Picture: Acting CEO of Trade Invest Africa making a point at the Infrastructure Africa Business Forum as businessman Mr Moeletsi Mbeki and NEPAD's Dr John Tambi listen

JOHANNESBURG - The sixth Infrastructure Africa Business Forum that has ended in Sandton was a success that African countries can build upon for the development of infrastructure in the continent.

The conference was attended by more than 300 delegates from across Africa and was addressed by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, the Zambian Minister of Finance, Felix Mutati, and the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura.

Acting CEO of Trade Invest Africa (TIA), Lerato Mataboge said: "The conference was successful in many ways. It brought together policymakers, ministers, business people and financiers to be in conversation about what we need to do as a continent to deliver on infrastructure development. It provided a platform where regional integration and infrastructure development as delivery mechanisms of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 were discussed."

"It became clear that in order to realise the vision of integrating the continent, we need to focus on building the new cross border infrastructure that is going to connect the continent, not just isolated infrastructure projects. There was consensus that we need to have integrated planning that supports the industrialisation of the continent as well as creating industrial nodes that will justify the infrastructure that we are going to build," she added.

Mataboge said another issue was raised concerning the need to create partnerships between the private sector and government when it comes to mobilising resources to fund infrastructure roll-out throughout the continent.

"Currently 70% to 80% of the infrastructure spending in the continent is carried by government. This is not sustainable. We need more private sector participation in financing infrastructure. There were also creative ways of financing infrastructure development in the continent such as using the pension funds, which was proposed in the conference, compared to the traditional ways of using bank loans."

Delegates attending the conference were in agreement about the importance of the use of infrastructure development to achieve transformation in Africa.

Mataboge stressed that intra-Africa trade cannot be spoken of without intra-Africa investment.

"It was clear that we need to start supporting the African private sector to contribute to the building of the infrastructure, such as provision of steel, to make sure the infrastructure is not built and delivered by foreign companies only. We cannot speak about intra-Africa trade without talking intra-Africa investment."

She also stated that TIA was a partner in hosting the conference due to the fact that it speaks to the mandate of Trade Invest Africa, which is to implement an outward investment strategy to the rest of the continent.

"We are tasked with the responsibility of supporting, mobilising and facilitating the South African private sector and financiers to invest in the rest of the continent.  The key priority areas for investment are those that speak to our developmental integration approach which is anchored on industrialisation and infrastructure development. We support infrastructure development to facilitate and enable industrialisation," Mataboge concluded.