By Abbas Jamie, Aurecon’s Transport Leader for South Africa, Africa and the Middle East
While road tolling has become a controversial topic recently in urban settings in South Africa, the use of tolling concessions has underpinned much of the world class national road network that our country currently enjoys. The development of efficient transport corridors in Africa is fundamental to promoting trade and the large investments required is justified by the economic opportunities unlocked through these efficient corridors. With a range of financing options to consider, the question remains: who should ultimately pay for the infrastructure?. In a continent where financial resources are limited the pay for use principle seems the most fair and equitable route to follow.
African countries are considering numerous infrastructure funding options including FDI in return for their natural resources. However most of the critical transport corridors on the continent cross numerous borders which starts to create a complicated funding arrangement. Consider a cross-border route that must contend with varying forms of transport taxation and levies and different country incomes that affect infrastructure affordability. Each trading nation will also experience varying economic growth potentials and direct benefits resulting from usage of the cross-border infrastructure.
The problem is further compounded by the possibility of infrastructure becoming politicised as these investments compete with other state funding requirements and become subject to in-country national economic and political debates.
The best way to deal with risk and to fairly distribute the financing burden is to create regulatory space for private sector participation. This provides an opportunity for financiers to make informed investment decisions while at the same time raising debt outside of the fiscus. More importantly this allows the major users of the infrastructure to directly contribute to the effective implementation and ongoing maintenance of Africa’s new transport corridors. These complex PPPs require transaction advisors that have a strong track record of understanding and operating on the African continent. The success of the overall PIDA programme in Africa will therefore become dependent on the effective adoption and implementation of a robust African PPP road programme.