African Renaissance Conference  24- 26 May 2018


Connecting Africa 2012


Overview of the 14 th African Renaissance Conference

The 2012 Africa Renaissance Conference coincided with Africa Day on the 25  May (24-25 May 2012) and also marked the 14th Anniversary of this prestigious event. In his opening address Professor Sihawu Ngubane, Vice Chair: African Renaissance, acknowledged the visionary step that initiated the event 14 years ago and that continues to ensure its relevance today. The Africa Renaissance Youth Conference, held on the 22 May, served to address connecting with the youth to focus on strategies for creating a better future.

The broadening of the agenda since 2010 has focused on the Connecting Africa theme which is the foundation for economic development and social development across the continent. This theme that will continue for some time into the future, has also brought about a wider participation from the public and private sector leaders across the continent as well as across the world. Official delegations from African countries, delegations from USA, delegations from the EU, Africa/American Renaissance members, government officials, business leaders, delegates and members of the media were all present making up the total of 800 delegates over the two days.

The theme ‘Connecting Africa’ focuses on the infrastructure and transport systems that connect Africans. It is not only about the technical aspects but more importantly about the social aspects which the speakers addressed over the two days. He stated that the role of Governments is vitally important as they provide the political support and policy frameworks to push the vision of a Connected Africa forward. Even more important today is the recognition of the importance of the Private Sector in the process of taking the vision to another level.

In Africa’s colonial past roads, rails and ports were established to link with the extraction of raw materials from the continent, to be sent to the colonial home country for processing. The new mandate for infrastructure and transport systems in the future of Africa’s development is the creation of economic development corridors to grow agri-business, mining beneficiation processes, tourism, forestry operations and manufacturing centres. Connecting Africa is now for the benefit of the continent and not only to facilitate the extraction of the continent’s natural resources.

In his address Dr Zweli Mkhize, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, stated that the significance of the 14th Africa Renaissance is that the Africa Day events taking place in Johannesburg were bringing African Leaders together under the auspices of the Africa Union leadership. The focus of Africa Day is centred on the people of Africa, to fight the bondages of colonialism and neo-colonialism. The role of His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, in driving the North-South Corridor as part of the broader African infrastructure programme is key to ensuring that the objectives of the AU are achieved. This is what our leaders such as Oliver Tambo and, more recently, former President Nelson Mandela dedicated their lives to achieve. The vision of Corridors from Cape to Cairo is starting to become a reality.

Dr Sbu Ndebele, Chair of the African Renaissance, reflected that when the African Renaissance started 14 years ago the focus was on our shared past of inequalities across the continent, reuniting with each other around culture and working towards lasting peace on the continent. The focus was on the rebirth of Africa and the rediscovery of what it means to be African. At the time KZN was dealing with scenes of violence centred on IFP and ANC conflict in the province. The rebirth of the province over the years and the resulting peace is reflected in the changing agenda of the conference to now look outwardly from the province, to the country as a whole and towards Connecting Africa. As we develop the transport system, we shape society and the way we lead our lives. The creation of these corridors and access points needs to be a more inclusive process. The African saying that, ‘If you walk close to the river you will hear the frogs cough,’ means one must listen to what people are telling you and not ignore their input. Development needs to take place along the corridors and not only at the two end points.

Over the two days of the Connecting Africa conference the various speakers highlighted that SADC infrastructure was in a poor condition and this is borne out by the World Bank’s assessment of the state of the low level development of the broader community across the region. The focused plan for the improvement of infrastructure across the region is specifically aligned to the 4-6% growth per annum that is being envisaged. The opportunity for SADC, COMESA and EAC to initiate the creation of a free trade zone covering 26 member countries and reaching about 600 million people covers more than 50% of the African market. The planning that has taken place in the past years sees the inclusion of the entire continent in the marketing of Africa.

Several of the speakers cited the high cost of transport in Africa and that there should be a conscious harmonising of border processes and tariffs impacting directly on these costs. There is a focus on this in SADC, as well as the tripartite processes with COMESA and EAC, to establish a level playing field and the reduction of non-value adding processes. The speakers highlighted the impact on the final consumer pricing of goods as it is in part due to these ‘stacked’ taxes and tariffs which adds to the burden of business and our people.

The recent World Bank global estimate is that, if a country can increase its infrastructure investment by 10%, it will grow one percentage point faster each year. The returns on infrastructure investment in Africa may be even larger: the World Bank argues that if all sub-Saharan African countries could upgrade their infrastructure to the level of the best in Africa, the continent as a whole would grow around 2 percentage points faster each year. Speakers cited that Africa already spends US$ 40 billion, on average, each year on its infrastructure needs. It is estimated that an additional US $50 billion is needed for Africa to develop these needs. The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD) Study by the World Bank indicates that Africa’s infrastructure deficit is suppressing per capita economic growth. Africa’s average growth rates over the past years have placed a considerable strain on the continent’s infrastructure, more specifically road infrastructure.

Finance has always been a problem in allowing Africa to move forward with infrastructure projects in the past. In order to address this the SADC Master Plan implementation needs to take account of PPP’s in a dynamic way. The Conference highlighted that partnering with the private sector (additional skills) and private funders (additional cash) is imperative in resolving the backlog in Infrastructure.

·         Maintenance needs to be built into the long-term project finance plan;

·         Maintenance is as important as the initial project: maintenance delayed by one year can end up costing 2-3 times more the following year (SAICE report card 2011);

·         Maintenance should be routine and proactive rather than reactive;

·         It is essential to hire properly qualified and experienced contractors;

·         To achieve success, the preparation of feasibility plans with concrete actions for implementation, including follow-up maintenance programmes, are paramount.

The Youth Conference, held on 22 May 2012 also aligned with the Connecting Africa theme while focusing on key issues facing the youth in Africa, namely Further Education Opportunities, Employment Opportunities, Entrepreneurial Opportunities and Inspiration & Motivation. The panel of young entrepreneurs and business leaders ensured the delegates understood the importance of taking responsibility for their own lives, personal development and careers.

In the main Conference plenary sessions the Government Ministers present from the SADC region reported on the progress of their countries on the implementation of the SADC and AU N-S Corridor and E-W Corridor master plans. Leaders from business organisations and facilitation organisations provided insights into the Africa infrastructure’s current state and future plans as they related to the progress outlined above. The Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (SADC. COMESA and EAC) will create a sizeable regional market with a GDP of $1 trillion and a combined population of approximately 600 million people. The integration agenda is based on three pillars:

·         Market integration through the negotiation of the FTA (2-phase approach);

·         Infrastructure development – mainly through the NSC;

·         Industrial development – sectorial cooperation.

We look forward to the 15th Africa Renaissance Conference to be held on 23-24th May, 2013 at the

Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC Durban Conference Centre and the Youth Conference on 21 May, 2013 at

Elangeni Hotel where the Connecting Africa Theme will demonstrate that we are now entering

the period of Transport and Communication’s Revolution in Africa. xx


This summary was compiled by Jeff Blackbeard, Africa Strategy Advisor, from extracts of the Africa Renaissance 2012. Speeches and full copies of the speeches can be obtained from the Africa Renaissance organisers.