#AFCLive: Osinbajo, Obasanjo, others renew call for Africa’s infrastructure development

Former President of Nig. Olusegun Obasanjo; Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo; and Former President of Benin - Boni Yayi during the AFC 10th Anniversary, Abuja. 16th May 2017. Photo: Novo Isioro.

Several top African public officials, scores of businesses and influential business executives on Tuesday called for accelerated action to bridge the gap in the Africa’s infrastructure deficit as part of critical measures required to guarantee improved economic growth for the continent.

At the second day of Africa’s premier infrastructure summit in Abuja, Nigeria’s Acting President Yemi Osinbajo implored private sector players to help relieve Africa from its infrastructure crisis, which experts have long identified as one of the major stumbling blocks to the continent’s economic growth.

“There is no question at all that all of what we required, all of what is needed will not be provided just by government,” Mr. Osinbajo said at the two-day event held to mark the 10th anniversary of Africa Finance Corporation. “As a matter of fact, without the private sector, it is completely impossible for government to even finance current infrastructure needs.”

Investment analysts on the continent hold that its inhabitants could witness spontaneous economic success if anything can be done to address an estimated $90 billion in infrastructure deficit.

Mr. Osinbajo submitted that the role of private sector in helping Africa address its critical needs surpasses the capacity of government institutions.

“There is no question at all that government cannot simply compare with the power of the private sector and with the resources that the private sector can pull together,” Mr. Osinbajo said while delivering his keynote speech themed: ‘Infrastructure Revolution.’

The event drew many top public and private sector officials from different places across Africa, including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo who praised the exploits of AFC over the past 10 years while expressing optimism about its future.

The AFC is an international, for profit investment grade multilateral finance institution established to bridge Africa’s significant infrastructure gap.

The AFC, which was established in 2007 by Mr. Obasanjo’s administration, has raised $3.5 billion as at the end of last year, while declaring a profit of $150 million to shareholders, its President and CEO, Andrew Alli, said in a statement.

Its debut $750 million Eurobond issue was oversubscribed six times. And it currently maintains presence in 13 African countries including Nigeria (host country), Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Liberia, Guinea, Ghana, Chad.

The others are: Cape Verde, Uganda, Rwanda, Gabon and Djibouti.

Mr. Obasanjo expressed confidence in the ability of AFC executives to position the investment firm at the forefront of African infrastructure rebirth.

“If all things go well, I see an AFC that would have triple or quadruple its investment in infrastructure in Africa,” Mr. Obasanjo said during a panel discussion. “I see an AFC that would become a household name everywhere in Africa. I see an AFC that would be competing, or if you like complementing, the World Bank’s equivalent —which is IFC— if not overtaken it.”

The former president urged the AFC to sustain its current exploits in order not to derail like many other African initiatives.

“In Africa, we start things right but we don’t continue to do them right,” he said.

Mr. Obasanjo was joined in his call by Charles Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria who was also the first chairman of AFC, and Tony Elumelu, a former CEO of United Bank for Africa and chairman of Heirs Holdings.

The duo participated in a panel discussion with Mr. Obasanjo, during which they expressed optimism about growth in African infrastructure.

Several business executives at the event, tagged AFC Live 2017, included Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, President of Nigerian Stock Exchange; Samuel Dossou-Aworet, Founder and Chairman of Petrolin Group; Kunle Elebute, Country Managing Partner at KPMG and Jay Ireland, President and CEO, General Electric Africa.

Government officials present at the event included Raji Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing; Godwin Emefiele, Governor, CBN; and Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance.

All the participants identified infrastructure deficit as a major hindrance to Africa’s economic development and called for public-private partnership to bridge the gap.

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