Experts mull common strategy for Africa to work with non-African countries

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Mapping Africa

The UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Union (AU) Commission on Thursday stressed the need for the Africa to have a common position to better benefit from international partnerships working on infrastructure projects across the continent.

“African countries are among the least competitive in the world, and infrastructure appears to be one of the most important factors holding them back,” UNECA and AU said on Thursday during the ongoing Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA-2019) week, which is being commemorated across the continent from November 25 to 29.

As the African continent mulls a common strategy for infrastructure partnerships with non-African countries, experts and policymakers also singled out the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) as one of the very few existing external partnerships with non-African countries in the infrastructure sector.

Atef Marzouk, Head of energy Division at the AU Commission, who highlighted some of the few existing external partnerships such as FOCAC, as well as other similar cooperation schemes with the European Union, the G8 and the G20, also emphasized the need to forge similar partnership modalities.

The FOCAC was founded in 2000 and its membership had grown to have China and 53 African countries having diplomatic relations with China as well as the African Union Commission, according to the FOCAC website.

Under the FOCAC framework, there are regular consultations at ministerial and senior-official levels, and sub-forums on business, youth, health and poverty reduction, and many others.

Robert Lisinge, Chief of Energy, Infrastructure and Services Section at the ECA, also stressed that “most of the non-African partners have principles and strategies that shape their engagement with Africa on its regional infrastructure development.”

Lisinge also stressed that Africa needs a strategy for partnerships with non-African countries and organizations, as he noted that the continent “currently does not have a common strategy to engage with external partners.”

The strategy should indicate how the partnerships will contribute to national development and job creation and facilitate technology transfer as well as the skills transfer among other benefits, according to Lisinge.

Towela Nyirenda-Jere, Principal Program Officer of Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade at the AU Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), said that over the years, Africa has formulated common positions in many other sectors such as peace and security.

“The lesson from the experience we had in the past will inform the common position on partnerships,” Nyirenda-Jere said, adding that the current way in which Africa negotiates and engages in the partnerships with external organizations and countries is “very fragmented.”

The AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Amani Abou Zeid, also stressed that the development and provision of efficient infrastructure services will provide a crucial platform for Africa to enhance economic productivity, facilitate trade, and accelerate industrialization and markets development at the national, regional, continental and global levels.

The call was also shared by African experts and policymakers attending the PIDA week, as they emphasized the need to have a common African strategy for infrastructure partnerships with non-African countries, in which the 55-member pan African bloc and the ECA also urged to “step up ongoing efforts to develop strategy.”

In addition to crafting a common African strategy for infrastructure partnerships with non-African countries, experts and policymakers attending the annual continental infrastructure development week also echoed the need to augment financing of cross-border infrastructure projects as a key driver of Africa’s regional integration ambition. Enditem

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