Infrastructure initiative garners support from nine African presidents

21st August 2017 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Infrastructure initiative garners support from nine African presidents

Spearheaded by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI), aimed at accelerating regional trade and unlocking the economic potential of the continent, now has nine African presidents on board, with ten projects in the spotlight as Africa continues its infrastructure development drive.

Speaking at the Infrastructure Africa conference on Monday, New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) Planning and Coordinating Agency transport infrastructure expert and PICI coordinator Dr John Tambi highlighted that progress was being made across Africa with the partnerships of country leaders driving long-standing infrastructure projects.

“We are not just talking. Things are happening,” Tambi told delegates on the first day of the two-day conference.

When the PICI was first initiated in 2011, eight projects to be ‘championed’ were identified by seven selected heads of State, who committed to bringing visibility and awareness to the projects, providing political leadership, unblocking political bottlenecks, leading resource mobilisation for project implementation, ensuring speedy implementation and regularly reporting on the projects to the African Union.

One of the latest projects under the umbrella of the heads of State included Kenya’s $24.5-billion LAPSSET Corridor project, which comprises three airports, three resort cities, 32 berths at Kenya's Lamu Port, a railway line, a crude oil pipeline, oil refineries and highways interlinking Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan, with plans in place to eventually connect to Uganda.

Nepad has described the project as one of East Africa’s “largest and most ambitious” infrastructure projects that will link the three countries.

Progress is being made on the initial group of projects, including Algeria’s $102-million Trans-Sahara Highway “missing links” and its attached $80-million, 4 500 km terrestrial optic-fibre project, both running from Algeria to Nigeria.

The Trans-Sahara Highway project, which links an important regional trade route spanning Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mali and Chad, aims to plug the “missing” 225 km road link between Assamakka and Arlit, Niger, which is currently unpaved.

The optic-fibre project, meanwhile, will stretch from Algeria, through Niger to Nigeria, along the Nigeria-Algeria Trans-Sahara natural gas pipeline.

The 4 400 km Trans-Saharan natural gas pipeline project is “championed” by Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nepad outlined that the pipeline is expected to be deployed along a 1 037 km route from Nigeria to the Niger border, and a further 841 km from Niger to Algeria, within and across Algeria, spanning a route of 2 303 km, before ending in Spain 220 km away.

Also on the radar and led by Senegal, the Dakar-Ndjamena-Djbouti project, an 8 715 km road/rail initiative spanning ten countries, is expected to start in 2018, subject to funding, once studies on the $2.2-billion project are concluded.

Meanwhile, a road/rail project in Congo, ready for implementation in 2018, is also a highlight of the PICI.

Congo is currently seeking funding for the Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bridge road/rail project, which will comprise the construction of a fixed crossing linking Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo.

Another project under the PICI is Egypt’s construction of the navigational line between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea aimed at promoting intermodal transport by integrating river, rail and road transport facilities along the Nile Corridor and developing river management capacity.

According to Nepad, the intermodal transport integration will include sections along the Trans-Africa Highway.

Rwanda, meanwhile, has completed and interconnected the five East African Community countries to the sub-marine cables at Mombasa, in Kneya and Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania, with the focus of the project since shifting to a Smart Africa initiative to provide last mile connectivity and to ensure that the benefits of information and communication technology are extended to all regions, urban and rural.

South Africa has continued its work on the North-South Corridor multimodal trans-continental rail/road/port project connecting Cape Town in the south and Cairo in the north.