Bringing quality connectivity in Africa through soft and hard infrastructure centred around Strategic Corridors

On April 17th and 18th, 2024, the Africa RISE team, the EU Delegation of South Africa, EU Delegation of Botswana and SADC, and the SADC Secretariat organised a validation workshop on the scoping study report that Africa RISE experts developed on the strategic corridors in Southern Africa to enhance connectivity in South Africa. The study was a request from EUD Botswana and SADC to support the Delegation with identifying soft and hard infrastructure investment projects across two of the 11 Global Gateway strategic corridors: North-South Corridor (Durban to Lubumbashi) and East-West Corridor (Maputo to Walvis Bay).

 

The workshop                    

The objective of the validation workshop was to:

 1) provide stakeholders with a deeper insight into the analysis done by Africa RISE and

 2) review the findings and recommendations of the priority areas highlighted in the report.

Over 100 participants, both online and in-person, had an opportunity to learn and provide their input and feedback on topics such as:

·              Global Gateway and Strategic Corridors by Mr. Sergio Oliete, Head of Unit Sustainable Transport and Urban Development, International Partnerships DG, European Commission

·              Africa RISE Strategic corridors study overall findings, presented by Ms. Barbara Mommen, Trade and Transport Corridor Specialist, Africa RISE

·              Presentation of Soft Infrastructure projects by Mr. Mark Pearson, Trade and Transport Corridor Specialist, Africa RISE

·              Presentation of Hard Infrastructure projects by Mr. Graham Smith, Trade and Transport Corridor Specialist, Africa RISE Consultant.

 

Context

The European Union's Global Gateway initiative aims to strengthen its support to the African continent, aligning with the African Union's Agenda 2063 and the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Area. To achieve this, the EU intends to provide financial backing for the development of quality connectivity infrastructure through multi-country Team Europe Initiatives centred around Strategic Corridors. These are also central to unlocking regional economic integration as fostered by the Regional Economic Communities in Africa and the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and several African countries.

Strategic Corridors

Strategic Corridors are transport systems that facilitate sustainable, efficient, smart, resilient, fair, affordable, secure and safe mobility and trade within Africa, as well as between Africa and Europe. They underpin regional activities through reliable networks and services that create jobs and support value chains that can benefit industries in both Africa and Europe. The corridors of interest to the Global Gateway were selected by the EU after careful analysis focusing on 32 indicators, and they are aligned with the agendas of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Following this analysis, 11 corridors in Africa were selected; two of which are in Southern Africa, namely the North-South Corridor (Durban to Lubumbashi through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and DRC) and the East-West Corridor (Maputo to Walvis Bay & Lüderitz through Mozambique, Eswatini, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia). In 2023, the Lobito Corridor was added as the 12th Corridor of interest to the Global Gateway

Each of the corridors will benefit from the Global Gateway investment in hard infrastructure of up to EUR 100 million in grants for blended finance with a potential for EUR 1 billion leveraged from European Development Finance Institutions and the private sector.

The soft infrastructure connectivity measures would potentially amount to EUR 25 million in grant funding per corridor to ensure sustainable, efficient, smart, resilient, fair, affordable, secure and safe mobility and trade within Southern Africa, and between Africa and Europe.

Objective of the Study

As our consultant Barbara Mommen declared during the event "the foundational principles underpinning the scoping report, are really important.  And these are sustainability, quality connectivity in both hard and soft infrastructure, and regional integration.  While regional integration is a common topic and spoken of and studied at length, it is, at an operational level, far more difficult to implement without institutions and effective partnerships at corridor level. The shift in focus to fast track these issues is pivotal to long term economic benefits for the region."

The objective of the study was to identify investment priorities in both soft and hard infrastructure and connectivity across the two strategic corridors. It covers three areas:

1.           Transport Connectivity which identifies potential priority hard infrastructure investments and possible interventions for funding outlining, where relevant, innovative finance/blending or PPP options with Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) or synergies with private sector.

2.           Trade infrastructure and trade facilitation measures including regulatory frameworks, institutional capacity and support to trade agreements and regimes.

3.           Assessment of strategic objectives that are impacted by inefficiencies and/or bottlenecks along the corridors to assess the potential priority interventions for soft connectivity measures, which identify innovative finance, PPP options and collaboration with European DFIs and Member States.

 

The development of the Strategic Corridors will facilitate sustainable, efficient, smart, resilient, fair, affordable, secure and safe mobility and trade within those regions, as well as between Africa and Europe. It will also promote free movement of people in line with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. They will enable territorial organisation (rural and urban) through reliable networks and services that create jobs and support value chains that can benefit industries in both Africa and the European Union.

 

Pencho Garrido Ruiz, Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU Delegation in South Africa, in his opening remarks used a quote by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “the only constant in life is change”. We have all seen and felt how the world has changed over the past 4 years. We are in the midst of accelerating geopolitical challenges, intense strategic competition and mounting climate threats. And, complicating matters further is a revolution in technology as sweeping as the Industrial Revolution or the beginning of nuclear age. What Heraclitus meant by that quote is that, if a society or country rejects change, there is no growth, no progress. It stagnates. And a lessons learnt from the shocks and defining trends of our time is that the fate of societies and countries depends on the quality and quantity of the infrastructure that connects us all.

 

Sergio Oliete, Head of Unit in the International Partnership Directorate General in charge of Sustainable Transports and Mobility, reminded that the Global Gateway aims to support strategic, sustainable and secure transport corridors and the accompanying value chains, services and jobs that can benefit industries in both Africa and Europe. The ambition by 2030 is to integrate the African and European multimodal transport networks in line with the regional and continental frameworks and tailor these networks to develop the economic potential of the AfCFTA. He concluded the meeting by acknowledging that “there are many valuable recommendations in this report; it is long and dense and need to be digested ; the presentations did really help in understanding better the logistics complexities as well as political dimensions of the corridors … now we have to start formulating with a lots of detail the projects that will be funded by the Global Gateway funds”.

 

 

Key takeaways from the workshop

 

Key issues highlighted are that regional integration requires significant investment in both hard and soft infrastructure, and an intentional mechanism to bridge the gap between policy and implementation through effective and responsive regional institutions. Corridor management is an issue that has been neglected and this has a daily impact on the cost of trade and the cost of doing business.  It must be addressed to ensure that the regional integration imperatives are addressed in these two strategic corridors.

The important emphasis on sustainability, gender equality and accessibility for vulnerable communities in project planning and execution cannot be overemphasised, and these three elements are cross cutting for both soft and hard infrastructure development.

The current challenges within the project preparation environment requires an important shift to a more streamlined and proficient process, particularly for hard infrastructure projects.  This is essential to avoiding the allocation of excessive funds to project preparation which is notorious for delaying implementation and tangible results. De-risking projects and ensuring greater transparency in the early stages of viability discussions are crucial, especially for publicly funded initiatives.

Within SADC the domestication of regional agreements remains a major challenge, and the role of institutions in driving the necessary engagement at sub-regional level, is paramount. Partnerships and the role of organizations which play a cross border and multilateral co-ordinational role are vital for regional program alignment and continued stakeholder engagement.  A significant gap still remains in integrating processes within the public sector and this hinders effective coordination and limits implementation.

Communication and integration between corridor member states, government departments in country, and with the private sector, are essential elements for successful implementation of both soft and hard infrastructure projects. 

The EU's support for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Scoping Report on the East West and North South Corridors will play an important facilitating role in enabling the development of sustainable corridors and value chains in the region.