File Photo: IOL
INTERNATIONAL – Infrastructure deficit gap in Africa poses a serious challenge to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), experts said Tuesday at the annual General Shareholders Meeting of Africa50, a pan-African infrastructure investment firm. 

"The operational phase of the AfCFTA has been launched, but there is inadequate infrastructure development and connectivity in Africa to boost trade, growth and regional integration," said Alain Ebobisse, chief executive officer of Africa50 while speaking at the meeting in the Rwandan capital Kigali. 

The meeting that runs through Wednesday aims to discuss investment opportunities, innovation, partnerships and the future of the Africa's infrastructure. 

 Africa50, which operates as a commercial financial institution headquartered in Morocco's Casablanca, has an investor base composed of 27 African countries, the African Development Bank, the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) and the central bank of Morocco. 

 Africa needs to find disruptive technologies to close the infrastructural gap, said Ebobisse. According to him, poor state of infrastructure connectivity and development in the areas of internet, road, railways and airline transport and energy poses a threat to efficient operationalization of the AfCFTA. He emphasized infrastructure development is key to facilitating the AfCFTA and creating a single economic entity on the continent.

Lack of well developed cross-border roads and railways, international airports and ports, as well as poor internet connectivity remains a serious challenge to smooth flow of goods, people and information across the continent. 

 There is an urgent need to develop innovative financing solutions in Africa that would help in addressing infrastructure gap, said Nathalie Munyampenda, managing director of Next Einstein Forum. 

 According to Carole Wainaina, chief operating officer of Africa50, to achieve effective implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, there is a need to invest heavily in infrastructure development in Africa especially railways, roads and telecommunications. 

 According to the African Development Bank, Africa's infrastructure development needs 130 billion to 170 billion US dollars a year, with a financing gap in the range of 68 to 108 billion dollars. African leaders on Sunday officially launched the operational phase of the AfCFTA agreement at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Niamey, capital of Niger. 

Once fully operational, the free trade accord is projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent by the year 2022, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa. 

 According to the AU, the AfCFTA "has laid the foundation" for what could be the world's largest free trade zone by the number of participating countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of 2.5 trillion US dollars. 

XINHUA