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World Bank ‘to partner with private sector for infrastructure investment in East Africa’

The World Bank is to provide $1.2 billion of funding to support infrastructure development and “improve the competitiveness” of countries throughout the East African Community (EAC).

In addition, the bank said it will provide extra “resources for regional infrastructure through market-driven private sector financing and guarantees”, through the bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga).

The financing will contribute to the EAC states’ planned investments over the next three to seven years and “is additional to large ongoing individual country programmes”, the bank said.

The bank’s country director for Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda Philippe Dongier told an EAC heads of state retreat in Nairobi: “We are partnering with the EAC governments, other development partners and the private sector to invest in regional infrastructure and to help deepen policy integration and reduce barriers to trade in the EAC.”

Dongier said the bank is “preparing investments to revive the region’s inland waterways” on Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika. Financing will also “enhance the capacity and efficiency” of the two main EAC ports on the Indian Ocean at Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania and Mombasa in Kenya, Dongier said.

Investment in transport will “better connect landlocked countries” including Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan to the northern and central corridors, which would improve the countries’ access to the ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam, Dongier said.

According to the bank, the discussion on infrastructure development and finance “focused on policies and reforms necessary to strengthen regional integration through enhanced efficiency of infrastructure investment and financing”. Heads of development banks and regional economic communities, high commissioners, ambassadors and private sector leaders also took part, the bank said.

The IFC is already working with private sector partners to invest more than $1 billion annually in sub-Saharan African infrastructure to spur economic growth and improve living standards, IFC’s director for Eastern and Southern Africa Oumar Seydi said.

However, Seydi said: “IFC intends to do more to support ports, power, rail, transport, and other key infrastructure projects in the EAC in the years ahead.”

The IFC said it has an existing portfolio of more than $1bn in EAC countries supporting sectors such as finance, infrastructure, manufacturing, services, and telecommunications. IFC’s infrastructure portfolio in East Africa includes investments in Kenya Power and Lighting, Thika Power and Gulf Power in Kenya and the Bujagali hydropower project in Uganda.

Miga’s portfolio in the EAC includes 11 projects, “amounting to a gross exposure of $550 million”, the agency said. Miga said its support for the energy sector includes guarantees for independent power producers in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

A report published this year by the International Monetary Fund said Kenya’s medium-term growth prospects are favourable, supported by rising infrastructure investment in energy and transportation and the expansion of the East African Community market.

Last October, the African Development Bank Group approved a $40m 10-year line of credit for a series of projects including infrastructure and manufacturing in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

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