MINISTERS of infrastructure within the Comesa region have called on member States to scale up programmes to upgrade and maintain infrastructure and facilities.
This includes adoption and implementation of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) transit instruments aimed at improving transport corridors’ efficiency.
In their 12th joint meeting conducted virtually on Wednesday, the ministers responsible for transport, energy and information, communication technology (ICT), acknowledged the huge infrastructure efficiency gap across the region as a pressing policy priority.
“In their decision on facilitating transit infrastructure, the ministers urged member states to connect border posts to the national electricity grid or install backup power services to reduce down time due to load shedding and power outages,”
said Comesa head of corporate communications Mr Mwangi Gakunga in a media update after the meeting.
“They called on all agencies working at border posts to be harmonised by adopting integrated border management systems to complement the One-Stop Border Points (OSBP).”
Further, Mr Gakunga said the ministers urged member states to deploy regional ICT systems such as corridor trip monitoring systems (CTMS) to enhance data and information sharing, improve regulation and progressively digitise border transactions and avoid paper-based transactions, which are easy to falsify and are a Covid-19 vector.
“The system enables operator, vehicle and driver information to be readily available along regional transport corridors at the roadside and at border posts to all regulatory and law enforcement agencies,”
Estimates by the African Development Bank, (2018) places the annual infrastructure funding gap at between US$68 billion and US$108 billion across the continent.
In their communique, the ministers invited member States to take up financing, technical assistance and capacity building opportunities available under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF) of the World Bank and other development partners to help address the gap.
The RIIF is one of the latest major infrastructure financing facilities signed in August last year aimed at expanding long-term finance to private firms in selected infrastructure sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa.
It has two components: US$10 million grant to Comesa for provision of technical assistance and capacity-building to member States, with a special focus on private sector.
The second is US$415 million credit to Trade and Development Bank for infrastructure projects covering renewable energy, ICT and transport and technical assistance facility.
Meeting chair and Madagascar minister of transport, Joel Randriamandranto, said the infrastructure gap needs to be narrowed if the region hopes to accelerate regional economic development.
“Our region has found itself in this predicament due to lack of resources, both financial and technical.
“It is therefore, imperative that we mobilise adequate resources to address this challenge in line with national and regional priorities,”
In her remarks, Comesa secretary-general, Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe, underscored the importance of infrastructure in protecting the economy and people’s lives.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of the African health infrastructure, the fragility of the transport sector (especially the aviation sector) and the vital role that ICT sector plays in sustaining economic and social activities during lockdowns and implementation of social distancing,”
The meeting also welcomed technical assistance provided under the Tripartite Transport Transit Facilitation Programme funded by the European Union to assist member states to domesticate and operationalise surface transport regulations, trade and transit facilitation instruments.
However, the failure to implement Comesa facilitation instruments remains a major concern due to lack of domestication at national level and lack of capacity to undertake oversight and the enforcement of the relevant protocols.