Policy convergence can catalyse Central Africa’s transport interconnection
Central Africa’s transport interconnection problems are not a result of lack of expertise across countries but rather a manifestation of difficulties with inter-state coordination. And this considerably slows down efforts within the sub-region to achieve structural transformation – a process that cannot occur without fluidity in the movements of people and goods.
These are some of the salient points that that emerged from a high-level policy exchange organised by the UN Economic Commission for Africa today in the Congolese capital – Brazzaville. The debate, which focused on “developing transport infrastructure to meet the challenge of structural transformation in Congo,” was peppered-up by presentations by ECA economists Messrs Mamadou Malick Bal and Ghitu-I-Mundunge on three ECA publications with convergent points on the theme of the debate. These are: ECA’s Country Profile for Congo revised in March 2016, “Transformative Industrial Policy for Africa,” and “Assessing Regional Integration in Africa VII.”
Senior civil servants from Congo’s Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation and Merchant Navigation, their colleagues from the ministries of Planning, Economy, and Equipment; officials from the CEMAC Commission and the ECCAS Secretariat General; as well as representatives of countries across the sub-region concurred that Central Africa has the requisite technical skills to speed up regional integration via transport infrastructure but must go past several problem-gates. These include the issue of mobilising internal resources for financing road infrastructure projects that interlink major national and regional hubs and the difficulty of looking in the same direction by the sub-region’s leaders.
Congo’s efforts, productive investments and infrastructure linkages
While praising ECA for its cutting edge work on structural transformation in general and for its recent profiling of Congo, the Chief of Staff of Congo’s Minister of Transport, Civil Aviation and Merchant Navigation – Mr Pierre Zomambou-Bongo said his country was doing serious work make transport infrastructure across road, air, rail and maritime areas, a real vector of economic integration and development.
Meanwhile the Director of the Sub-regional Office for Central Africa of ECA – Mr Antonio Pedro made a case for emulating good practices in the mobilisation of domestic resources to realise infrastructure projects that would quicken the pace of structural transformation in Central Africa in general and in Congo in particular – citing Ethiopia’s example.
“We need to be inspired by these types of strategies and many others, such as channelling remittances from the diaspora toward productive investments,” Mr Pedro argued, while calling on policy makers to however be careful not to exaggerate their use of euro bonds to raise infrastructure capital especially when their countries’ debt levels approach or even surpass 70% of their GDP.
As some sort of good news, however, he maintained that “establishing a link between the exploitation of mineral resources and the development of infrastructure can make infrastructure projects more attractive” as rents raised from natural resource exploitation reinforce the fundamentals of infrastructural undertakings.
Appeal to ECA and the RECS
As they called on Central African States to go beyond policy differences in order to build and improve on transport corridors that would increase the traffic of trade exchange to facilitate structural transformation in central Africa, the senior state functionaries from the Congo and their colleagues from other countries equally appealed to ECA and the regional economic communities to help the sub-region attain the levels of integration witnessed in other parts of Africa thanks to transport connectivity.