COMESA urges Member States to intensify infrastructure programmes

 The Ministers in charge of Infrastructure called on the States of the region to intensify programmes to modernize and maintain infrastructure, adopt and implement comesa transit instruments in order to improve the efficiency of transport corridors.

At their 12th joint meeting held virtually, the Ministers responsible for Transport, Energy and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) recognised that the glaring infrastructure gaps in the region are a top political priority.

Estimates by the African Development Bank (2018) put the annual infrastructure financing gap at between USD 68 billion and USD 108 billion across the continent.

In their resolutions, Ministers invited Member States to seize the funding, technical assistance and capacity building opportunities available under the Regional Infrastructure Finance Fund (RIFF) of the World Bank and other development partners to help fill this major gap.

RIFF is one of the last major infrastructure financing mechanisms developed in August last year, aiming to extend long-term financing to private companies operating in selected infrastructure sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa. It has two components: the USD 10 million grant to COMESA to provide technical assistance and capacity building to member States, with a particular focus on the private sector. The second component is a USD 415 million loan to the Trade and Development Bank of Eastern and Southern Africa – TDB – for infrastructure projects covering renewable energy, ICT and transport, as well as a technical assistance facility.

The Minister of Transport, Tourism and Meteorology of Madagascar, Mr. Joël Randriamandranto who chaired the meeting, said that the infrastructure deficit must be reduced if the region hopes to accelerate regional economic development.

“Our region has found itself in this regrettable situation due to the lack of resources, both financial and technical. It is therefore imperative that we mobilize adequate resources to address this challenge in line with national and regional priorities,”

he said.

In their decision on the facilitation of transit infrastructure, ministers urged Member States to connect border crossings to the national electricity grid or to install emergency power services in order to reduce downtime due to load shedding and power cuts. They called for all services working at border crossings to be harmonized by adopting integrated border management systems (IPF) to complement the efficiency of single window border posts (SEMP).

In addition, Ministers invited Member States to deploy regional ICT instruments such as the Corridor Vehicle Tracking System –SVC–– in order to strengthen data and information sharing, improve regulation and progressively digitise border transactions and avoid paper transactions that are easy to falsify and are a vector of Covid-19. The system will ensure that information on operators, vehicles and drivers is readily available along regional transport corridors, on roads and at border crossings for all regulatory and law enforcement agencies.

In her speech, COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe stressed the importance of infrastructure to protect the economy and people’s lives.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings of African health infrastructure, the fragility of the transport sector (especially the aviation sector), the vital role of the ICT sector in maintaining economic and social activities during lockdowns and the implementation of social distancing,”

she noted, citing the SVC as one of the immediate corrective measures to deal with the pandemic.

The Meeting welcomed the technical assistance provided under the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme (PTFTT) funded by the European Union to assist member States in adapting regional surface transport regulations, trade and transit facilitation instruments to national legislation and in implementing them.

They noted that the failure to implement comesa facilitation instruments is mainly due to the lack of adaptation at the national level and the lack of capacity to monitor and enforce the relevant protocols and ministerial council decisions.

 

By Mwangi Gakunga, Head of Institutional Communication

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