Intervention by His Excellency, President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma, during the AU/NEPAD Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 26 January 2013
We meet on this 50th year of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity under a positive and optimistic climate.
Africa is on the move. It is no longer characterised as hopeless, but rather as the Continent of Hope and Opportunity. The continent is now the world’s second fastest growing region, boasting higher returns on investments than anywhere else.
This feeling of optimism and opportunity is primarily premised on boundless natural resources, a high percentage of available arable land, a very youthful population and a growing middle class with purchasing power.
Africa has bounced back rapidly from the global economic crisis, despite the on-going European financial crisis and a fragile economic recovery in the USA.
Continental growth rates of over 5% are consistently being achieved, exceeding the global average.
These developments highlight Africa’s simultaneous resilience and vulnerability to global economic developments, with regional variations.
Africa remains one of the most diverse regions of all, with massive economic, social and cultural disparities overlaid with political complexity.
The investment environment from one African country to the next is vastly different.
We cannot change our past, but we can, and must, shape our future and construct a new economic and development paradigm.
And we will do with great optimism as we can see the progress that Africa is making currently.
To achieve our developmental goals, we have to secure regional and continental integration, primarily by addressing the infrastructure deficit.
We will be able to address poverty, unemployment and under-development much better and faster, once we achieve integration and develop the infrastructure we need to ensure connectivity and move people and goods faster and easier.
Fortunately, we are prioritising intra-African trade already. This matter has been discussed at length at a previous AU Summit.
Fortunately we have the diagnosis, research has been conducted and we can also see for ourselves why we need infrastructure, regional integration and also to boost trade amongst ourselves.
Last year, a World Bank report indicated that African countries are losing out on billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of inadequate infrastructure and poor intra-African trade.
Some of the dramatic infrastructure deficit stories is the fact that thirteen African countries have no operational rail infrastructure.
Other challenges that we are attending to, which need more urgency include the following;
- Delays in moving goods across borders within and between regions.
- Delays at African customs, which on average, take longer than in the rest of the world.
We must also continue addressing issues of high volumes of paper-work to be processed, high cost of clearing goods at borders as well as cumbersome visa requirements for the movement of people.
Due to these challenges, the costs of moving freight on African roads are rated to be at least four times more expensive than other developing regions. Travel between African countries is not only costly, but lengthy.
Therefore, Excellencies, our pre-occupation with infrastructure development is definitely not misplaced.
It is for all these reasons that we decided to adopt the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa and the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative.
PIDA calls for an acceleration in infrastructure provision, while we have identified certain Heads of State to champion priority infrastructure projects to give strategic political impetus to this process.
In this regard, and in line with the AU Assembly Decision on NEPAD taken at the July 2012 AU Summit, I have this morning met with my PICI colleagues to assess progress in meeting our mandate as PICI champions, and to discuss achievements, challenges and lessons learned.
We have agreed that constant coordination and communication between ourselves, our implementing authorities and key African institutions is vital.
We are agreed on the need to talk more often about issues of implementation, information feedback and accountability frameworks.
Furthermore, we are agreed on the need to continuously identify the various specific gaps, the missing linkages, and the critical interconnectors on all the PICI Projects so that we may bring our collective energy and capacity to bear to address these.
We should continue mobilising amongst ourselves as Heads of State to provide strategic political impetus to tackle problems, both hard and soft.
We are agreed on the need to mobilise resources domestically and internationally to ensure the implementation of projects.
Turning now briefly to the North-South Road and Rail Corridor, as the champion of that project under PICI, your Excellencies will recall that I distributed a comprehensive Report on progress in the implementation of the project at the last AU Summit in Addis Ababa in July 2012.
I will be submitting such a report on an annual basis, but I felt that I should update you on some key elements arising from the Report, as captured in the AU Assembly Decision on NEPAD of July 2012.
In my July Report, we identified 9 priority projects. Seven of the nine are now in pre-finance phase, while two are fully funded and in implementation phase and only require monitoring going forward.
Therefore, we are replacing these with two more projects from the subsidiary list of 19 projects that were identified in my Report.
We are in the process of finalising negotiations for a Memorandum of Understanding between countries involved in the Corridor, facilitated by the SADC Secretariat; and
We are also finalising the details of a Project Preparation Facility for the North South Corridor, with partners such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
We have prioritised the holding of a Road-show along the North-South Corridor that should be conducted by the time we meet again at the AU Assembly in May;
Lastly, I am happy to report that a meeting of the North-South Corridor Technical Committee of National Focal Points and Experts was held in Abuja, Nigeria on 9-10 January 2013.
A progress report emanating from the meeting is available. I have also been advised that a meeting with relevant RECS has been scheduled for 31 March 2013.
Following this Summit, we hope to convene a meeting at Ministerial level prior to the next AU Summit in May 2013 for a more in-depth discussion of the issues that we raised in this morning’s meeting, in preparation for our next PICI Heads of State meeting.
This will be preceded by another meeting at the Technical level, following on the Technical meeting held in Abuja.
Your Excellencies, it is clear that there is a desperate need to fast-track the implementation of the infrastructure projects under PIDA and the PICI. We require a sense of urgency in this regard, and it cannot be business as usual.
Our success in this infrastructure programme will certainly take Africa to another level.
Given that already the continent is rising, against all odds, we can only improve our competitiveness and build a better life for all Africans faster.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency