Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Infrastructure in Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)


Infrastructure in Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Willemien Viljoen, a tralac Researcher, discusses infrastructure in Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Adequate and efficient infrastructure is a necessary requirement for economic development and economic growth. Sound infrastructure facilitates the mobility of the means of production, improving productivity and reducing costs. While transportation systems move goods and labour to facilitate production and trade, communication systems move information and finance across borders and energy is required in the production and transportation of labour and goods to production and trade points.

The different elements of infrastructure, efficient transport, communication, energy and related services are important for the cost of trade, the global competitiveness of a country and developmental goals. However, inefficient infrastructure and related services, especially in Africa, increase production and transaction costs, reduce competitiveness and hinder economic growth and development. Africa’s yearly infrastructure deficit is estimated to be approximately US$ 91 billion with a yearly infrastructural gap of approximately US$ 31 billion in the funding which can be provided by governments. The World Bank has estimated the infrastructural deficit in 24 African countries to reduce yearly growth rates by up to 2 percentage points and productivity by 40 percent. Africa’s inadequate infrastructure is illustrated by a recent study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa:

  • Only 30 percent of the population in Africa has access to electricity;
  • 65 percent of the population has access to safe water and sanitation;
  • Africa’s road access rate is only 34 percent with roads the dominant mode of transportation accounting for 90 percent of passenger and freight transport;
  • Sparse rail networks and limited interconnectivity; and
  • Transport costs are among the highest in the world with transport costs in landlocked African countries accounting for up to 70 percent of the value of exports.

Current infrastructure across the SADC region varies across the different member states with South Africa, compared to its regional partners, having a more developed infrastructure base. However, recently other regional partners have been successful in attracting investment to address infrastructural weaknesses. The SADC Secretariat has also identified key areas of intervention to improve the region’s infrastructure under the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communication and Meteorology to meet Millennium Development Goals.

To evaluate the progress made in regional infrastructure initiatives in specific sectors the Ministers of Transport and Meteorology in SADC held a meeting on 7 October 2011 in Pretoria, South Africa to discuss various issues, including the progress and status of the implementation of the transport, communication and meteorology programmes, the harmonisation of policies, inter-regional cooperation and progress on the SADC corridors, including transport and trade facilitation interventions.

At the end of the one day meeting the Ministers adopted the following resolutions:

  • The SADC Model Civil Aviation Act and the SADC generic regulations and procedures as a basis for the harmonisation of civil aviation legislation in SADC was adopted;
  • The SADC Secretariat was directed to develop a strategy for engaging the EU on various issues, including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the EU Ban of African Airlines;
  • Ministers approved the Draft SADC Road Safety Programme;
  • Ministers urged member states to accelerate the joint designing and implementation of programs and projects on corridor infrastructure development, transport and facilitation, including the development of the necessary legal and institutional frameworks to facilitate the efficient movement of people and goods in the region; and
  • Ministers noted the progress made in the achievement by the SADC Climate Service Centre in the provision of critical products for sustainable socio-economic developments, including the organisation of the Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forums.

Although SADC has already strengthened regional capacity and institutions to undertake infrastructural projects, various infrastructural challenges still exist in the region, including transportation costs, inefficient border posts, institutional development constraints and financing further regional infrastructure and related services programme development and implementation.



South African Government Information (www.info.gov.za);

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (www.uneca.org);

World Bank;

Engineering News (www.engineeringnews.co.za)


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