Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union apparently does like to get things done with a certain verve. You feel it without touching it.
Without any prodding, she sauntered into the media Centre at the PIDA Week held at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where journalists were working on their stories.
That seemed unusual as holders of what is perceived as “exalted” positions in Africa generally tend to be forced to meet the media.
Dr Abou-Zeid is apparently a different breed and informally engaged the journalists to drive home her submissions at an earlier media breakfast.
She re-iterated the urgent need for public infrastructure in Africa but put an interesting spin to it by positing that infrastructure gaps are investment opportunities.
The African Union Commissioner believes the estimated 170 billion dollars needed to develop public infrastructure in Africa represents 170 billion opportunities but the challenge is how do we communicate these opportunities?
This is where the Energy Commissioner puts some energy into impressing upon the media that they can help the continent.
She said the media can be pivotal by telling stories about the good things happening in Africa as this can positively influence the flow of investors to the continent.
Investors, she argued passionately, get information from the local media and where all they read are negative stories, there is no way they will come near the continent.
Dr Abou-Zeid has a point for actually some good things are happening with regards to developing public infrastructure in Africa.
The PIDA week put the spotlight on this as experts on infrastructure and international development partners came together to see how the continent is doing on public infrastructure.
At the opening of the plenary session, the European Union which supports PIDA with One million dollars every year acknowledged the progress made and promised to continue with the support.
Director General and CEO of NEPAD, Ibrahim Mayaki says the goal is to accelerate the provision of public infrastructure in the four sectors covered by PIDA; transport, energy, ICT and trans-boundary water resources.
At the moment, out of the 400 + PIDA projects in 51 cross border programmes, 26% are moving to pre-feasibility stage, 16% are heading for tendering and 32% are under construction or already operational.
These include the border post projects across West Africa, the Abidjan-Lagos corridor, Praia-Dakar Corridor, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya power inter-connect as well as the Kazungula bridge linking Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Dr Mayaki says the target is now to increase the number of projects under construction from 32% to 50%.
Dr Abou Zeid told the plenary there is need not only to accelerate infrastructure development but the emphasis must be on smart infrastructure with new technology.
And this was the focus of the 2018 PIDA Week held in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe under the theme “Realising Africa’s integration through smart infrastructure and good governance”.
Experts on infrastructure from across the continent, financial advisers and Managers of some PIDA showcase projects discussed among others Abidjan-Lagos Corridor, Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Corridor Project, the Single Africa Air Transport Market, PIDA Priority water and hydropower projects, the energy road map and the MoveAfrica initiative.
There were financial institutions, financial advisors and international partners to contribute towards structuring some of these into bankable projects.
Many on the continent do not know about these positive strides in planning, developing and launching critical infrastructure projects that Africa urgently needs and they all represent the many opportunities across many sectors that Dr Abou-Zeid has been talking about.
There is a connection between all these and the projected prosperity for the Continent which NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Mayaki believes can cascade down to an integrated Africa with connected markets, people and services.
At the closing ceremony of the PIDA week held in the alluring ambience of Victoria Falls, Minister of the host State, Matabeleland, Richard Moyo capped it up by declaring that the actualisation of PIDA projects will enable Africans to achieve the Africa its people want.
So there is good news coming out of the continent and for the continent and we journalists are telling it as Dr Abou-Zeid requested.
If the continent can run on the verve and energy shown by the perspicacious Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr Abou-Zeid, Africa may just turn the curve on the infamous infrastructure deficit.
Ewaleifoh, a journalist and public media affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.