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African Union to set up infrastructure fund for continent




Raila Odinga, former Prime Minister of Kenya and High Representative of the African Union (AU) for Infrastructure Development in Africa, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Nairobi, Kenya 18 February 2021. REUTERS / Thomas Mukoya

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Duncan Miriri

NAIROBI (Reuters) – The African Union is setting up a fund to fund the construction of much-needed roads, railways and power plants on the continent, its head of infrastructure said, turning to new sources of money due to donor fatigue and levels high debt.

The continent has an annual infrastructure funding deficit of $ 60 billion – $ 90 billion, the AU says, making it difficult for the body to advance its goal of integrating different individual markets into a single, free trade area. .

Africa is financially hungry over the need for infrastructure development, Raila Odinga, the AU High Representative for Infrastructure, told Reuters.

The 55-nation AU is now turning to sovereign wealth funds, insurance and pension funds in countries like South Africa, Angola, Nigeria Morocco, Egypt and Kenya, to raise money.

The funds will be invited to invest about 5% of their holdings, said Odinga, which will actually be more profitable for those institutions, rather than the funds being left empty.

Talks with the funds are ongoing and AU experts are setting up the legal and financial structure for the infrastructure fund, which will be administered by the newly formed African Union Development Agency, Odinga said.

The move addresses the past trend of dependence on wealthy donor nations and borrowing from financial markets.

China, which has been one of the largest financiers of infrastructure projects on the continent over the past decade, has cut lending due to high levels of debt among individual nations like Kenya.

Now we are trying to think outside the box, Odinga said.

The quest to find new ways to finance the construction of roads and railways and other enterprises comes as Africa seeks to bring together 1.3 billion people in a $ 3.4 trillion economic bloc known as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) ).

This infrastructure is urgent for the implementation of AfCFTA, otherwise it will simply remain on paper, Odinga said.

It was critical to connect landlocked nations with ports along coastlines and the full missing links to transcontinental highways, to facilitate the free movement of goods under the AfCFTA and lift people out of poverty, he said.

Africa needs to trade with itself, Odinga said, citing figures showing that intra-African trade is only 15%, compared to intra-European trade levels of 70% and 50% in Asia.

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