Across the continent, it has been estimated that infrastructure inefficiencies cost billions of dollars annually, stunting African GDP growth. As a response, improving infrastructure across the continent is now regarded as a continental priority.
On 25 and 26 August, Stephanie Booker of Natural Justice attended the launch of the report "Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa - High Ambitions, High Risks".
The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, or PIDA, is the scaling up of infrastructure development across the continent, incorporating the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Infrastructure Master Plan of the African Union (AU) "in a single, inter-regional, and overarching framework for infrastructure development in Africa". PIDA is regarded as a strategic framework until 2040 in order to develop cross-border infrastructure in four key areas (energy, transport, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and trans-boundary water resources.
The main purpose of PIDA is to "strengthen the consensus and ownership of large cross-border infrastructure projects that integrate energy, transportation, and water development on a continental scale". PIDA is being spearheaded by the African Union Commission (AUC), NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency and the African Development Bank (AfDB), and is also supported by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Africa's Regional Economic Communities.
Supported by Heinrich Boll Stiftung, the South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA) and the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation at the University of Pretoria, the study focusses on the challenges of infrastructure as an aspect of development, and assesses the efforts undertaken by PIDA, African policy makers and external actors to overcome these challenges.
The launch and workshop, attended by academics, civil society, and representatives from AfDB, UNECA, Development Bank of Southern Africa and others, provided interesting insights into the different perspectives a large-scale infrastructure programme such as PIDA provides. Topics of discussion included: whether PIDA is a model for structural transformation on the continent; interrogating who the motivations for such a programme; discussing and redefining infrastructure project selection criteria and financing infrastructure development
It was an interesting and engaging workshop encouraging larger questions about the safeguards in place (or lack thereof) to support the protection of community rights in light of such a large programme.