Lack of adequate infrastructure in transport, energy and communication and information technology (ICT) remains one of the most significant limitations to economic growth and development in the COMESA region.
In the energy sector, the total installed capacity for electric power in the 19 COMESA countries is about 55,800 Megawatts. This contrasts with to a total of 124,000 for France and over 1,000,000 megawatts for the United States of America (USA), says the outgoing Chairperson of the COMESA Bureau of the Council of Ministers Hon. Amelia A. Kyambadde. This translates to high energy costs which are a major impediment to the expansion of the manufacturing sector in COMESA region.
On the transport sector, the Hon. Kyambadde who is the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Uganda, observes that for every three rural Africans, only one of them dwells within two kilometers of an all-season road.
“This has condemned millions of our brothers and sisters to remain trapped in subsistence agriculture because they are unable to reach urban markets”, said the Minister when she addressed the ongoing Council of Ministers meeting in Kinshasa yesterday.
The railway network is another sad story. With an area of approximately 12 million square kilometres, COMESA region has a network of 28,000 kilometres of an old colonial. India with an area of about three million square kilometres has 63,000 kilometres of rail.
In regard to marine transport, Sub-Saharan Africa with about 23 ports have a total capacity of around 350 million tons of cargo. In comparison, the Port of Singapore alone handles about 470 million tons of cargo more than all the cargo handled by the Sub-Saharan Africa ports.
On Information Communication Technology, about 15.4% are estimated to be internet users in the sub-Saharan Africa which is way below the world average of 35.6 per 100 people.
The minister describes these statistics as depressing and the solution is the mobilization of resources to close the infrastructure deficit in the region. Key initiatives have been taken such as the establishment of the COMESA Infrastructure Fund.
Council of Ministers has approved the takeover of management of the Fund by the Bank in order to benefit from the expertise of the PTA Bank in resource mobilization and management. The Bank has already commenced on the mobilization of funding for projects valued at $US 6.6 billion.
Studies have also been conducted to inform the operational modalities to establish a regional infrastructure bond for Member States. According to Hon. Kyambadde, this will be one of the Special Purpose Vehicles to mobilize resources for the development of infrastructure in the region.