Wednesday, June 03, 2015

How to bridge Africa’s infrastructure gap

The infrastructure chain of delivery involves many complex phases, starting from detailed planning, identification of the project, preparing the project for financing, the financing of the project, the building of the project, and to the operation and maintenance of the project itself. Each of these phases require careful thought and effective capacity to ensure success.

Often as a result of the overwhelming deficit of infrastructure in Africa, coupled with the urgent need to address this deficit, we adopt an aspirational approach (everything will go well) to the delivery of infrastructure. We adopt a mind-set that assumes that infrastructure projects in Africa are too important to fail. Accordingly, stakeholders seek at a high level broad agreement on these complex issues only to be confronted with disagreements as implementation deadlines approach.

We would serve Africa’s infrastructure delivery better if stakeholders adopted a more grounded reality based approach – identifying all the things that could go wrong in each of the phases and by applying resilient risk mitigation to each of these challenges. This would necessitate obtaining consensus among all players upfront and before the commencement of the project, on the business factors or credit aspects of the project, the political and regulatory decisions required and on the macroeconomic and other factors that could affect the project. It is accepted that finding such consensus is often time consuming and involves robust and difficult conversations. It is better that consensus around these issues are obtained first, rather than failure to complete a project on the basis of disagreements that occur during the implementation of the project.

Adopting a reality based approach to infrastructure delivery assumes that all role players are capacitated to manage the complex issues that arise during the different phases of an infrastructure project. Africa would serve itself well by ensuring that governments acquire these necessary skills housed in a central capacity playing a project management role throughout the entire value chain involved in the efficient and effective delivery of infrastructure projects.

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