Africa’s megacities: infrastructure a key priority

Africa’s expected to have 1.2 billion urban residents by 2050, intensifying the need to develop Africa’s megacities and making infrastructure a key strategic priority.

Episode 9 of the Africa Conversation Series took a closer look at Prioritising Africa’s Megacities, focusing on the challenges surrounding the development of Africa’s next major megacities. Also highlighted was the importance of addressing the challenges, and how to prioritise development to ensure maximum benefits for business and Africa’s growing urban population.

Overcoming infrastructure challenges

Cities contribute significantly to the economic development. While Africa has massive potential for economic growth, infrastructure challenges remain a reality; road and transport infrastructure in particular are an obstacle to business and investment. The opportunity exists for innovative urban planning to improve city systems. What will it take for African cities to solve these challenges?

We’re going through a phase where we’re seeing more infrastructure development plans than at any time in history… These are good plans, but we need proper master plans and to have a clear prioritisation process. Unless there is clear prioritisation, we can’t implement effectively.

Lagos is one of the African cities that fits into the official megacity definition. Wale Shonibare, Director of Infrastructure Finance at UBA Capital in Nigeria explained what works well in Lagos: public-private partnerships (PPPs) where the state is involved in mobilising private sector investment to develop an area.

Funding remains the main challenge in improving and developing infrastructure

It’s a challenge to get funding into these types of projects because people want to invest in a place where they can be sure. The perceived risk profile of Africa is negative, even though it’s a different story on the ground. Funding cities’ infrastructure plans requires partnership – governments can’t do it alone.

Public-Private partnerships bring some advantages – a well-defined risk-sharing process, they bring private capacity, and also assist with the affordability question. While a good starting point, PPPs are not always the answer but bring valuable principles to be used for any project.

Developmental finance also plays a significant role in the development of megacities.Setting up effective infrastructure bases can mobilise long-term funding in emerging markets and provides relatively low-cost finance in the long term. There’s no silver bullet though…

For the full story, read African cities can overcome their infrastructure challenges.

David Okwara

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