African governments should invest in infrastructure development in order to boost intra-Africa trade, an African Union envoy said on Tuesday.
Raila Odinga, AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa told a regional forum in Nairobi that the continent’s infrastructure gap continues to remain wide and has thus stifled the region’s socio-economic growth.
“To realize our potential in intra-Africa and regional trade, we must invest in appropriate transport, energy and information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure as a matter of priority,” Odinga said during the forum on regional infrastructure organized by Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The three-day event that kicked off on Tuesday brought policymakers from the IGAD member states of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda to discuss the implementation of the IGAD Regional Infrastructure Master Plan (IRIMP).
Odinga decried the continent’s slow pace of action on infrastructure, which he said, is the most important enabler of trade among African nations.
He revealed that trade liberalization policies alone will not be sufficient to drive intra-Africa trade.
According to the AU envoy, delivery of infrastructure on a regional scale remains the best option to spur trade and manufacturing that creates jobs.
Odinga, who is the former Kenyan prime minister, observed that only regional integration will link the landlocked countries on the continent to the external world and open them up for trade and investment.
He added that regional infrastructure projects need to be incorporated in national development plans and also prioritized in regional economic communities (RECs) infrastructure master plans.
“Infrastructure projects that cut across national boundaries and are regional can all be developed simultaneously, with each country committing to do its part while the RECS provide supporting and coordinating roles,” he said.
Workneh Gebeyehu, IGAD executive secretary said that although infrastructure development is an expensive undertaking, more is lost by not investing in infrastructure, than it would cost to spend on it.
“This is because, after peace and security, the lack of infrastructure is the second most serious barrier to trade and development,” Gebeyehu added. Enditem