Governments need to review policy on infrastructure development

Was it not George Washington who said that infrastructure development was required to develop your economy. This is exactly why the US is the world number one economy with their infrastructure development priorities. Within the context of the African market we see that there has been an improvement in infrastructure development over the past 10 years.

From a transport and logistics perspective we see that more strategic projects such as port development projects are being implemented along all parts of the coastline in Africa in the North, West, East and South.  

This therefore brings new opportunities to our markets, creating a bigger and stronger trade connection with the global markets. Although Africa has a very small percentage of global trade, the population of Africa is growing beyond one billion and trade will become more and more important for the continent.

Many of the landlocked countries have more port options to trade their commodities internationally. If you take for instance a landlocked country such as Zambia, they have about five port alternatives and in future would have a sixth one on the east coast of southern Africa.  This therefore means that a lot has been done to provide options to optimise the supply chain.

More corridors are being developed and new trade routes are being developed - all to ensure that we reduce the cost of trade and eventually the living cost far away from international markets. This is however up to us as Africans how we improve trade facilitation measures in and between our countries to cut down red tape and other challenges along our borders of trade.

Road infrastructure has been carrying the heavy loads of mining commodities and other goods between Africa and the world markets, but more needs to be done to construct new rail lines to stimulate long-term growth and provide a high-volume trade alternative which is supposed to be cheaper, safer and more reliable for customers within the continent.

I'm one of the frequent travellers who has been fortunate enough to see how some of the new airport infrastructure in Africa has led to new links with new markets as well as created more opportunities. One cannot underestimate the value of good and modern airport infrastructure as it provides the link to new trade connections and opens the door to investors who are looking at new investment possibilities to grow value for their companies.                                                                                                       

Just a few of the airports that come to mind that I've visited the past year are Jomo Kenyatta Airport, Nairobi, Abidjan Airport, Gaborone, Maputo and Addis Ababa. These new and larger facilities have created a better atmosphere for trade and investors and opened doors to new opportunities. Foreign investment can only grow in a country when investors start to see better infrastructure and gain confidence in what they see around them.  With better and bigger airports there are more airline connections that help to stimulate growth and link and integrate the local economies to the global economy.   It is also important for countries to open their skies and allow more networks and connections with new airlines who can provide better connections, but at the same time reduce the cost of flying in Africa and from Africa to the world.                                                                                                            

As we build our infrastructure and we are challenged with critical investment due limited funds and basic priorities from government, we also need to explore how we can set up private public partnerships to develop strategic infrastructure projects in our countries.

So therefore it is important that governments review their focus on infrastructure development as investment in transport and logistics infrastructure in the short and medium term could bring significant value and growth for economies.                                                                                    

Johny M. Smith is currently the chief executive officer of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), a Public Private Partnership (PPP) of transport and logistics stakeholders who jointly work towards developing the various Corridor routes through the Port of Walvis Bay, and facilitating fast, safe, reliable and efficient transport along these routes. He has more than 25 years' commercial experience in the fields of telecommunications, land and sea transportation. He holds a B Comm degree and MBA. He serves as a Commissioner of the National Planning Commission and is director of other Boards as well as chairman of ACMA, which is an alliance for all corridor management Institutions in Africa.