Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 26 October 2017 (ECA) – Infrastructure deficit remains a major challenge to trade facilitation.
Speaking at the official opening of the 23rd Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) under the theme; “Trade Facilitation in Southern Africa: Bridging the Infrastructure Gap” Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Giovanie Biha, said that infrastructure deficit remains a major challenge to trade facilitation, intra-regional trade and economic develompent and transformation in Africa.
She observed that regional approaches and strategic partnerships to address problems of trade facilitation are increasingly being recognized since international trade involves the use of infrastructure and services of at least two countries.
“A regional approach is an efficient means of coordinating actions, setting priorities, reviewing progress, mobilizing resources, allocating funds, and monitoring contribution levels, with regard to solving common problems”, she said.
She said that the financial cost of meeting Africa's infrastructure needs is quite huge and that according to the African Development Bank, it is estimated that Africa needs about USD $93 billion annually until 2020 to close the infrastructure gap.
“Africa must look inwards in financing its infrastructure development and dismantling obstacles to intra-Africa trade and the movement of persons across the continent” she said.
Ms Biha noted the strides that the RECs are making in easing border pressures and promoting intra-Africa trade. Ms Biha cited the Chirundu One-Stop Border Post between Zambia and Zimbabwe as an excellent example of what the region can achieve with strong political will.
Ms Biha, said that ECA in collaboration with other development partners, offers to deepen its collaboration with countries in Southern Africa and stands ready to provide technical and advisory support to help tackle the trade facilitation challenges faced by the region.
Meanwhile, the Government of Zimbabwe says that investing in infrastructure requires both public and private sector effort through various strategies including (PPPs). Minister of Finance and Economic Development Dr Ignatius Chombo said that collaboration among adjoining States in resource mobilization and project implementation is crucial.
On the soft infrastructure front, Dr Chombo said that the Government of Zimbabwe has embarked on 100 day Rapid Results Approach to Ease the Doing Business Environment through removal of impediments to investment and trade.
Speaking at the same meeting, Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Provincial Affairs Minister, Eunice Sandi-Moyo, said that more investment is required in the repair and modernization of the existing road, rail and air transports system; developing other physical and non-physical infrastructure; and in re-capitalization of the semi-dormant industrial sector.
The delegates and participants will review and adopt the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Expert Group Meeting on “Deepening Regional Integration in Southern Africa: The role, prospects and Progress on the Tripartite Free Trade Area” and also address the theme of the ICE meeting, namely, “Trade Facilitation in Southern Africa: Bridging the Infrastructure Gap” and come up with appropriate recommendations for different stakeholders especially member-states and the RECs in fast-tracking trade related infrastructure development in Southern Africa.
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