Roundtable Discussion with Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, African Union High Representative

On Monday, April 25, 2022, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) hosted the “Roundtable Discussion with Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, African Union High Representative”. The Roundtable served as an opportunity to discuss Africa's infrastructure agenda and its relationship to trade and investment on the continent. Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa and the Former Prime Minister, Republic of Kenya also shared his views on Kenya and the East Africa regional market.

Opening remarks were provided by Florie Liser, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa. During her remarks, she stressed the impact of the Ukraine-Russia War on global food security. With Ukraine and Russia accounting for over a third of Africa’s wheat imports and 30% of its maize/corn imports, Ms. Liser emphasized the need to promote more intra-African trade and close the infrastructure gap.

Agreeing with Ms. Liser, Rt. Hon. Odinga explained that despite Russia and Ukraine only accounting for $100 million in exports for Kenya, the country and the African continent are still feeling high effects, with rising costs of energy, wheat, sunflower oil, maize, and more. However, he identified the crises as an opportunity to promote intra-African trade with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

As the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development, Rt. Hon. Odinga shared some of the key interventions with which the African Union is approaching infrastructure development. He explained the six-prong approach of development with trans-African highways, high speed rail networks, open skies, energy creation, fiber optic cable connections, and water transport—going into detail of developments in each prong, such as the bridge being built from Congo-Brazzaville to Kinshasa.

However, the most important gap Rt. Hon. Odinga identified is the financing gap, with more than $170 billion needed to finance infrastructure development. He explained the importance of setting up African infrastructure funds, using sovereign funds, insurance funds, and pensions funds to help develop major infrastructure projects on the continent.

Rt. Hon. Odinga identified obstacles in the implementation of infrastructure projects, stressing the need to go beyond feasibility studies to concrete action. He stressed the importance of creating public private partnerships, which require simplification in the structure of deals throughout the continent. He spoke highly of the structure of the AfCFTA, praising the headquarters in Accra for their action in facilitating cross-country development.

The roundtable featured members from CCA and the Africa development community. Attendees included CCA Board Member Kip Ward, CCA Chairman Jeff Sturchio, Citi, Albright Stonebridge, ExxonMobil Corporation, Manchester Trade Limited, Cohen and Woods International, CrossBoundary, GE Africa, GE Health, and more.

Topics addressed in the question-and-answer section included strategies to address the financing gap in infrastructure, the transition of projects from feasibility to bankability, creation of cross-country product standards across the region with the AfCFTA, and more.

Florie Liser, President and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, delivered the closing remarks, emphasizing Africa’s infrastructure progress and improved connectivity across the continent. She expressed CCA’s continued mandate to support the infrastructure development of Kenya and other African nations by continuing to provide a platform for discussions on U.S.- Africa collaboration for economic growth.