Missing across much of sub-Saharan Africa are the roads, rails, ports, airports, power grids and IT backbone needed to lift African economies. This lack of infrastructure hinders the growth of imports, exports, and regional business.
Companies that can connect Africans and markets can prosper. Sub-Saharan Africa is plagued by power outages – almost 700 hours a year on average – sapping productivity, adding cost and leaving businesses captive to back-up and alternative power options.
“Massive investment is leading to major upgrades and expansion at African ports and airports, but much of Africa’s growth potential depends on in-country and intra-African road, rail and air connections.”
Roads and rail lines are sparse, decrepit and over-burdened. A lack of aviation agreements has limited intra-African air connections. Africa’s lack of efficient storage and distribution infrastructure hinders businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers. Up to 50% of African fruit and vegetables spoil before reaching markets.
There’s a soft infrastructure deficit, as well. Outside of South Africa, the data and information critical to decision-making by businesses is missing or hard to obtain – credit and risk information, market data, consumption patterns, you name it. Lessons from Dubai and Singapore tell us that once an infrastructure race is on in a rapidly expanding market, being the first mover is a significant advantage for investors.
This article is part of the World Economic Forum on Africa.