Innovation: The Key to Africa’s 21 Century Infrastructure | Opening Plenary: Infrastructure Conference 2018

For the past two decades, increased investment in infrastructure has been one of the main drivers behind Africa’s economic growth.  However, it is still insufficient to meet the infrastructure needs.  Ramsay Day of USAID noted that reducing the infrastructure gap in Africa must be a critical part of any long-term economic growth strategy.  Day noted that the World Bank estimates that closing the gap between the global average level of infrastructure development would boost African GDP by 2% a year. 

South Africa’s Presidential Investment Envoy, Phumzile Langeni in her keynote remarks described South Africa’s steps in removing investment impediments - making it easier to obtain visas, reducing the cost of doing business through addressing prices for electricity, gas and water, improving performance in the health sector and stabilizing government finances. 

Following Langeni’s speech, CCA President Florie Liser chaired a plenary that included: Acrow Bridge CEO Bill Killeen, Standard Bank Africa CEO Sola David-Borha, GE Africa President Farid Fezoua, Petrolin CEO Samuel Doussou-Aworet, Caterpillar General Manager for MENA David Picard and USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Ramsay Day.  Each panelist gave his/her perspective on what their organizations are doing to close the infrastructure gap.  

Acrow can install 100 bridges in the time it would take to complete two or three ‘normal’ bridges by deploying pre-fabricated and modular structures.   

Standard Bank innovations in financing bankable projects is evidenced by the $5.1 billion rail project to create a transportation corridor between Malawi and Mozambique, and the first commercial financing of off-grid solar generation in Kenya.   

GE cited their work with the Kenyan Government where they run and maintain hospital equipment and provide training to staff – helping to increase access to medical services by 50%, reduce costs for services like x-rays by 30%, and reduce expensive referrals to Nairobi for consultations by 35%.   

Petrolin described their $6 billion Backbone project in Benin to open a transportation corridor to Niger, which will service both oil and commercial products.  This project is already helping reshape the region’s infrastructure and spurring growth in several sectors.   

Caterpillar has designed purpose-built products for its African customers, while also bringing in a new company, Caterpillar Finance, to address specific needs.  Cat has also set up an e-learning program, Technicians for Africa, which has more than 20,000 people enrolled in 27 countries.