This 14th African Renaissance Festival kicked off on Tuesday with the African Renaissance Youth Conference, which was over-subscribed. The organisers had to fetch additional chairs as young people, some as young as fourteen years old, kept pouring relentlessly into the conference. This gives us pride because when we started this Festival and Conference 14 years ago, some of these young people who attended this year’s youth conference were only being born. Indeed, the future of the African Renaissance has been assured.
In their deliberations on Tuesday, the youth tackled various issues of access: chief among whom was the young people’s desire to achieve universal access to education, skills, capacity building programmes and job opportunities. They also spent their time deliberating on strategies to uproot all forms of inequality – past and present. The events of the past few days in South Africa, clearly demonstrated that there is still a long way to go before universal equality is achieved in our land and others around the globe. Much has been celebrated about the willingness of Black people of South Africa to forgive those who previously oppressed them. The question is: are the others ready to be forgiven? Our youth has seen a need to unpack the meaning of a renaissance and reconciliation in the context of an unequal society.
In the course of the deliberations over the last fourteen years, the African Renaissance Festival in Durban has taken many forms and shapes. It moved from being pre-occupied almost exclusively with the issues of African identity, culture and heritage, to focusing on connecting with the African Diaspora and supporting the efforts to promote peace, democracy, intellectuality, growth, development and prosperity throughout the continent.
It is encouraging to see that most of those with whom we started in 1999 are still steadfastly attending and contributing to the proceedings of this Festival and Conference.
The term renaissance was coined by French Historian, Jules Michelet, to mean a re-birth. In the current context, renaissance is a call to collective re-discovery of self by all Africa’s people. Through its association with intellectuality, the term expresses itself in the programmes of innovation, creativity, growth and development. For a society to undergo a renaissance it must accept that it has a task to drive itself out of a negative past. Our African Renaissance means that the time has come for us to re-claim our dignity.
The theme of this conference is: Connecting Africa. It has a sub-theme titled: “Southern Africa’s Infrastructure Development Program and its Continental Perspectives”. In his 2012 State of the Nation Address, the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Mr Jacob Zuma, articulated far-reaching and wide-ranging infrastructure projects which the country is to engage in for many years to come.
These include five geographically focused programs, namely:
The development and integration of rail, road and water infrastructure in the Limpopo province, which is linked to the expansion of rail transport for the transportation of coal in the Mpumalanga province.
Improvement of the movement of goods and economic integration through further development of the Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistics and Industrial Corridor.
Improving the industrial and agricultural development of the Eastern Cape by expanding the Province’s linkages with KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape provinces.
Rolling out of water, roads, rail and electricity infrastructure programmes in the North West province; and
Expansion of the iron ore line along the West Coast of the country.
Concluding his extensive announcement on the infrastructure programmes, the President then said: “Lastly, our infrastructure work extends beyond our borders”, and cited South Africa’s involvement with the North-South Road and Rail Corridor which is an African Union’s New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Presidential Infrastructure Championing initiative.
In conceptualising this conference, we took our lead from the President and the infrastructure planning, development, management, maintenance, operation and promotion programmes of the African Union and its Regional Economic Communities.
We are, therefore, here to declare that the time for individual countries in our continent and the region to act alone is over. Cooperation and partnerships are what we would like to market as founding principles for our transport infrastructure programmes going forward.
The development of transport infrastructure is equivalent to economic and social development, including the free movement of people and goods. Critical to Africa’s development, which is the ultimate expression of the African Renaissance, is promoting connectivity. In line with this thought the people of the continent have embarked on major regional road infrastructure corridors, which are currently underway throughout the continent. These include:
The Nairobi-Cairo Corridor: which connects Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.
The Dodoma-Kigali Corridor: which connects Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
The Lobito-Beira Corridor: which connects Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the DRC.
The North-South Corridor: which connects a total of seven countries in the SADC region.
The Trans-Kunene Corridor: which connects Namibia and Angola.
The Algiers-Abuja-Lagos Corridor: which connects Algeria with Nigeria.
The Nacala Corridor: which connects Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia
The Mtawara Corridor: which connects Mozambique and Tanzania, to name but a few out of some thirteen similar corridors all over the continent
Obviously, there are a lot of infrastructure development initiatives currently taking place in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Southern Africa region. However, there is more to be done. President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as the African Union’s Champion of road and rail transport infrastructure projects on the North-South Corridor, is on record saying that Africa needs to mobilise over R480 billion over the next 10 years for infrastructure development.
The existence of the transport corridors, which are at various stages of the planning, development and management processes, is a clear indication that Africa is now a united entity, poised to improve its global status through cooperation and partnerships. Critical to the deliberations of this conference is to answer the question: What are the implications of this massive investment for the future of the continent and its people.
Connecting Africa: Access and Mobility Foundation
Our experiences in the past fourteen years, as well as our experiences in government has convinced us that the ultimate realisation of the practical renaissance of our continent needs the mobilisation of both government and civil society, including business, around a common developmental goal. We will soon establish the Connecting Africa: Access and Mobility Foundation.
This organisation, to be formed through a public-private partnership, will concern itself with the vigorous development of transport infrastructure knowledge base, engage in leadership development and capacity building programmes for the transport infrastructure sector, implement transportation advocacy programmes and facilitate the infrastructure and connectivity dialogue through conferences such as this one, exhibitions as well as intra-regional people to people travel and tourism.
In promoting the transport infrastructure of the region, the Connecting Africa: Access and Mobility Foundation will also focus on the issues of engineering, education, enforcement and transport and society - as intricate parts of a successful transport infrastructure programme. It will publish vigorously, establishing a network of regional scholars in the fields of transport, tourism, sociology, development and anthropology, among others, so as to promote a better complementary connectivity among the people of our region through better self - knowledge.
It will benchmark itself against the best similar organisations around the world. It will be the brain child of this assembly of the African Renaissance. To kick start the process of setting up the Foundation, we will call a special African Renaissance colloquium before the end of September, 2012, where the details of the organisational structure will be discussed. Primary among the issues to be raised is the implementation of the SADC protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology, which carries all our aspirations for access and mobility in the region.
Economic Targets and Millennium Development Goals
Programme Director, ladies and gentlemen, Africa is in urgent need of new measures and interventions to plan, develop, manage, maintain, operate and promote the transport infrastructure in the continent in general and in the SADC region in particular.
A better planned, developed, managed, maintained, operated and promoted transport infrastructure in the region can only enhance our meeting of the regional economic targets and the Millennium Development Goals. The interventions in the transport infrastructure should be supported by interventions in other forms of infrastructure like energy, water, and information and communications technologies (ICTs).
In a 2006 report of the Experts Meeting on Promoting and Financing Transport Infrastructure in Africa, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) calls for “partnerships to facilitate private sector participation, a redefined role of the public sector, local community participation, regional and continental organisations as well as international donor involvement”, which will see a more coordinated and sustainable manner of planning, development, management, maintenance and operation of Africa’s transport infrastructure networks.
The OECD also notes general lack of local skills and capacity among potential local investors. Transport infrastructure is widely recognised as being significant for facilitating investment, trade, growth and poverty alleviation. The OECD concludes that Africa’s transport infrastructure programs need vigorous promotion - including project appraisal, capacity building and partnerships.
In the Aviation sector such a spirit of cooperation and partnerships is reflected in the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1988 whose aim is to create an environment conducive to the development of intra-African and international air services in Africa. Although the implementation of the Decision is slow, one of the immediate results is that the growth rate of Africa’s share of air traffic remains higher than the global average.
Africa has a total coastline of 30, 725 kilometres, and has 90 major ports. Africa’s Maritime transport accounts for 92% of Africa’s international trade. However, as a challenge and opportunity for growth, Africa’s ports handle only 6% of global maritime traffic. Only six ports – three in Egypt and three in South Africa - handle 50% of Africa’s container traffic.
Dwell time for vessels remains a challenge, with the average dwell time for major ports being around eleven days. In the extreme of dwell time is the port of Douala in Cameroun where, as NEPAD reports, the average dwell time is 19 days; while on the other extreme Banjul and Durban’s dwell time is averaged at 5 days.
While private sector investment in Africa’s transport infrastructure remains low, Africa’s rail sector has been boosted by the emergence, since 1995, of railway concession agreements between governments and the private sector, as evident in such countries as Cameroun, Gabon, Madagascar, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Senegal and Mali. Various rail concession proposals are being considered in South Africa.
Inland water transport is active in such major rivers as the Nile, the Congo, the Niger, the Senegal and such lakes as Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi.
A communiqué promoting the recently held Africa Infrastructure Exhibition and Conference noted that Africa is emerging as a market with huge business potential. The continent has registered a real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annual growth of 5.5% from 2002 to 2010. Africa is also noted for its rapid urbanisation, which makes the infrastructure sector the most rapidly growing market sector.
It is also equally projected that capital investments in Africa, which includes infrastructure development, are expected to reach 150 billion US Dollars in 2015. The World Bank focuses that Africa is on the brink of an economic take off.
African Governments and the African Union’s Regional Economic Communities remain the primary funders of transport infrastructure in Africa. There is also a sizeable amount of donor funding. SADC, COMESA and the East African Community cooperate on a number of infrastructure development programmes and projects in the area.
According to a report done by Trademark Southern Africa on the North-South Corridor (NSC), pledges of up to 1.2 billion US dollars were made for the implementation of the North-South Corridor and other infrastructure projects during the North-South Corridor Financing Conference in April, 2009. Project funders included the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Private Sector Funding
Private funding in the transport sector remains generally weak. According to a 2006 report evaluating the rail concession system in the continent until recently, participation in railway concessions appears to have been driven more by the desire of firms to control logistical distribution chains or benefit financially from managing large investment programmes rather than earning substantial direct return on their investment.
Actual railways financial performance has been disappointing so far. However, this seems to be more a result of poorly designed concession financial structures, that is, unsustainable debt levels and concession fee payment requirements, than a lack of performance on the part of concessionaires, the report concludes.
Mobilisation of Funding
One of the objectives of the 2012 edition of the African Renaissance Conference is to create a mechanism to locate these projects and future plans, and create a common handbook and database, accessible to, and updatable by, all relevant role players.
To achieve this we need a clear vision, and a five-to-ten year plan that seeks to institutionalise the regional transport infrastructure planning, development, management, maintenance, operation and promotion.
Mauritian scholars, Jameel Khadaroo and Boopen Seetanah, writing in their scholarly paper titled: “Transport Infrastructure and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): Lessons from Sub Saharan African Economies,” note the lack of empirically studied material which focuses on transport recipient country’s transport infrastructure where that would be a factor in attracting Foreign Direct Investment.
The authors decry the fact that most studies on Africa’s transport infrastructure and FDI are almost always cut and paste products from developed countries, and that study samples from developing countries in Africa are either absent or generally neglected by the decision makers.
Africa’s New Narrative
In its 2012 Africa Attractiveness Survey Report, Ernst & Young highlight the need to bridge the perception gap about Africa’s state of readiness to grow and compete with the rest of the world. Introducing the survey, Ernst & Young’s Mark Otty and Ajen Sita write: “ We need to bridge this perception gap by telling new stories about Africa, stories of economic growth and opportunity, democratic progress and human development…We need to re –write the news headlines.”
Ladies and gentlemen, while the details for the Connecting Africa: Access and Mobility Foundation as a centre of knowledge will be further discussed in the course of this conference and in future consultations. It is imperative that when we assemble for the 15th edition of the African Renaissance Festival and Conference in Durban in 2013, we report on the anticipated positive progress about its founding.
In the wake of the transport infrastructure revolution currently taking place in Africa, the time for the Connecting Africa: Access and Mobility Foundation to be launched and activated is now. Let us re-write Africa’s history.
I thank you.
Province Or State