Thursday, February 17, 2011

SADC: New Network to Boost Public-Private Infrastructure Partnerships Launched

A new generation of public-private partnerships (PPPs) can help close Africa’s large and growing ‘infrastructure gap’ estimated at US$31 billion a year. This was the consensus emerging from a meeting “Facilitating Acceleration of Infrastructure Development,” where a new, virtual network of practitioners was launched to strengthen government capacity for conceptualizing and implementing these complex partnerships.

“We are delighted to convene this Forum together with our partners,” said João Caholo, Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, SADC. “Networking among practitioners is a key element of our public-private partnership development strategy for southern Africa because it is only through dialogue and interaction that new ideas can be forged for making sustainable improvement in Africa’s infrastructure.”

The new network comprises over 100 practitioners, financiers, technical specialists, and sector experts all of whom are united by the common objective of developing solutions to bridge southern Africa’s infrastructure gap. The meeting convened by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and held at the Vulindlela Academy, Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), is the first of its type focusing on networking among infrastructure specialists and development practitioners.

Addressing participants at the launch, Admassu Tadesse, Head of DBSA’s International Division, said: “Given the infrastructure backlogs and the limitations of the public sector, there can be no denying that PPPs remain a significant part of the solution to Africa’s infrastructure development problem. The pertinent question is not whether, but rather how to make PPPs happen in a manner that creates a win-win for both the public interest and private partners involved.”

The network will pool technical expertise and knowledge to facilitate successful PPPs, review associated regulatory and policy environments, and explore new financing sources and mixes for accelerating infrastructure development across southern Africa.

“We strongly believe in the power of networks," said Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute. "As a global connector of knowledge on development, the World Bank is committed to providing practitioners with a variety of sources of knowledge and innovation to better tackle Africa's infrastructure deficit for sustainable poverty reduction."

The launch of the new network comes at an opportune time when evidence is emerging about the contributions sound infrastructure makes to poverty reduction, economic growth, and human welfare. A recent study covering 24 African countries, Africa’s Infrastructure – A Time for Transformation, finds that the poor state of infrastructure in Sub Saharan Africa – its electricity, water, roads, and information and communications technology (ICT) – cuts national economic growth by 2 percentage points every year, and reduces business productivity by as much as 40 percent.

The Network holds the promise of becoming a “PPP Academy,” a one-stop shop where policymakers and practitioners can seek and get advice on best international practices relating to PPPs. The network will make full use of the power of the Internet to become a repository of cutting-edge information on infrastructure solutions and resources for building capacity so that national and sub-national governments will be able to better develop, procure and implement PPPs.

The partners in this Forum include the African Capacity Building Foundation, Development Bank of Southern Africa, German Agency for International Cooperation, SADC Development Finance Resource Centre, the National Treasury of South Africa, and the World Bank Institute.