New President for COMESA highlights need for infrastructure

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At the 17th summit of the heads of state and government of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), held in Kinshasa earlier this year, President Joseph Kabila Kabange took over the leadership of the COMESA and outlined his vision for the regional economic bloc. Key is the need to
entrench regional integration, enhance self-sustainability and encourage implementation of policy decisions among member states. 


The outgoing chair, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, emphasised the need for infrastructure development to drive the regional integration agenda and development. According to World Bank estimates, Africa needs US$ 93 billion every year to cover the funding gaps for infrastructure.


Lack of adequate infrastructure in transport, energy and communication and information technology (ICT) remains one of the most significant limitations to economic growth and development in the COMESA region.


On the transport sector, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Uganda, Amelia Kyambadde observed that for every three rural Africans, only one of them dwells within two kilometres of an all-season road. "This has condemned millions of our brothers and sisters to remain trapped in subsistence agriculture because they are unable to reach urban markets." 


The railway network is another sad story. With an area of approximately 12 million square kilometres, COMESA region has a network of 28 000 kilometres of an old colonial era. India, with an area of about three million square kilometres, has 63 000 kilometres of rail.


Concerning marine transport, Sub-Saharan Africa with about 23 ports has a total capacity of around 350 million tons of cargo. In comparison, the Port of Singapore alone handles about 470 million tons of cargo more than all the cargo handled by the Sub-Saharan Africa ports.


The minister described these statistics as depressing and the solution is the mobilisation of resources to close the infrastructure deficit in the region. Key initiatives have been taken, such as the establishment of the COMESA Infrastructure Fund.


Council of Ministers approved the takeover of management of the fund by the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank, commonly known as the PTA Bank, in order to benefit from its expertise in resource mobilisation and management. The bank has already commenced on the
mobilisation of funding for projects valued at $US 6.6 billion.


Studies have also been conducted to inform the operational modalities to establish a regional infrastructure bond for member states. According to Kyambadde, this will be one of the Special Purpose Vehicles to mobilize resources for the development of infrastructure in the region.


"As a logistics company, trading in both eastern and southern Africa, we congratulate President Kabila on his appointment  and look forward to the implementation of the infrastructure plans for this area. As much of our business is conducted by road, we wholeheartedly endorse the need to improve the main trade routes from both a point of maintenance and security," says Michelle du Toit, operations director of Beyond Africa Logistics Consultants.


Beyond Africa Logistics Consultants aims to establish collaborative relationships with customers and suppliers to improve communications and efficiency in the overall management of trade flow logistics from supplier to purchaser, using air, road or sea options. It operates from a dedicated South African and Kenyan office.

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