The LAPSSET Corridor Program has been identified as one of the key drivers to regional integration through infrastructure as it forms part of the envisioned Equatorial Land Bridge that traverses from LAPSSET Port to Douala in Cameroon. This link across the central Africa would undoubtedly rival the Suez Canal, carrying oils, minerals and merchandise between the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

During the 7th PIDA (Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa) where the LAPSSET Corridor Development Authority (LCDA) in collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD and UNECA, hosted a parallel event on Africa’s premier infrastructure in Nairobi, issues on attaining regional integration through trans-boundary infrastructure development took the centre stage.

The event under the theme ‘Putting Africa on a Firm Footing for Recovery, Growth, and Resilience through Infrastructure’, the conference aimed at assessing and tracking the status of financial investments in infrastructure development in Africa focusing on the LAPSSET Corridor Project.

Out of the panel discussion, it was eminent that Africa had no alternative apart from developing their own connection in a competitive world by fostering regional integration. This would be accelerated by setting a stage for the private sector to be at the centre of investment programs.

To achieve the development of regional infrastructure corridors, governments are urged to package the projects for the private sector to execute the projects within the set time frames for project delivery without hindrance.

Projects such as the LAPSSET Corridor Program’s inter-port connectivity, is seen to bring new dynamics that will unlock the huge potentials of the region by developing an industrialization niche. The planned industrial growth at the port area will help in producing what Africa consumes as well as growing business in the port area.

The LAPSSET Corridor, which also forms part of the Land bridge, and connects over 160 million people in the three countries and is part of the larger Land Bridge that is to connect East African coast to the West of Africa. The LCP’s broader perspective is ideally located to reduce the cost of shipping by enabling the Panama-X vessels, which currently transport freight between the East and the West, to travel shorter distances. These vessels that are in addition very expensive to operate will save at least three-weeks of travel time they presently require to navigate around the Cape.

Trans-boundary infrastructure programs are viewed as key enablers of positive economic synergy between among countries, thus require proper funding due to the huge costs that such projects tend to require. LCDA Chairman Mr. Titus Ibui has noted the need to mobilize funds and improve on security to ensure projects are completed. He also noted that the LAPSSET port has had a successful transshipment test and with completion of the roads it will now start handling transit cargo.

According to Director for Transportation and Infrastructure Department at the Infrastructure Concession Commission Regulatory, Emmanuel Onwodi, developed economies may not be able to provide the required funding for this project and urged for the exploration of alternative means of funding such as PPPs, loans from development finance institutions, tax credits to corporate institutions including pension funds.

In order to attract a huge number of investors, there is need to for Africa to expedite on approvals for mega project. This, according to Amb. Francis Muthaura, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Chairman, is the only alternative the continent has in realizing the corridor’s potentials by first fixing its infrastructure.

Again, some of the solutions being undertaken in Africa’s regional infrastructure such as building political consensus and getting high level buy in to move projects forward is by taking regional perspectives into the ground with developing national policies.

Subsequently, working together is key for the success of Africa’s regional infrastructure programs. This, according to Robert Lisinge, the Chief of the Energy Department at UNECA. Collaboration has had limited success recently, shown by the slow pace of implementation of trans-border infrastructure projects. Soft infrastructure interventions are also necessary to increase border and transport efficiency along the trade corridors through reduced time and cost spent at the borders.

The PIDA session panelists also addressed the need for countries to come together in the development of regional infrastructure corridors such as the LAPSSET Corridor amidst challenges such as: – lack of political goodwill, inadequate funding to finance the project, political instability in some countries, low demand for infrastructure services in some regions, lack of interest among some countries, lack proper institutional arrangement and framework, difficult geo-technical conditions, conflicting priorities among countries and economically unjustified projects.

There is need for a regulatory framework for the continent on the Pan-African corridor operations. Trans-boundary corridors also require Transit Authorities to ease in cross-border movement and policy synergies.