which broadly covers public services such as healthcare, education, leisure and other government services. But really what we think about when it comes to social enterprise is “infrastructure morality.”
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the August 2016 edition of Into Africa (PDF), a publication of Capital Markets in Africa. An abbreviated version is reprinted here with their permission.
Africa is widely acknowledged as being the ‘preeminent emerging markets investment destination’ attracting global investors across all sectors. Investors seeking relatively higher risk-adjusted returns are appraising opportunities across the consumer sector, services and infrastructure.
However, one of the key constraints to economic growth in Africa is the lack of adequate and well-maintained infrastructure. Various studies on the infrastructure deficit have been carried out by multi-lateral agencies, most notably a World Bank study which revealed that the annual financial requirement for infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is about US$93 billion a year for both capital expenditures and maintenance. To finance this, only US$45 billion is being mobilized, two-thirds paid for by African governments and citizens, 8% by multilateral and bilateral donors and the rest by the private sector in emerging economies. There is therefore an estimated funding gap of US$50 billion a year.
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Flickr Creative Commons
In September, a whirlwind of meetings took place with agencies and development banks in Washington, D.C., and Europe that were focused on the current and future implementation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) across the global market. The healthy debate on the topic exposed the participants to interesting insights provided by proponents and naysayers of PPPs.
Many PPP experts that I met shared ideas on the changing context of PPPs and how these changes will impact the implementation of PPPs across regions and sectors in the near and far future. All agreed that the long-term consequences of future political, economic and societal changes are particularly difficult to predict.
As stakeholders from around the world gather at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador, to agree on a New Urban Agenda, one of the important questions that remains unanswered is why we continue to see housing projects that target the rich but ignore the inadequately sheltered poor.
This question has dogged me for years as I try to understand affordable housing crises gripping cities from Washington, D.C., to Nairobi. At one point, I believed the issue stemmed from a lack of financial liquidity lubricating developers’ and homebuyers’ actions. But alleviating that issue often contributes to increasing prices and building projects in the wrong places.
Photo Credit: hans-johnson via Flickr Creative Commons
A recent report by PwC on the outlook for global infrastructure spending predicts that by 2020, annual global infrastructure spending will reach $5.3 trillion, up from an estimated $4.3 trillion in 2015. This represents a global spending growth of 5% per annum doubling the low rates of growth of just 2% expected this year.