Thursday, July 7, 2022

Botswana gets new infrastructure Minister

The President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi has named Eric Molale – Member of Parliament for GoodHope/Mabule as the country’s new minister of Infrastructure Development. The appointment of Molale follows a cabinet reshuffle forced by the resignation of former Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development minister – Mpho Balopi. Balopi’s exit two days before the 2021 Christmas day has been linked to the bickering within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Molale replaces Dr Thapelo Matsheka who at some point was Finance and Economic Development Minister.

In a brief interview with SUNDAY STANDARD last week Monday, Matsheka confirmed his drop from cabinet. “It is true that I am no longer a member of cabinet.”

Molale who replaces Matsheka at Infrastructure has also been linked to the Balopi-Matsheka faction within the BDP. Molale’s takeover at Infrastructure Ministry comes at a time when studies have shown that infrastructure deficit constrains Africa’s growth and poverty reduction.

A 2020 empirical research study conducted by McKinsey & Company that examined Africa’s infrastructure paradox, and its root causes found that “there is need and available funding, together with a large pipeline of potential projects – but not enough money is being spent”.

It is acknowledged by the study that most of Africa lags behind the rest of the world in the coverage of key infrastructure classes, including energy, road and rail transport, and water infrastructure not leaving behind electricity infrastructure as generator-based power in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) was found to cost three to six times what grid consumers pay across the world.

McKinsey & Company reckons that closing the infrastructure gap matter greatly for the continent’s economic development, for the quality of life of its people, and for the growth of its business sector.

Another research study titled “Investment and market Opportunities in Africa 2021 – 22 by the India Infrastructure Research acknowledges that Africa is seen as one of the world’s fastest growing regions and infrastructure development will help to catalyze the growth.

“The continent’s vast infrastructure deficit is a constraint on its growth, but also an opportunity to leapfrog to new, more efficient business models and technologies”, states the research paper which further reckons that “infrastructure development plays a major role in promoting growth and reducing poverty in Africa”.   

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Africa’s infrastructure needs have increased overtime, reaching $130 – 170 billion a year by 2018, with a deficit of $68 – 108 billion.

Energy infrastructure seems to be the most in need of financing in Africa, followed by water and sanitation. Transport infrastructure comes a close third in funding needs. However, Africa is reportedly performing much better in telecommunications than in any infrastructure sector.

The report notes that on the global scale, the African countries still have a long way to go. Nonetheless, a host of countries across the continent have started the Africa rising narrative. The African countries make 17 of the bottom of the bottom 20 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index 2019. Mauritius and South Africa are among the few bright spots, being the only two countries in the top half of the index.

It is also reckoned by the report that in the decades ahead, Africa can become a major contributor to and driver of global growth, just as Asia has been. However, for this to be true, Africa’s industrialization would have to be underpinned by a robust infrastructure financing programme. This requires a global financing pact among advanced and developing countries, a shift in strategic approaches, and new models of financing.

However, political instability remains one of the key challenges in the growth path of Africa. The policy landscape, especially that related to infrastructure is still at a nascent stage. Besides, the PPP is still evolving and fraught with several challenges.

As per industry experts, inadequate availability of funds for project development and preparation renders projects unviable. Across African countries, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted “structural gaps in national health care systems, corruption risks associated with public procurement and the misappropriation of emergency funds”.

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