THE African Development Bank (AfDB) said the construction of the Lagos-Abidjan Highway had the capacity to unlock 85 per cent of trade within the ECOWAS sub-region.
The 1,028-km highway project will span across different countries -Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria -and traverse the economic capitals of the five coastal countries, starting from Abidjan and ending in Lagos, while equally straddling eight border crossings.
The AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina said this on Tuesday as a panellist at a one-day Investors Webinar to showcase the investment opportunities from the Federal Government of Nigeria’s reforms and privatisation activities.
Adesina explained that while the Federal Government had spearheaded various reforms in the banking sector that had enhanced the resilience of the financial system, there was a need to stay the course in completing the bold reforms initiated to restructure the energy sector.
Nigeria’s infrastructure deficit is one of the main constraints to industrial development and national competitiveness.
Estimates indicate that Nigeria’s infrastructure constraints cost the country around four per cent of its yearly Gross Domestic Product growth.
Industry watchers say the corridor carries over 75 per cent of the trade volume in West Africa, stressing the need to sustain the free flow of persons, trade and improve the economies of the corridor states.
They add that it has the huge capacity to create wealth in economic value chains at the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.
Given the huge amount needed to build it -about $100bn annually for the next 30 years – he said time had come to create an enabling environment for public-private partnerships to close Nigeria’s infrastructure gap.
Adesina, who was represented by the Director-General of AfDB Group, Nigeria Country Department, Lamin Barrow, said this why the AfDB was supporting the Nigerian government’s efforts in addressing the infrastructure deficit through the development of both national and regional infrastructure.
In the energy sector, he said the AfBD’s support would help improve access and reliability of electricity supply by attracting private sector participation.
According to him, the $256m and $200m financing respectively for the Nigeria Transmission Expansion Project (NTEP-1) and the Nigerian Electrification Project (NEP) would contribute to strengthening the transmission network and promoting off-grid solutions.
In the transport sector, he explained that the bank’s $430m support for the Enugu-Bamenda Road, linking Nigeria and Cameroun, was expected to be completed this year, and would provide a gateway for enhanced trade between West Africa and Central Africa.
He added, “We are working closely with the ECOWAS Commission and the concerned countries to finalise the feasibility studies for the landmark Abidjan-Lagos Highway.
“We expect the construction of the corridor to commence next year. This highway will link 85 per cent of the trade volumes in ECOWAS.
“We also supporting the rollout of new flagship programs such as the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) and Nigeria Innovation Program (Digital Nigeria) to unleash the potential of the economy.
“These will be complemented by enhanced policy dialogue with a view to consolidating Nigeria’s strategic position as the bulwark for the regional economy.”
Attracting private sector participation is critical for mobilising investment resources and ensuring sustainable operation and maintenance of public infrastructure assets.
To this end, the AfDB president said governments in Africa should put in place adequate regulatory frameworks to treat infrastructure as an asset class and view privatisation as an opportunity to optimise underperforming assets.
“Privatisation and commercialisation of public enterprises should therefore be more than just a transaction but an institutionalised mechanism with a long-term perspective.
“They represent a new way of life/doing business to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, an inclusive society, and as tools for building dynamic and competitive economies,” he added.
Working with like-minded development partners and financial institutions, Adesina said the AfDB would deploy a suite of instruments, including direct lending, equity participation, de-risking facilities, and the platform of the Africa Investment Forum platform to support the Nigerian government and other key stakeholders to implement bold and innovative approaches to drive private sector participation and investments in the economy.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.