Bridging infrastructure gap in Africa can boost GDP – World Bank

Albert Zeufack

The World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse says Africa can greatly increase its per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), if it is able to bridge the huge infrastructure gap in sectors of its economy.

The report, which is the 15th Edition of the World Bank’s bi-annual analysis of growth in sub-Saharan Africa, said closing the infrastructure gap that still persisted in sub-Saharan Africa held tremendous potential for increased growth.

Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Pulse, still lags behind other developing regions in virtually all dimensions of infrastructure performance, although trends varied across key sectors. 

The energy sector, road and railroad densities are among the worst performing sectors.

Although access to electricity has more than doubled during the period 1990 to 2014, only 35 per cent of the population has access to electricity. Road density also declined during 1990 to 2011.

“By contrast, telecommunications infrastructure has improved dramatically; the number of fixed and mobile phone lines per 1000 people increased from three in 1990 to 736 in 2014, and the number of internet users per 100 people increased from 1.3 in 2005 to 16.7 in 2015.”

Albert Zeufack, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, said the gains made in telecommunications infrastructure had been made on the back of technology, high political will and the right kind of regulatory reforms.

He said it was important for countries in sub-Saharan Africa to look at how to replicate this success in other sectors.

“If we could replicate this success in other aspects of the infrastructure sector, the impact would be absolutely phenomenal,” he stated, adding that closing the gap in energy and road/railway infrastructure would yield the greatest benefits.

Africa’s GDP growth will increase by 1.7 per cent per year if it is able to catch up to the median of the rest of the developing world and 2.6 per cent per year, if it was able to close the infrastructure gap relative to the best performers.

He explained that closing the gap in electricity generation in Africa alone would put sub-Saharan Africa on its way to catching up with the rest of the developing world. 

“We need to continue the reforms of the regulatory framework that would lead to crowding in more private sector because our governments will not be able to finance the needed infrastructural investments on their own budgets; we need to create the right environment for the private sector to invest in our countries,” he stated.

Mr Zeufack said African governments needed to enter into more public private partnerships to ensure the Africa catches up with the world.

Punam Chunam-Pole, Lead Author of the Africa’s Pulse Report, stressed the need for investments into infrastructure, especially public investments, to be efficient, saying efficiency was as important as the investments itself.

She said in order to ensure efficiency, it was important to look at the quality of institutional and regulatory frameworks, as well as beef up procurement, selection and implementation capacities.

Source: GNA

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