Speech for President J Zuma at the 27th Meeting of the NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC) at the AU Summit

Your Excellency’s

I am pleased to present to you here today copies of the work done to date in terms of the review on the North-South Corridor. Copies of the Report have been provided to all of you on your desks for your information and perusal.

In just a few days’ time, it will be the 94th birthday of that distinguished son of Africa, Tata Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela. Let us reflect on one of his statements directed at all of us. Madiba charged as follows:

“We owe it to all people of the continent, to ensure that they see in us, all of us, not merely elected leaders, waxing lyrical about development, but as the front commanders in the blast furnaces of labour, productive investments and visible change.”

It is this visible change that we are after here today as we analyse and determine the way forward on the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative.  In this regard, our analysis provides a scoping of the projects constituting the North-South Corridor to date, highlights progress made and some specific achievements, and, most importantly, looks at various constraints, challenges, bottlenecks, and missing links impeding implementation.  In this regard, the missing links focus is on road, rail, ports and one stop border posts, while the bottlenecks listed are both physical and non-physical.  A way forward is suggested and a matrix of projects is provided, including an attempt to identify 19 priority projects and a shortlist of the top 9 priority projects.

The suggestion is made that, as we move forward, we look further than just the transport infrastructure to extend the conception of the Corridor to being a developmental Corridor in the true sense of the word.  This would entail bringing energy infrastructure into the mix, and, most importantly, using the Corridor to promote industrialisation.  This will involve factoring in the use of local and regional supply and value chains for North-South Corridor projects.  A strategy for the coordination and involvement of national, regional and continental suppliers needs to be developed in this regard.

Your Excellency’s

Specifically on the North-South Corridor, as currently conceived (being Durban to Dar-es-Salaam), there are 157 projects in various stages of the project life cycle, as follows:

  • 59 road projects
  • 38 rail projects, and
  • 6 bridge projects.

When we last met, I pointed out that it was necessary to examine how to make it truly a North-South Corridor by extending the planning from Cape Town to Cairo.  I am pleased to report that the Trans-African Highway Route 4 provides us with the missing link in this regard.  An assessment of the Cape to Cairo Corridor lists 204 projects as follows:

  • 81 road projects
  • 48 rail projects, and
  • 6 bridge projects.

Already there is progress in this regard.  The road from Dar-es-Salaam to Cairo is there. Only a section of about 350km in Kenya has no tarmac. The good news is that contractors are already working on about 250km of the road and it is anticipated that the entire 350km will be ready by 2015.It has been further established that Egypt has almost completed a road between Toshka and the Egypt-Sudan border, and that it is envisaged that it will link up with a section of road in northern Sudan.  We have also been engaging with IGAD on this issue.

One of the key areas in the study requiring attention is the lack of integration of systems that allow the movement of people, goods and services across borders. At many borders there are unnecessary delays due to different systems, a lack of coordination between the officials of the different countries across the border, and weak border infrastructure. Aware of this challenge, we need to implement the necessary policy, regulatory and bureaucratic reforms, as a matter of urgency.

Particularly, this will require interventions at the border post of Beitbridge (Zimbabwe to South Africa). However, there are lessons to be learned from the progress recorded at the Chirundu One Stop Border Post, which has reportedly resulted in a one-third reduction in transit times.  The recent signing of an agreement to facilitate the construction of the Kazungulu Bridge also offers us useful lessons.  This will lead directly to the enhancement of transportation of goods along the regional North-South Corridor.

Another key intervention required is to finalise a Treaty/Agreement that will bind all the respective North-South Corridor states to a common purpose and objective regarding the implementation and roll out of the Corridor projects. This is necessary in order to achieve greater success and accelerate delivery of roads and rail, to deal with the underlying issues of border posts and ports, and to re-invigorate the Corridor.  It will provide an operational framework and an express agreement to bind and commit ourselves to the achievement of certain desired outcomes, including an operational, management structure.  The existing text for an MOU in this regard was problematic for us, but I will shortly be submitting proposals to move these matters forward.

There are also a host of other bureaucratic blockages to intra-African trade. These range from tariff and non-tariff barriers, to confusing and onerous licensing systems and multiple and overlapping legal frameworks. These issues must be tackled, not with the view of undermining sovereignty but recognising that trade allows for win-win solutions.

Your Excellency’s, it has often been stated in the past, but it bears repeating that the solutions to all the hard and soft implementation challenges identified lie primarily with ourselves as member states.  The primary responsibility for implementing the infrastructure roll-out and mobilising resources rests with national governments, specifically in terms of sponsoring and promoting cross-border infrastructure projects. Without sponsorship by national governments, the Secretariats of the Regional Economic Communities will not be able to make progress.  Political leadership and the championing of cross-border infrastructure projects remains a prerequisite for success.  We need to take full ownership of the projects and work tirelessly individually and collectively to bring resources and collective will to bear in moving forward.

Secondly, it is self-evident that our regional and continental agencies, both public and private, also have to play a vital catalytic role in the acceleration of infrastructure implementation and delivery. Our main task, therefore, remains to coordinate, cooperate and consolidate the existing AU infrastructure initiatives for high impact and results, and to develop modalities and procedures regarding the enabling environments and funding tools of these institutions. The RECs (together with the NEPAD Agency and the African Union Commission) are vital agents in the coordination of implementation of multi-country, cross border projects and must be capacitated and organised by us, the member states, to perform their mandated tasks in this regard and to capitalise on our respective efficiencies and capacities. This also applies to agencies such as the African Development Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

In doing this, we must also ask ourselves how to best sequence and prioritise our needs for effective networks of roads, rail, bridges, border posts and ports that will bring people, goods and trade together more meaningfully and at an accelerated pace, and what are the trade-off’s in this regard? We must agree on the mechanisms/processes/tools that will assist in ratcheting up delivery, implementation and accountability, in relation to, for example, sharing updates and information as regards progress and bottlenecks.  The respective agencies must generate a sense of urgency regarding what must happen, sooner rather than later, to deal with blockages/hurdles/challenges in respect of this vital Initiative.  There must be a sense of what needs to be done differently to get the results we are so desperately after as a Continent? By way of example, do we need further research to be commissioned that would improve the rate of success and execution on respective projects? Are there sovereign funding constraints? Is it more PPPs that we need? And what about domestic resource mobilisation? What exactly do we need to do differently, now in the next couple of months and years?

Looking at the way forward with regard to adding capacity to the North-South Corridor Project, I am pleased to report, that we have started the process of establishing a Project Management Unit under my direct supervision and control, in order to give effect to our undertaking to make a difference with regard to the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative and the related projects. It will be provided with full-time technical capacity.

Secondly, we will be working on developing a Project Preparation Fund that will seek to consolidate existing project preparations funds with additional financial capacity raised by Government to provide the scale and influence that is required to make an impact.  The Development Bank of Southern Africa already has some expertise in this regard that can be utilised.  Funding on sufficient scale is needed to ensure that infrastructure projects are properly scoped and prepared. We will work towards ensuring that significant funds are made available to prepare and bring these priority regional infrastructure projects to bankability.

Third, I have asked the Project Management Team to develop a “Road Show” on the North-South Corridor to give further impetus to our work on this area of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative. The traversal of the Corridor will be scheduled before the next AU Summit, and I intend to join my Minister responsible for this programme, Trevor Manuel, on the road-show to show our seriousness and to see for ourselves what needs to be done.

Lastly, I will still attempt to convene all the RECS, along with the AUC, the NEPAD Agency, and other key stakeholders, to obtain clarity about the roles and mandates of each, what is being done with regard to infrastructure, and to chart a collective way forward.  This is known as the Technical Task Team.  We will also convene the Ministerial Working Group comprising Ministers responsible for these regional integration and infrastructure projects.  I would like to appeal that we all identify our Ministerial champions in this regard, where it has not been done already. In South Africa, as I have said, Minister Manuel continues to convene, lead and champion the North-South Corridor project and in terms of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative on my behalf.

In conclusion, I am convinced that with the progress made so far, regional and continental integration is not only working well for our Continent, but it also holds out great prospects for increased investment from outside of Africa to support the infrastructure deficits we are trying to address and resolve.

I Thank You.

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