Addis Ababa — Africa needs to think big and act now as it seeks to develop climate resilient infrastructure as well as close its massive infrastructure gap, Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) Special Initiatives Division Director, Fatima Denton, said Sunday
Speaking at the end of a high-level event where ministers and senior officials from Ethiopia, Ghana, Chad and Senegal shared experiences on what their countries are doing in efforts to leverage limited public resources to mobilize finance from domestic resources for climate-resilient infrastructure development, Ms. Denton Africa is seeking bold transformation and that requires all stakeholders to think and act big.
The event was on the inclusive green economy and structural transformation in Africa and was held under the theme ‘leveraging domestic resources to green Africa’s infrastructure for resilient economies’.
“It is important to have our national development plans aligned with the ambition of resilient economies and green infrastructure. In many ways we are saying this is not something that we can stagger into. It has to be planned,” said Ms. Denton in wrapping-up the event.
The speakers agreed the continent’s major infrastructure deficit provided an opportunity for countries to adopt a new climate-smart economic approach to forge ahead and build quality infrastructure that is resource-efficient and resilient to natural disasters.
In his presentation, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water Irrigation and Electricity, Seleshi Bekele, said Africa needs modern energy to support its growth and prosperity.
“Africa is indeed the last frontier of major development and can go clean as it is endowed with renewables like solar, wind, hydro and geothermal sources,” said Mr. Bekele.
He shared examples of how Ethiopia is managing to fund its infrastructure projects from domestic resources, in particular the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which is expected to generate over 6,000 MW of energy annually.
The Minister said the dam is fully financed by the government and people of Ethiopia.
“We know that we have constraints and do not have all the answers but we are moving forward with these types of transformative ideas around many sectors,” he said.
Ghana’s Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta said the ‘Ghana beyond aid’ campaign was inspiring the country to mobilize domestic resources to fund its infrastructure development.
He said the country is looking at how it can green its infrastructure, in particular its hydro-electric system that was built in 1960 by founding father, Nkwame Nkrumah.
“I think it is time for Africa to think really big beyond its current needs,” said Mr. Ofori-Atta.
Senegal’s Cheikh Dieng and Togo’s Gervais Meatchi, both Directors in the Environment and Developing Planning Ministries respectively, talked about massive infrastructure projects their countries are currently undertaking and how they are ensuring there’s a greening effect to the progress.
Timothy Afful-Koomson, the Chief Climate Finance Officer at the African Development Bank, emphasized the importance for Africa to integrate climate change in the planning and design of its new infrastructure.
Climate-proofing infrastructure provides a cost effective opportunity for the continent in the long run, he said, adding it was time for Africa to now ‘move from the normative to action’.
Mr. Afful-Koomson, who talked about what the AfDB is doing in helping Africa build climate resilient infrastructure, said the lack of standardized protocols and technical specifications or codes for greening infrastructure needs to be addressed.
Rashid Ali Abdalla of the African Union Commission said; “It is important that Africa develops and implements strategies and frameworks to ensure investments in infrastructure are not only economically viable, but also climate proof.”
“Climate-proofing of current and future infrastructure in Africa is crucial, and although it will add significant economic costs to our development goals, it provides a cost-effective opportunity in the long-run, also ensuring environmental and social benefits,” he added.
Other areas touched on by the experts include public-private partnerships; avoiding emissions; climate risk; technologies, expertise and knowledge required to green Africa’s infrastructure.
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