The AfDB is committed to infrastructure development on the continent, writes Joshua J. Omojuwa

If you need a general idea of what continental development plans are in place, attend the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Annual Meetings. It offers a useful glimpse into the continent’s priorities, often reflected in the major projects the bank is committed to. Attending the 2024 meetings in Nairobi during the week has yet again revealed some of the big bets the bank is advancing around its five priority areas; Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and improve the quality of life of the people of Af  rica. These areas, named High5s by the AfDB, are what it sees as the accelerators of Africa’s development.

Except when politics gets on the table, affecting people’s ability to see things clearly, the essence of infrastructural development on economic advancement is a settled one. There is no developed economy that was not built on the back of relevant and strategic infrastructure.

The AfDB’s commitment to infrastructure on the continent is all the more worthy of note because its over $50b investment in infrastructure projects in Africa surpasses every such commitment on the continent by any such institution or development bank by quite a distance.

A glimpse into its more recent commitments reflects what could be on offer in Africa quite soon or at least in the short run. Arise TV’s Boason Omofaye asked Dr Akinwumi Adesina what he thought his legacy would be because he was getting into his final year at the AfDB. The President said that he was not going to dwell on that because he believed he was still at work and considered that in the one year left, he had plenty time to further enhance his legacy.

Dr Adesina is right. The bank is raising $375m for financing a railway project linking Niger Republic and Nigeria. There is also the $3.5b to $5b being mobilised for the development of the Liberty Corridor which would help link Liberia and Guinea. Other projects include the $3.2b being raised for the East Africa standard gauge railway. When completed, this project will connect Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi, further easing the ease of movement of people and goods on that East African corridor. There is also the $500m development of what’s called the Lobito Corridor. This will link Zambia, Angola, and the DRC.

There is more, especially with respect to Nigeria as with partners of the Africa Investment Forum (AIF), about $15.6b is being raised towards the development of the Lagos-Abidjan corridor. The AfDB is with Africa50 working on a $630m construction project comprising road and rail that’d link DRC and the Republic of Congo. The 1000km Highway linking Addis Ababa to Mombasa has already reportedly expanded trade flows between Kenya and Ethiopia by some 400 per cent. There is also the impressive Guercif-Nador highway in Morocco.

These are the latest on the bank’s multi-billion-dollar commitment to infrastructure over the last nine years of the Adesina presidency. In Nigeria, the most popular of such bet on infrastructure does not involve the AfDB but it is no less impressive. Garnering controversies on its path, the 700km Coastal Road is expected to open commercial activities and travel on the Lagos to Calabar coastal corridor in a way never seen in the country. The project has since been flagged-off by President Bola Tinubu and is certain to be an extraordinary addition to Nigeria’s infrastructural development, if executed at the scale it is being planned, and especially if delivered on time.

One of Nigeria’s impressive answers to the infrastructure deficit on the continent is the Lagos Free Zone (LFZ). Owned by Tolaram, a Singaporean conglomerate with over 40 years of experience in Nigeria. LFZ covers an area of 850 hectares and is the first private free trade zone in the country. Designed with the utmost intention to advance the ease of doing business, the infrastructure at LFZ is world-class, much like some of the projects elsewhere on the continent.

Lekki Port, the 90- hectare deep seaport, which sits in Lagos Free Zone also makes the industrial hub a gateway to international markets. The port started operations in April 2023 and is a public-private partnership between the Federal Government, Lagos State, Tolaram, and CHEC. One cannot have a conversation about the promise of commerce and economic prosperity in Nigeria without highlighting the prospects and growth opportunities available at the Lagos Free Zone.

Then there is the Dangote Refinery nearby to reflect the importance of that end of Lagos in the economic development of Nigeria.

 There is a lot to be excited about once you can ensure a balance between what the news serves and the progress that hardly gets in the news.

I was reflecting on account of realizing it had been a decade since I had been visiting Nairobi, the host city of the 2024 Annual Meetings. I realised how much it had changed for good in those years. A friend told me that I was lucky to come after the floods when things were quite difficult for the city. This bit reflecting that amidst progress, there will always be more work to get done. If my one-decade reflection was not impressive enough, I later heard TV legend Victor Oladokun during the opening ceremony of the Annual Meeting in a question posed to President Williams Ruto of Kenya, echoing the fact that a lot had changed in his 30 years of visiting Nairobi.

The AfDB kickstarted the celebration of its 60th year earlier this week. A good place to understand how much it has gotten done in those years is to imagine the continent without all that the bank has delivered over the years. The founding Fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – now since transformed to the African Union — were quite prescient in immediately committing to set up a bank for the development of the continent, right from the go. In the absence of that commitment and its fulfilment, you can only wonder, what if they didn’t?

 Omojuwa is chief strategist, Alpha Reach/BGX Publishing

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