2024 ECOWAS Investment Forum urges resource mobilization to bridge Africa’s infrastructure gap

The 2024 ECOWAS Investment Forum (EIF) has called for the pooling of resources to deal with Africa’s infrastructure deficit for sustainable development across the continent.

Participants at this year’s forum, organised by the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) in partnership with the Togolese Government and the Government of India through Exim Bank India in Lome, Togo, said the continent’s infrastructure gap was a significant barrier to its economic growth and social development.

The 2024 Forum, on the theme: ‘Transforming ECOWAS Communities in a Challenging Environment,’ focused on stimulating economic growth, creating sustainable jobs, and building resilience in the face of global challenges.

To promote investment opportunities in key sectors of the ECOWAS member states, stimulate economic growth, create sustainable jobs, and build resilience in the face of global challenges such as food insecurity, infrastructure development, and climate change, the EIF 2024 had over 700 participants join
ing physically and some 400 others joining virtually.

The participants, including representatives from various ECOWAS member states, officials from the ECOWAS Commission, industry experts, managing directors and CEOs of financial institutions, said to unlock Africa’s full potential, there was the need to address the glaring deficit in infrastructure through robust resource mobilisation strategies.

Mrs. Kanayo Awani, Executive Vice President, African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIM Bank), speaking on ‘Infrastructure Deficit: Pooling Resources Towards the Development of Sustainable Infrastructure’ said due to its abundant resources and strategic position in global trade and maritime security, Africa continued to play a crucial role.

She said Africa’s young population offered significant potential for labour and the development of innovative projects.

The Executive Vice President said there was a persistent infrastructure deficit, critical for trade and connectivity between various economic stakeholders.

The im
pact of the deficit, Mrs Awani said amounted to between $130 and $170 billion per year, or two per cent of the Gross Domestic Product each year for Africa.

She said the inadequacy of energy infrastructure affects African consumption, with only 30 per cent having access to electricity, leading to a productivity loss of 40 per cent.

‘This leaves 600 million Africans without electricity,’ she added, and expressed optimism that there were solutions such as innovative financing mechanisms, strong regulatory frameworks that encouraged collaboration among others to be explored.

To facilitate investments, Mrs Awani said AFREXIM Bank had established effective guarantee programmes to drive strategic sectors, including infrastructure.

Mr Christopher Balliet Bleziri, Resident Representative, International Finance Corporation, Togo, said there was a need to demystify the concept of infrastructure and focus more on government development and job creation.

He highlighted their role in assisting governments in developme
nt and deployment, particularly in adhering to international standards, and ensuring proper risk allocation.

The International Finance Corporation, he said, had implemented hybrid models that financed viability deficits and another combining the public and private sectors on the same project.

The hybrid models, Shri G. Balasubramanian, High Commissioner of India to Nigeria, said had a significant impact in India, building 280 kilometers in Western India, both the private and public sectors were involved.

‘The viability gap funding is funded 40% by the Indian government. Gold monetization in banks through bond sales has also been implemented in the country,’ he explained.

Mr Siengui Appolinaire KI, Secretary-General, West African Power Pool (WAPP), said regional electricity infrastructure development faced challenges, particularly in finding public-private partnerships.

According to him, it was important to implement Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) with investments and collaborations, while including s
trong government involvement to provide guarantees, generating profits to pay the private sector, and ensuring robust regulation with contracts benefiting all parties to prevent fraud.

Source: Ghana News Agency