Title

The Dilemma of Public–Private Partnerships as a Vehicle for the Provision of Regional Transport Infrastructure Development in Africa

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-29-2013

Keywords

African regional infrastructure; Public–Private Partnerships; regional economic integration and development

Abstract

With regional economic integration (REI) as a major strategy for development, the African continent hosts a plethora of regional economic communities of varying ambition longevity and success. While in the 1970s, political-economic ideas built mainly on the “developmental state” informed the design of most of these agreements, the change in economic thought in the 1980s which ushered in the “neoliberal turn” has since influenced the design of most REI schemes in Africa, including the New Partnership for African Development. However, among other factors, inadequate transport infrastructure linking regions poses a major impediment to regional trade and development in Africa. The more so as most African governments are not able to meet up with the financial burden, pace and managerial capability for the efficient provision and management of regional transport infrastructure. The article explores the dilemma associated with the adoption of Public–Private Partnerships (“PPP”) as a mechanism for the provision of regional transport infrastructure in Africa. While sourcing infrastructure provision through the PPP mechanism has significant advantages, it is however also embedded with a complex financial, contractual and legal process. First, it explores the theoretical assumptions which inform PPP based on ideologies within law and development debates. It argues that theoretically, PPPs are reflective of the neoliberal policy set. Against the trajectory of governance in Africa, it critically foregrounds insights that are derivable from an application of Path Dependency theory to the institutional change which comes with the planned adoption of PPP at the regional level. These insights are essential considerations for policy experts to bear in mind both while designing the regional institutional framework for PPP and during the implementation stage. Secondly, although most of the past initiatives for the provision of regional infrastructure have fallen short of their flamboyant development policy goals, the article argues that the recently initiated Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (“PIDA”) provides a new hope for the future of infrastructure development in the continent. The article contends that PIDA offers a legitimate platform which with the requisite support of the regional economic initiatives can generate the enabling environment for the implementation of successful regional PPP infrastructure projects.

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