Big Cities Infrastructure Prioritisation

Africa cities face significant challenges in infrastructure delivery and management. At the same time, the demands on urban infrastructure and service delivery have never been greater.

Cities are burdened with aging and failing infrastructure in some areas on the one hand, as well as huge development and service delivery needs in previously disadvantaged areas on the other. In many cities across Africa, government institutions that are charged with the responsibility of delivering and maintaining infrastructure have become stretched by skills shortages and increased maintenance responsibilities. Regular long term reinvestments and refurbishment schedules that is required to maintain infrastructure assets have not been adhered to. Moreover, many assets are being utilised beyond their planned lifespan and are being employed to service much greater population densities than originally planned for.

Investment in key infrastructure projects is needed

Infrastructure delivery targets outlined in the National Plans and Visions across Africa Cities require large sums to be invested to further social, economic, service delivery and capacity goals. Cities’s have a large database of proposed infrastructure projects with the need to select the best infrastructure projects to meet their goals. While Cities need to ensure alignment with National Plans and Visions priorities, they also have their own mandates from the electorate, as well as City-specific needs. At the same time Cities need to ensure system integrity is managed, and sectoral backlogs and capacity requirements are met.

In addition to this, Cities also need to select the infrastructure projects that deliver the greatest benefits, with the least risk, as affordably as possible. And at the end, Cities need to select the infrastructure projects that will contribute most to the community and the sustainability of the City over the long term.

Concerns regarding the prioritisation processes

While many acceptable infrastructure projects are proposed, there is some difficulty in prioritising the project implementation. Cities have expressed the following concerns regarding their prioritisation processes:

  • Short term infrastructure projects are favoured over long term infrastructure projects
  • Sustainability goals are not considered holistically
  • Political  interests bias decisions
  • Risks are not adequately accounted for
  • Economic impact is poorly evaluated
  • Funding and financing of infrastructure projects is not adequately assessed
  • Operation and maintenance costs are not properly evaluated or included in the capital budgeting process
  • Project dependencies and localization criteria are not suitably incorporated

The key challenges

Cutting across these planning weaknesses are some key challenges in resources, processes, systems and institutions.

  • Shortages in skilled planning staff and or time available to undertake the process
  • Limited technical resources
  • Short term planning and budgeting horizons
  • Silo planning between departments
  • Weak project planning processes and systems

Within these challenges and weaknesses identified, Cities need to prioritise the infrastructure projects that are most strategic and generate the greatest impact in terms of economic growth and sustainability.

What are your views on the prioritisation processes and do you agree with the concerns expressed by the Cities?
David Okwara

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