To fast track regional integration, let’s involve African Presidents !

Africa is a continent of great opportunities, and a destination of choice for many investors and development actors. However, over the past few years, it has become clear (and I have written many times about it on that blog) that infrastructure is vital to the sustainable development of our continent. This is why African leaders had to step in so as to identify infrastructure projects of high developmental impact, and champion them. This proposal has since transformed into the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative which was endorsed and adopted by the African Union Assembly in January 2011 in Addis-Abeba. For the first time, African Presidents have become actively and directly involved in infrastructure development and implementation!

The PICI was born out of a proposal by President Jacob Zuma to accelerate regional infrastructure development enabled through the political championing of projects. The role of the champions is to bring visibility, unblock bottlenecks, co-ordinate resource mobilization and ensure project implementation. This initiative should ultimately unlock the economic potential of the continent and provide development opportunities for regions, countries and our people. Also, it presents the opportunity for African Heads of State and Government to be actively involved in the development and implementation of projects.

Thanks to that initiative, and through the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the African continent continues to make progress in infrastructure development. This is why the PICI forms part of the overall PIDA as it helps implementing important projects from the PIDA Priority Action Plan by identifying and dealing with blockages, missing links and choke-points.

Under the PICI, for example, progress is being made in closing the missing link of the trans-Saharan highway project covering 4500 kilometers between Algeria and Nigeria. Since the project’s completion will make it easier to cross the borders on this route, people and goods will be transported faster and more effectively across the region. The upgrading of the highway will also boost regional integration and trade. Besides, the optic fiber component of the project progresses very well: Algeria, Chad, Niger and Nigeria will soon be connected!

Thanks to the bi-annual HSGOC progress reporting mechanism, we can measure concrete progress on the ground. This is why I can assert that the PICI is without a doubt a valuable developmental initiative and must be fully supported and promoted. For instance, even if governments in Senegal, Egypt and Nigeria changed, the program continued to perform well. This is a positive testimony to the determination to develop infrastructure and promote regional integration.

The PICI initiative puts Africa on the right track towards unlocking its potential. The NEPAD Agency, acting as the secretariat and executing agency of the PICI and working closely with the country focal points of the respective states, the African Union Commission (AUC), the RECs, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), continues to monitor the progress on the implementation of the PICI projects. I have no doubt that the NEPAD Agency, together with our partners and political champions will meet the infrastructure challenges of the continent.

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