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  World Economic Forum on Africa
    Cape Town, 31 May – 2 June 2006
World Economic Forum on Africa Home   

Foundations for Progress in Physical
and Social Infrastructure
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"We have to be realistic; we have to compete in the global economy. When we talk about growth, we must accept that we are going to lose jobs in some sectors. That's also part of being part of the global economy." Maria Ramos Group Chief Executive, Transnet, South Africa; Co-Chair, World Economic Forum on Africa
"An enabling environment is Africa's biggest landmine in the process of developing the continent. Regional cooperation will make a huge difference. It starts with Forums like this. This is a big forum in which we can create home-grown solutions for home-grown problems – African problems." J. Adewale Tinubu Group Chief Executive Officer, Oando, Nigeria
To achieve sustainable growth, Africa must put in place necessary infrastructure – both bricks-and-mortar facilities such as roads, ports and airports and the basic "software" of development such as education and healthcare services.
•  Africans will not be able to enjoy the benefits of high growth if they are not provided adequate healthcare and education, as well as the physical infrastructure to provide access to clinics, hospitals and schools.
•  Access to water and energy, as well as information and communications technology, is essential to sustaining economic growth.
•  School attendance has risen dramatically but more must be done if the continent is to remedy its severe lack of skills.
•  Countries must invest more in health services, including education to promote proper hygiene and control the spread of disease.

In order for current growth trends to be sustainable, the physical and social infrastructure of African countries must be upgraded. Trends toward urbanization have exacerbated existing deficiencies in rural areas and placed new strains on cities. Participants discussed new strategies for upgrading systems of water distribution, energy access, and information and communication technologies. They also tackled challenges (old and new) in the areas of education and healthcare.

Brian Bruce, Group Chief Executive of Murray & Roberts, prioritizes action items for a business contribution to move African infrastructure projects beyond grand designs
While expanding economies hold promise for Africa's future, many of the continent's 900 million people will be cut off from their benefits without adequate healthcare, education and physical infrastructure. Strong leadership and regional initiatives are required if lagging infrastructure projects are to keep pace with market-led growth. Grand plans are not enough, and public and private sectors must work together at every step.

"We need to take ideas and turn them into bricks and mortar," said Jay Naidoo, Chairman of the Board, Development Bank of Southern Africa, South Africa. "That is the challenge facing Africa today."

Physical Infrastructure
Among the most pressing, but least adequately addressed, issues is access to safe water. Water scarcity and inefficient distribution pose major obstacles to development projects on all levels. Water should be priced according to its value, said participants, but it should always be within reach of the poorest in any society. "Affordability of water for everyone is a human right," said Alexandre J.Cantacuzčne, Senior Vice-President, Nestlé, Switzerland.

Concretely, the African Development Bank, which pledged to facilitate pan-African infrastructure projects, committed to working towards the Millennium Development Goal of bringing access to safe water to 80% of rural Africa by 2015.

Also essential to development and sustained growth are clean, affordable and accessible sources of energy. Much of rural Africa still lacks electricity, and participants suggested various distribution and generation methods including scaling up existing transmission infrastructures and harnessing hydropower. While external inputs may be needed in the start-up phase, ultimately all systems should be self-funding. As an initial step, the Energy Poverty Task Force committed to electrify 11,000 households in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho.

"We must come up with an optimal combination of energy sources to allow the continent to develop," said Salomon Banamuhere Baliene, Minister of Energy of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Improved information and communication technology is also a glaring need. "Connectivity is a problem on the continent," said Jakaya M. Kikwete, President of Tanzania. Much work remains to construct physical highways, but, increasingly, information highways demand attention as well. Certainly, electrification must come first, as what one participant termed "the refrigeration divide" trumps the digital divide as a priority. But connectivity is essential, as it can also help meet a series of social infrastructure goals.

Thulani Gcabashe, Chief Executive of Eskom, leads participants in a brainstorming breakout group on African infrastructure

The issue calls for public-private partnerships. "ICT is the enabler," said Olivier T. Suinat, Managing Director, Africa, HP, Germany. "We believe you should provide the tools, and entrepreneurship will take care of the rest."

"We need to take ideas and turn them into bricks and mortar. That is the challenge facing Africa today." Jay Naidoo Chairman of the Board, Development Bank of Southern Africa, South Africa
While school attendance in Africa has increased dramatically since 1990, too many children across the continent still lack access to basic education, and those that have access to primary, secondary and tertiary education are often unprepared for the specific requirements of the private sector.

The NEPAD e-Schools Initiative will fund e-access in 120 schools across 16 African countries by mid-2007 and will scale up to all 600,000 African schools in ten years. Innovative energy sources will be required to overcome the "refrigerator divide" and the NEPAD programme will need a collaborative effort from government, business and civil society to move forward. But the potential gain for students in even the most remote areas has already been realized in pilot projects in 20 countries.

Another educational imperative concerns the lack of skilled workers for Africa's growing private sector. "Trouble is there are too many matriculants in skills that, frankly, are of no use for industry," said Ian Cockerill, Chief Executive Officer, Gold Fields, South Africa. Moreover, the skilled workers that exist often pursue higher paying jobs overseas. Participants agreed that businesses need to make their needs known to universities, so that those needs can be met through the curricula.

Twenty-five per cent of the global disease burden is in sub-Saharan Africa, while only 1.3% of the world's healthcare workers are found in the region. Part of the problem is the limitations of market driven delivery systems. "When you are providing health services to the poor," said Co-Chair Maria Ramos, Group Chief Executive, Transnet, South Africa, "there isn't money to be made". NGOs and governments need to partner with businesses to create innovative solutions to vital health dilemmas.

"Learning by Doing": Oliver Suinat, Managing Director, Africa, HP, Germany, leads a discussion of IT companies on scaling up
success of the NEPAD e-schools initiative

Participants suggested promoting hygiene, spreading accurate information about HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, integrating traditional healthcare workers into standardized healthcare systems and easing restrictions on new healthcare products.

Concretely, the World Economic Forum's Global Health Initiative has launched guidelines for large companies to support HIV/AIDS and malaria programmes within their supply chains. Moreover, the Forum committed to beginning a public-private partnership to strengthen public healthcare systems in Africa. Focusing on epidemic and pandemic diseases, the programme will be launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2007.

"We must come up with an optimal combination of energy sources to allow the continent to develop." Salomon Banamuhere Baliene Minister of Energy of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"Without infrastructure, how do you get products to market, people to clinics, students to schools?" Maria Ramos Group Chief Executive, Transnet, South Africa; Co-Chair, World Economic Forum on Africa