African infrastructure investments ‘must aid stability and cohesion’

1 Dec 15

Delegates at a conference in Côte d’Ivoire have called for state fragility to be systematically integrated into infrastructure investments in Africa and for a renewed push for greener, inclusive transport.

The two-day African Development Bank Transport Forum took place in Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire last week. The first day saw a discussion on the importance of roads to political stability, social cohesion and institution building, which together reduce state fragility.

Seth Kaplan, a professor at John Hopkins University in the US, argued that road investments needed to consider to what extent a road will promote factors that work to reduce state fragility. These include the strength, equity and inclusiveness of state institutions and the spread of growth around the country.

Other panellists drew on examples of where road investments have successfully reduced state fragility, such as Ethiopia, and where a lack of roads has had the opposite effect, such as in Liberia.

The session also heard calls for development finance institutions and regional organisations to apply a ‘fragility lens’ to the sector and pay closer attention to the requests of governments for building roads that in the short term may not yield high economic benefits but are crucial for state building.

At a recent conference in London, Liberia’s minister of public works similarly urged its international partners to have regard to the social returns of vital infrastructure.  

Participants at the Côte d’Ivoire conference also heard that green and inclusive transport will stimulate sustainable growth on a continent where most cities grapple with inefficient and inadequate transport ‒ a struggle that is becoming increasingly prevalent with growing urbanisation.

The discussion emphasised the need for climate-resilient infrastructure, increased public transport and maintenance and to address Africa’s rapidly ageing vehicle fleet.

Jane Akumu, a programme officer in the United Nations environment programme’s transport unit, said green transport will bring less air pollution, less congestion and green jobs – “addressing poverty through affordable transport”.

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