By: Phumla Williams
The socio-economic success of Africa depends on the commitment of African countries to invest significantly in the development of their infrastructure. South Africa is one of the like-minded countries on the continent that has embarked on infrastructure projects as a catalyst for economic growth.
Numerous studies have shown that investing in building or upgrading roads, ports, clinics, schools and homes undoubtedly contributes to boosting economic growth and creating much-needed jobs. Road infrastructure, in particular, facilitates accessibility, enhanced trade and economic productivity for a country.
According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, infrastructure development is the flywheel of the engine of South Africa's economy and will yield tremendous benefits for the country.
It has the multiplier effect of catapulting economic growth to create new jobs and protect livelihoods. He goes on to correctly say, that the meaningful investment in infrastructure will have the potential to strengthen the economy.
In the next few days, the Minister in The Presidency, Mr Mondli Gungubele, is expected to visit one of the near-completed road infrastructure projects in Musina, Limpopo.
The R640-million Musina Ring Road project is scheduled to be opened early in 2022. It will divert the Nl road around the town of Musina in Limpopo to facilitate a free flow of traffic to the Beitbridge border with neighbouring Zimbabwe. The national road upgrade is led by the Department of Transport and the South African National Road Agency (SANRAL).
The construction consists of eight kilometres of greenfield single carriageway freeway, three major bridges and two interchanges. The project created economic opportunities such as employing a number of people, especially young people. It allocated 10 percent of the project to women-owned companies, local community members and about 14 small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises were subcontracted.
The success of investments such as the Musina Ring road should necessarily be how they contribute in the transformation of the participants in the economy. SANRAL should therefore be commended in ensuring women in the construction businesses have been included and generally ensuring 14 SMME companies were subcontracted.
Empowerment of women should be non-negotiable if we are to succeed as a country and as a continent. Government projects should strive to demand more allocation towards women owned companies.
Mozambique has also launched its successful road infrastructure project between South Africa and Mozambique. The state-of-art Maputo-Catembe Bridge, which was completed late in 2018, has opened an improved road network from Mozambique to Kosi Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.
Previously, a drive from Kosi Bay to Mozambique took six hours but it now takes 90 minutes from KwaZulu-Natal to Mozambique through the East Coast border post. As a result, trade and tourism between the two countries have improved tremendously.
Zimbabwe is also upgrading the Beitbridge Border Post and once completed, the modernised infrastructure will improve the free flow of goods and strengthen the security of goods and people. The Beitbridge border gate processes approximately 300 trucks daily, both inbound and outbound.
A number of SADC countries use the Beitbridge border post as a gateway for the import of capital equipment, textiles and agricultural produce from South Africa. Such upgrades will undoubtedly improve the flow of economic activities through that border gate.
South Africa hosted the highly successful 2021 Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021) in Durban, which saw over 80 companies exhibiting their products and services to a number of visitors. Participants also showcased and shared information on investment opportunities in their respective countries. Such initiatives necessarily reinforce the significance of Africa investing more in improving its business-enabling infrastructure.
The IATF2021 was held within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) Agreement, which came into operation on 1 January 2021. Such interventions seek to enhance trade integration on the continent. The success of the AfCTA is heavily dependent on the continent investing in a reliable road, telecommunication and energy infrastructure.
Africa remains committed to creating a conducive environment for potential investors on the continent, and unleashing the potential in its own resources including human capital. South Africa as part of the SADC region will work together with its neighbours to harness the economic potential of the region. Road network infrastructure remains critical towards economic growth in the region.
The Musina Ring Project has created employment opportunities for the communities around Musina and will enhance the traffic flow from Musina and Beitbridge, thus bringing concrete benefits to the people of Zimbabwe and South Africa.
*Phumla Williams is the Director-General of the Government Communication and Information System