UK-backed African infrastructure projects are ‘pipeline for investment’, says minister

Out-Law News | 22 Mar 2016 | 12:37 pm | 2 min. read

The UK has outlined plans to increase its support for infrastructure development in Africa and encourage further investment on the continent.

The UK's Africa minister James Duddridge told an infrastructure conference hosted by the international and current affairs think-tank Chatham House in London on 15 March: “Infrastructure is a pipeline for money. Airports, railways and roads are all pipelines for economic activity. This requires local knowledge and skills but also global expertise and help to get people and money moving.”

“UK companies have skills and expertise from project design, through planning and implementation,” Duddridge said. “British architects, professional services, legal firms and capital markets are among the best in the world and stand ready to support infrastructure development on the continent.”

Duddridge said there was “no quick fix” for infrastructure challenges in Africa, but part of a new UK-led ‘Prosperity Fund’ for the region, worth £1.3 billion ($1.8bn) over five years, “will be used to help Africa grow out of poverty”.

Duddridge said current UK projects include supporting “critical feasibility studies” for Tanzania’s government “to secure bigger finance through the World Bank”. “With greater funding, Tanzania can improve the port infrastructure and realise the regional trade benefits that will come from improved freight corridors across Tanzania,” he said.

The UK’s Department for International Development is backing a Tanzanian government programme with the World Bank to make the major commercial port city of Dar es Salaam, on Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast, “more resilient to extreme weather events”, Duddridge said.

Duddridge said that on a visit to Tanzania earlier this month he saw "how cities with weak infrastructure are crippled by events as mundane as heavy rain”. “The infrastructure deficit was clearly visible," he said. "The rapid transport system is sadly not yet up and running.”

“The problems of congestion and inefficiency at Dar es Salaam port are well known,” Duddridge said. “That is why the UK government is helping Tanzania unlock the potential of this maritime gateway and supporting Trademark East Africa to work on the immediate congestion problems.”

In addition, the UK is continuing its ‘High Level Prosperity Partnerships’ (HLPP) programme with Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania, which Duddridge said “place the private sector in the driving seat of economic transformation”.

In Tanzania, supported by the HLPP, the UK said it is “the leading investor (35% share) and has the second largest development programme (£150m in 2012/13, rising to £200m in 2014/15)”.

Under the HLPP in Cote d’Ivoire, the UK said it is working with authorities “to establish a globally competitive mining code to attract responsible investors, provide UK education for future leaders in the country’s promising hydrocarbons sector, facilitate access to London’s financial expertise to support development of the Ivorian finance sector, including access to capital and an enhanced insurance market”.

In Mozambique, the UK said it is “the second largest bilateral donor (over £75m pa) and the largest bilateral budget support donor with a leading role in the development community”. “UK business is well established, we are a top five investor and UK exports are growing fast,” the government said.

The World Bank said last June that it had set aside $100m to help Tanzania increase transparency and accountability in governance and boost public financial management as the country ramps up a series of major infrastructure projects.

The bank said the “first-of-a-kind” ‘open government and public financial management development policy operation in Tanzania, financed with credit from the bank’s International Development Association, aimed to improve public investment management and procurement.

The bank said in a separate report (192-page / 9.21 MB PDF) that a “climate resilience project preparation facility” should be established in Africa to support plans for infrastructure investment, in addition to training programmes for planners and designers.