Malawi has said Africa needs to focus on regional infr astructural development, in energy and water resources management if the contine n t is to realise its true growth potential, PANA reported from here Wednesday.
McFellow Ngwira, Secretary for Malawi’s Ministry of Transport and Public Infrast ructure, was addressing an Experts’ Group Meeting, convened in the capital, Lilo n gwe, by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa – Southern Africa Offi c e (ECA-SA) ahead of the third Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union (AU) Con f erence of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the United Nations Economic Commi s sion for Africa (ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and E c onomic Development which Malawi will host from 29 to 30 March.
Ngwira said key challenges confronting infrastructural development in energy and water sectors in Southern Africa included low and unsustainable access to elect r icity and water tariff, a rapidly growing demand and the lack of capacity for pr o ject preparation, packaging and financing.
“The lack of adequate infrastructure can hinder potential growth, weaken interna tional competitiveness and adversely affect our poverty reduction efforts,” he s a id.
The Experts Group Meeting was therefore called to provide Southern Africa Develo pment Community (SADC) member countries with policy recommendations to improve t h e shortfalls.
The experts believe realistic policy recommendations will help countries assess the costs and benefits of regional infrastructural development in Southern Afric a .
A working document at the meeting says that recent studies show that the poor st ate of infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa cuts national economic growth by two
percentage points every year and reduces business productivity by as much as 40 p er cent.
“The water sector is one of the key areas where the lack of adequate infrastruct ure poses serious challenges,” read the document.
ECAâ?s Southern Africa Office Director Jennifer Kargbo told the experts that Af ricaâ?s water resources were abundant but “they are grossly under utilised, owin g to an absence of water storage and irrigation infrastructure.
“The achievement of water security will require a significant expansion of water storage capacity from current levels of 200 cubic meters per capita to levels o f at least 750 cubic meters per capita, a level that currently is found only in S o uth Africa,” she observed.
Recommendations of the Experts Group Meeting will be submitted for consideration to the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts (ICE) of the ECA-SA, which will a l so meet in Lilongwe later in the week.
The ICE meets annually to oversee the overall formulation and implementation of the programme of work and priorities of ECA-SA.
This yearâ?s ICE will focus on: Response to the impact of the global financial and economic crises in Southern Africa.