Infrastructure: no excuses for the G20, concrete solutions do exist

The month at the G20 in Cannes a High Level Panel of investment and infrastructure experts – including ONE board member Mo Ibrahim – submitted its report on increasing infrastructure financing in developing countries.

The G20 has made infrastructure one of its priorities this year, and this for good reasons: Recent estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB) put the annual infrastructure deficit in Sub Sarharan Africa at over $45 billion. A lack of decent infrastructure on the continent means poor people too often pay heavily in time and money to access essential services such as healthcare and education – tying achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, 70% of the population has no access to electricity and the majority of rural population has no reliable roads to get to the nearest markets or healthcare. In some countries this lack of infrastructure also reduces economic output by 40%.

According to work by Afrobarometer African citizens and businesses repeatedly place access to reliable infrastructure near the top of their development wish lists. It was for this reason that ONE made a submission to the Panel and the G20. Our key asks were:

The Panel’s report, which was chaired by former Ivorian Minister and current head of Prudential Insurance Tidjane Thiam, highlights how investing in infrastructure should be part of a global growth and development strategy.  They propose concrete recommendations to the G20 on how public funds can be used as a catalyst to raise even greater amounts of private investment for infrastructure in Africa, such as through the Sokoni initiative, which should hopefully allow for greater availability of future public funds to be used for specific pro-poor infrastructure projects.  In addition, even though the mandate of the High Level Panel Report was not to look at pro-poor infrastructure or safeguards, it is encouraging that the report repeatedly stresses the importance of transparency and building local capacity. The G20 should now take forward the recommendations of the panel, and in addition, address the need for investment safeguards such as environmental and social impact assessments to ensure infrastructure projects do not undermine but rather increase poverty reduction.

In response to the report ONE’s Europe Director Adrian Lovett said:

“In the middle of a growth and debt crisis what the G20 needs is concrete ideas to kick-start the global economy. Tidjane Thiam’s report on infrastructure shows how Africa can be part of the solution in driving global growth while addressing some of the constraints to poverty reduction on the continent. Africa is the new frontier for investment and Thiam has shown how public money can be used to leverage significant extra sums from the private sector to address Africa’s Infrastructure deficit.”

“For many people in Africa a lack of infrastructure is not an inconvenience, it is a daily hardship that means reduced access to healthcare, education and jobs. Thiam’s report should kick-start a G20 focus on infrastructure that results in concrete results by the time of the Mexico summit.”