The dream of a road that stretches from the Cape to Cairo could soon be realised if President Cyril Ramaphosa has his way.
Ramaphosa has been tasked with championing an intercontinental and transboundary route that will take commuters from Cape Town to Cairo in Egypt.
The route will connect countries like Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia and the DRC as part of the presidential infrastructure champion initiative (PICI).
This project comes on the back of a recent African Continental Free Trade Agreement that was signed by 44 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018.
This agreement will likely be a game changer for future trade and development on the continent.
Strategic concept document
Ramaphosa said South Africa was finalising a strategic concept document that would demonstrate the terms on how he would execute African Union (AU) decisions regarding the manufacturing hub of rail stock.
He also expressed frustration over the slow pace of investment in infrastructural projects on the continent.
Ramaphosa, who is due to take over as chairperson of the AU this weekend, was speaking at a PICI breakfast he hosted in Ethiopia during the AU summit.
The PICI is an initiative championed by former president Jacob Zuma in 2010 to accelerate regional infrastructure development through the political championing of projects.
Ramaphosa said the role of PICI was to bring visibility, unblock bottlenecks, co-ordinate resource mobilisation and ensure project implementation.
The African Development Bank estimates the need for infrastructure development on the continent, coupled with the need for technological growth and generation, amount to about $130bn to $170bn per year.
“As developing countries, we cannot sate our continent’s infrastructure hunger with our limited resources, and it goes without saying that this presents a major investment opportunity for our respective countries.”
To increase funding and investment models, Ramaphosa urged African leaders to be open to various financing models, including public private partnerships, commercial loans, development funding and sovereign bonds.
He added excess savings in many advanced countries could be channelled into financing profitable infrastructure projects in Africa.
‘Risk in Africa is often exaggerated’
“The issue of risk in Africa is often exaggerated. The risk of loss in Africa is lower than in Latin America. Yet, funds are not being channelled into Africa. For example, there are $8tn worth of assets under management in London, but only 1% is invested in Africa.”
In advancing this argument, he said six of the fastest-growing economies in the world were in Africa.
“Foreign direct investments [FDI] to Africa grew at 11% last year, far exceeding the 4% growth in Asia, even as FDI declined by 13% globally and by 23% in developed economies. Africa is diversifying its international partnerships, thus broadening the scope of co-operation with various players. This will create further linkages for us to pursue infrastructure build on a massive scale.”
To mitigate investment challenges, the president promised to host an international financing investment conference “where we will open up the PICI, North South Corridor and fast-tracked projects for investment and take-off as well as a north south corridor road show led by heads of state and our ministers”.