SADC goes to China looking for investment in infrastructure

Southern African News Features July 2015 – The member states of the Southern African Development Community presented the region’s infrastructure development plan to Chinese investors at a SADC-China Infrastructure Investment Seminar held in Beijing, earlier in July. The seminar focussed on Energy, Water and Transport.

Chinese investments in Africa have been on the rise despite an overall decrease in foreign investment by some traditional partners due to a combination of factors, including depleted resources caused by the 2008/09 global financial and economic downturn.
According to a white paper on China Africa economic trade and cooperation released in 2013, Chinese investment in Africa has rapidly increased from US$1.44 billion in 2009 to US$2.52 billion in 2012. In addition to this, several agreements targeting infrastructure development have been signed to boost the blooming China Africa partnership.
One such deal, hailed by the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the “most substantive project the AU has ever signed with a partner,” is a continental transport deal signed early this year to develop road, rail and air transport routes to link cities across the continent. At present, the quickest route to travel from one side of Africa to another can involve connections routed via Europe, although it is feasible to connect directly.
The Beijing seminar follows two other successful investment conferences held in 2013 in Maputo, Mozambique and London, United Kingdom to attract investors for the SADC infrastructure programme. At these meetings, various infrastructure projects in the six priority areas of energy, transport, telecommunications, tourism, meteorology and water were presented to potential funders.
The projects are contained in the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) approved by SADC leaders at their 32nd Ordinary Summit held in August 2012 in Maputo.
The RIDMP is a 15-year blueprint that will guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure projects between 2013 and 2027 over three five-year intervals, with the first phase covering the period from 2012 to 2017 and costing around US$64 billion in investment.
The second and third intervals will cover the periods from 2017-2022 and 2022-2027 with a total proposed investment target of between US$428 billion and US$558 billion.
At the Chinese investment seminar, greater focus was on showcasing the main priority projects contained in the short-term action plan covering the period 2012-2017, and in particular those projects in the energy, transport and water sectors.
Priority energy projects earmarked for implementation by 2017 include the construction of the ZiZaBoNa Interconnector project linking Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, as well as the establishment of the Namibia Angola Interconnector that will connect the latter to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).
All mainland SADC countries, with the exception of Angola, Malawi and Tanzania, are interconnected to the regional grid through SAPP, allowing them to trade in energy.
In transport, the focus is on effective regulation of transport services; liberalization of transport markets; development of corridors and facilitation of cross-border movement; construction of missing regional transport links; and harmonization of road safety data systems.
The priority transport projects to be implemented by 2017 include those targeting the expansion, rehabilitation and modernisation of Durban and Walvis Bay ports; new road links connecting Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); and the introduction of a one-stop border post at Beit Bridge between South Africa and Zimbabwe.