Building Opportunities: Addressing Africa's Lack of Infrastructure

Editor's Note: This chapter is part of the 2013 Foresight Africa full report, which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year. Read the full report here. 

Highlights

  • In order for African countries to maximize their abundant natural resources in productive ways, they must develop the much-needed infrastructure to serve as the foundation for all wealth-creating activities.
  • African countries will still have to engage in various forms of creative and innovative approaches to secure the funds that they need to build and sustain the necessary infrastructure for development.
  • Some inno­vative approaches may include public-private partnerships, infrastructure bonds denominated in local currencies and commodity-linked bonds, and financial instruments designed to help each country access funds from international markets.

Today, intra- and inter-African trade is being hampered by a lack of appropriate physical infrastructure.  In fact, the failure of many rural inhabitants in African countries to effi­ciently access urban markets via farm-to-market roads has made it very difficult for these citizens to improve farm pro­ductivity through specialization and trade.  Past efforts to improve infrastructure in Africa have too often been hindered by political opportunism and unclear objectives.

John Mukum Mbaku analyzes past and present efforts to increase Africa’s infrastructure capacity.  In addition to smart project planning, innovative financing solutions, and regional cooperation, Mbaku calls for institutions that adequately constrain each country’s civil servants and political elites, and minimize their ability to act with impunity.