President Museveni has said private sector led ventures in large infrastructure projects is a necessity for Africa to attain a certain level of economic development but the challenge is their “carelessness” and desire to recoup investments in a short period.
He said this often results in the high cost of doing business on the continent.
The President also criticised international financial agencies that have either funded or expressed interest in funding infrastructural projects in Africa such as the World Bank, saying they are unserious and one of their biggest problems is “frivolity.”
“They take small things, say tendering, when you go for tendering, they bring all sorts of jokers, and then they want the same ground field for the tenderers; then when the small ones don’t win, then they appeal….then you find a project taking like five years to start,” said Mr Museveni, who was speaking on Wednesday as the chief panellist at this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa.
He added, “Why can’t you (financial lending institutions) look for serious groups and are the ones which tender for business instead of wasting time with these jokers. We shall be democratic (in terms of business) later after we have had some of the infrastructures.”
Unlike other panellists who made case for investment in other sectors such as education, the President argued that it will be a miracle to “see a country that develops without electricity.”
The government is currently undertaking massive infrastructural projects including, dams and roads and is also in talks with the Chinese government for an advance loan of $2.8b (about Shs8 trillion) for the multi-billion Standard Gauge Railway.
Once roads and railway are in place, the President said it will help phase out the transport bottleneck and help farmers get their produce to the market, which will boost productivity with related economic returns. With surplus power in place, the President says this will spur industrialisation and agriculture because farmer’s warehouses will be effective a model for long term economic development planning, a line of thinking which is still subject of debate.
He made a case for Africa using its own means to fund projects such as “paying less salaries” to public servants to be able to divert the rest of the money in the budget to infrastructural development.
“When you do that, then you can ask these agencies to come in and help.” He added that there is political will on the continent to attain economic development but one main challenge countries are grappling with is the piecemeal approach to development, further exacerbated by “ideological meandering.”
“In the last 55 years, I have found out that taking one element and concentrating on it is not enough,” Mr Museveni noted. “It must be infrastructure plus others like education, fragmentation of markets. You must ask, if you produce goods and services, who will buy? And is it sustainable?” He however, stressed that good infrastructure projects are ones that do not result into high costs for doing business by the private sector.
The Forum under the theme “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership” which ends today was attended by more than 1,000 participants from several countries around the world to exchange ideas on economic progress, prospects and challenges on the continent. Other members on the panel discussion on the topic “Agenda 2063: Infrastructure Update” moderated by the Vice President of the World Bank’s IFC, included Patrick Dlamini, the chief executive officer of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Andrew Baldwin, a managing partner of Ernest & Young, and Carlos Pone, CEO of US based engineering firm AECOM.
The Forum under the theme “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership” which ends today was attended by more than 1,000 participants from several countries around the world to exchange ideas on economic progress, prospects and challenges on the continent.