With public resources strained, governments alone cannot fund large-scale infrastructure development

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Nachtigal hydropower plant. Photo: Dasan Bobo
Nachtigal hydropower plant, Cameroon

Cities, bridges, roads, ports, and power stations. Modern infrastructure is a pillar of economic growth. It provides and sustains jobs, promotes trade, eases the flow of goods and services, and keeps the lights on—literally.

Lack of infrastructure has long hindered Africa’s economic and social progress. Cities from Maputo to Nairobi to Abidjan have struggled to provide their populations with adequate and reliable supplies of power and water.

According to the World Bank Group, electricity-generating capacity per capita has changed little over 20 years, and sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest road and railroad densities among developing regions.

With public resources strained, governments alone cannot fund large-scale infrastructure development. Collaboration with multiple stakeholders to source funding, technical expertise, and risk-sharing facilities is required to make large-scale infrastructure projects a reality. It also requires conducive enabling policies from government and long-term coordination among businesses, donors, and development partners.

This week, the Africa Investment Forum, being held in Johannesburg, is setting out to tackle some of Africa’s most pressing infrastructure needs by bringing together governments, corporates, development practitioners and others to design and implement solutions to some of the continent’s key projects.

According to a recent World Bank Group report, total private investment in African infrastructure in the first half of 2019 was only $1.74 billion, a mere drop in the bucket of what’s needed. Investors and institutions need to develop bolder and more innovative ways to leverage their expertise and capital.

For example, it’s taking 11 development finance institutions, including IFC, four commercial banks, government collaboration, and private utility company Électricité de France, to fund, develop and de-risk the 420-megawatt Nachtigal hydropower plant in Cameroon.  When the project comes online, it will increase the county’s existing electricity installed capacity by 30 percent, an achievement made possible by collaboration among all the players involved.

The Azito power plant expansion in Côte d’Ivoire is another example of multi-stakeholder collaboration facilitating tangible impact. IFC provided its own funding and mobilized a full debt financing package that included the African Development Bank, the West African Development Bank, OPEC Fund for International Development, a pool of European Development Finance Institutions, and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund managed by Investec Asset Management.

These are just two examples of IFC’s commitment to Africa’s development. With our partners, we continue to make infrastructure projects a reality — from solar plants in Mozambique, South Africa and Egypt, to hydro power in Uganda and roads in Senegal.  

When we work together for development, we can do more and on a larger scale. Platforms like the Africa Investment Forum are important because they convene all stakeholders to the table. At IFC, we believe that collaboration is a prerequisite to improving Africa’s infrastructure—and, ultimately, to creating markets and opportunities across the region.

We look forward to the discussions this week, and to strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones.

Linda Munyengeterwa is IFC’s Regional Industry Director for Infrastructure in Africa and the Middle East

Kevin Njiraini is IFC’s Regional Director for Southern Africa and Nigeria

Authors

Linda Munyengeterwa

Regional Industry Director for Infrastructure

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