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Business News of Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Source: Business & Financial Times

B&FT Editorial: Bridging infrastructure gap remains top priority

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said Africa's future is dependent on the continent "thinking outside the box" to address and finance its infrastructural deficits.

The African Development Bank (AFDB) says estimated financing requirement to close Africa's infrastructure deficits amounts to US$93billion annually until 2020. Considering the enormity of the deficit, it will require a lot of 'thinking outside the box' to close this gap in all fairness.

The president was contributing to a panel discussion at the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London when he made the assertion. He was making a case for fair trade against aid or hand-outs as the solution to the continent's financing requirements.

Infrastructure plays a central role in improving competitiveness, facilitating domestic and international trade, and enhancing the continent's integration into the global economy. Africa's absolute and relative lack of infrastructure points to the existence of untapped productive potential, which could be unlocked through scaling-up investments in the sector.

The good news is that governments have started exploring opportunities for tapping into private financing, creating new partnerships and reducing wastage in such investments. This strategic shift has come about on the realisation that scaling-up financing from traditional sources alone will not be adequate to close the infrastructure gap.

It is therefore crucial to open opportunities that attract new investors as well as explore new mechanisms for financing infrastructure in Africa. In this regard, China has been a willing-partner - much to the chagrin of the West; but African countries are craving to bridge this infrastructure gap and will exploit any opportunity offered them to bridge, if not close, this infrastructure gap.

Obviously, these come with their own challenges; but we believe this is precisely what President Akufo-Addo wanted to convey at the UK-Africa summit held in London recently. Africa needs to extend its tentacles far and wide if it is to embrace the opportunities that abound. We cannot be strait-jacketed but must be flexible in our approach to woo willing investors for mutual benefit.

Let's remember that the operative word here is 'mutual' benefit. If it is lopsided, then we are simply not interested.