JOHANNESBURG – Africa is selling itself short because it is not investing enough in "softer infrastructure" and there are not enough bankable projects to assist the continent to meet the requirements.
This was the consensus among panel members discussing the "Africa Agenda 2063" at the first day of the Infrastructure Africa Business Investment Forum in Johannesburg.
Brigette Baillie, partner in the project development and finance sector at global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, said that the figure for the "sexy infrastructure" that needed to be developed in Africa as a whole – such as roads, rail, ports and hydro-power facilities – was growing every year and leaving a huge gap between it and the softer infrastructure.
"What we are not focusing on are those softer infrastructure and the utility infrastructure: sewage, water, schools, reticulation of electricity, and that is a huge gap in the African infrastructure story. Unless it is addressed, I don't think we are going to see real development in the sexy infrastructure," Baillie said.
"There is lots of money available but there are not enough bankable projects. There are too many projects with big funding gaps in them. Projects get mired in delays and they take very long time to reach financial close. There are not enough local players or regional players involved in infrastructure projects in Africa, and we need to develop those."