Infrastructure: Connecting Africa’s Value Chains - 2023 U.S.-Africa Business Summit

On Friday, July 14, 2023, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) concluded its 15th U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Gaborone, Botswana with a compelling Closing Plenary entitled “Infrastructure: Connecting Africa’s Value Chains.” The discussion, skillfully moderated by Benedetta Audia, Partner at DLA Piper, was centered around the public sector’s prioritization of infrastructure and the several approaches including capacity building and sustainable financing to support infrastructure projects development. 

Hon. Eric Molale, Minister of Transport and Public Works of the Republic of Botswana in his introductory comments shared that Botswana’s independency has led the government to invest in roughly 15,000 kilometers of paved roads, build more schools in addition to other projects to promote the country’s infrastructure. However, there is a greater need and demand for the public sector to deliver more projects, noted the Minister. Echoing Hon. Minister Molale’s views, Tshepidi Moremong, COO of Africa50, touched upon her institution’s role in addressing the need to accelerate infrastructure development and their work with African government, shareholders, and private sector through project financing totaling about $1 billion. 

Regarding the topic of value chains, Admassu Tadesse, President and CEO, Trade and Development Bank discussed competitiveness in terms of the cost of energy, and efficiency of transportation logistics. Technology and connectivity such as fibre cables across the continent are important to support these projects. Moreover, Mr. Tadesse acknowledged the improvements across Africa and is confident that in 5 years, there will be efficient networks that will allow more investments in agriculture and mining and value addition to support exportations of these products. 

Emphasizing the panelists’ thoughts on creating enabling environments, Bame Pule, CEO of Africa Lighthouse explained that, to attract investors on infrastructure projects and captivate the private sector’s interest, these projects need to be “structured and priced commercially” because private investors want acceptable returns. 

Pertaining to the digital space, Aysha House, Senior Vice President, Congressional and Public Affairs at Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), conveyed that MCC’s emphasis on the use of data to get an “un-biased” sense of a country’s economy and growth in terms of resources available. This can allow for a better grasp on how investments can be targeted, structured, and delivered. However, Aysha stressed MCC’s compact policy regarding its duration and the strict respect of the rule of law. 

Joseph Boateng, Chief Investment Officer at Casey Family Programs and a seasoned professional in the investment sphere, explained that for investment in infrastructure on the continent to be successful, mitigating risks and ensuring profitable returns will attract investors. Additionally, he highlighted that beyond enabling environments, there needs to be a focus on concept, strategies, the benefits, upscaling capacity. “Money will go where money is respected” noted Mr. Boateng. 

Panelists concluded the session by talking about the importance of leadership to ensure agreement on both parties. They also reinforced the emphasis on bringing in private investors, local equity, and making projects more commercial for more structured prices and attractive returns. 

Click here to watch the recorded session.