Ministers of infrastructure have called on regional States to scale up programmes to upgrade and maintain infrastructure and facilities, adopt and implement COMESA transit instruments to improve transport corridors’ efficiency.
In their 12th joint meeting conducted virtually, today, June 2, 2021, 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.
Estimates by the African Development Bank, (2018) places the annual infrastructure funding gap at between $68 billion and $108 billion across the continent.
In their communique, the Ministers invited Member States to take up the financing, technical assistance, and capacity building opportunities available under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Facility (RIFF) of the World Bank and other development partners to help address the gap.
The RIIF is one of the latest major infrastructure financing facility signed in August last year aimed at expanding long-term finance to private firms in selected infrastructure sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa. It has two components: US$ 10 million grant to COMESA to provide technical assistance and capacity building to member states, with 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.
Madagascar Minister of Transport, Tourism, and Meteorology, Hon. Joël RANDRIAMANDRANTO, who chaired the meeting 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 mobilize adequate resources to address this challenge in line with national and regional priorities,” he said.
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. They called on all agencies working at border posts to be harmonized by adopting Integrated Border Management systems to complement the One Stop Border Points (OSBP).
Further 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.
In her address, Secretary General of COMESA 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,” she said citing the CTMS as one of the immediate remedial response to the pandemic.
The meeting welcomed the technical assistance provided under the Tripartite Transport Transit Facilitation Programme (TTTFP) funded by the European Union to assist Member States to domesticate and operationalize surface transport regulations, trade and transit facilitation instruments.
They noted that the failure to implement COMESA facilitation instruments has been primarily due to lack of domestication at national level and lack of capacity to undertake oversight and the enforcement of the relevant protocols and Ministerial Council decisions.