Building ConfidenceThe two arms of Coega, South Africa's newest port, extend into the Indi
The two arms of Coega, South Africa's newest port, extend into the Indian Ocean gracefully. These are built from thousands of huge, oddly-shaped, 30-ton concrete blocks. They are designed to protect the ships that, when the port is fully operational in 2007, will use this facility to ship iron mineral and other South African products to India and the rest of the world.
The Call to Infrastructure Construction
"If you want to change lives and the history of this continent, you need to develop infrastructure(基础设施)," says Vuyelwa Qinga-Vika, spokeswoman for the CDC(Coega Development Corporation). "We're not going to advance if we don't even have the roads to bring medicine to the rural areas. We've got to start building."
The call to construction is ringing out across Africa. Infrastructure is the new buzzword(口号), pushed by leaders from South Africa's Thabo Mbeki to Senegal's Abdulaye Wade. It's also a key topic at this week's World Economic Forum(WEF) meeting in Cape Town, where political and business leaders from Africa will meet with heads of some of the world's biggest companies to discuss, among other things, how Africa's priority infrastructure projects can boost growth. According to a Gallup International survey commissioned by the WEF, Africans "focus more heavily on economic issues than do citizens in other parts of the world." One in three Africans fear a failure of the economy compared to just one in five globally.
Despite a commodity boom that pushed growth to 5% in Africa last year, the continent's leaders want better infrastructure to win more business. The New Partnership for Afiica's Development(NEPAD, an Mrican initiative that aims to attract $64 billion in annual investment by tackling bad governance, ending conflicts and making the continent more business-friendly, has put improved infrastructure near the top of its to-do list. "There can be no meaningful development without trade," reads NEPAD's infrastructure action plan. "And there can be no trade without adequate and reliable infrastructure."
The need is as obvious as it is urgent. Africa's roads and railway lines, ports and power network are neither adequate nor reliable. Outside of southern Africa and Mauritius, much of the continent's infrastructure is damaging or nonexistent. Consider the Democratic Republic of Congo. You could fit France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Britain inside it, and the country is packed with timber and minerals, yet it has only a few thousand kilometers of road and 10,000 fixed telephone lines, and produces about the same amount of power as Albania. In other war-torn countries, such as Somalia and Sierra Leone, public buildings have been destroyed by years of fighting. Corruption and mismanagement have left public utilities in places such as Cameroon and Nigeria ran down and inefficient.
Infrastructure Vs Investment
The lack of infrastructure blocks many companies from investing and drives up costs for those that do. The World Bank estimates that to ship a container from Baltimore in the U.S. to Tanzania costs about $1,000, but to transport that same container from Tanzania to neighboring Burundi cost $10,000. "In many countries, companies have to generate their own power, dig for water, pay heavy distribution and telephone charges," says David Hampshire, chairman of Diageo Africa, one of the continent's biggest marketers of beer and spirits. "All these costs add up, and they end up being paid for by the consumer."
To attract more investment, Africa has drawn up plans to spend billions over the next few decades. Zambia and Burkina Faso, both landlocked, want to build new rail lines through neighboring states to improve their connections to the sea. In East Africa, the Kenyon government and the rebel movement in southern Sudan plan to build a new railway track—at an estimated cost of