This edition of Perspectives contributes to the ongoing debate on infrastructure development in Africa by sharing snapshots of experience from around the continent, exploring questions about democratic participation, the role of human and environmental rights, and economic transformation.
For civil society agendas in support of sustainable development, human rights, and accountable and participatory governance, the increased involvement of institutional investors in infrastructure projects raises a number of issues.
Hidden among the maze of more than 400 paragraphs of guidance, there are a number of points that, when viewed collectively, paint quite a disturbing picture, one that would substantially alter the way common citizens may think about infrastructure and their rights as citizens.
The mega-infrastructure and investment agenda is here to stay, whether we like it or not. It is a powerful consensus, hard to tackle in an effective way. The key question for civil society remains how to build its own social infrastructure, brick by brick, territory by territory, without short-cuts or easy solutions, in order to build structural power and present positive alternatives to key actors, especially democratic governments.
For decades, the world of development banking was dominated by a few multilateral actors, foremost the World Bank Group as well as regional development banks. In recent years, some established banks have much expanded their scope of operation, while new actors and interests are moving in. A number of national development banks, for example from China and Brazil, have entered the international arena in a big way, often operating far outside of their respective home countries and becoming truly global actors.
Some claim that the biggest obstacle to boosting investment levels and reviving the global economy as the absence of regional "pipelines of bankable projects". In this paper, Nora Rohde describes the "solution" --Project Preparation Facilities (PPFs) to accelerate the launch of (mega)projects.
Dr. Mzukisi Qobo describes PIDA's plan to double levels of investment in energy, water, and transportation mega-projects in Africa and the opportunities and risks these projects present for infrastructure investors and, especially, for Africans. He cites six categories of risk (political; social and environmental; fiscal; security; institutional; and technical) and asks the big question: will PIDA accelerate the colonial patterns of resource extraction or foster the economic diversification required for Africa to prosper and expand job opportunities.
The G20’s commitment to conventional solutions obscures the possibility of other alternatives. Even though the alternatives present challenges in terms of replication, cost, and scale, the G20 summit in Mexico in June 2012 should re-cast the criteria for selecting and financing energy projects to highlight modular, renewable energy solutions.