Infrastructure is an enabler and essential for people to people connectivity, which increases economic activity. We must ask: What are those things women can contribute to – Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya, Secretary General, Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA)
From 9 – 10 June 2016, infrastructure professionals from Africa and rest of the world met in Johannesburg, South Africa, to deliberate on, and proffer solutions to, Africa’s infrastructure deficit. Hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Forum featured 2 plenary panels, 16 concurrent panels, over 90 speakers, and brought together over 600 delegates, including African Infrastructure Ministers.
Infrastructure is part of the DNA of modern life…if Africa’s infrastructure is second rate then Africa will be second rate – Mrs. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB Special Envoy on Gender
An annual conference, this 5th Infrastructure Africa event came rebranded, featuring a new, and very essential, theme: Inclusive Infrastructure. And right from the opening session, the importance of Africa’s development pursuit adopting a holistic approach, where gender considerations began to feature prominently in development decisions and interventions, was stressed. In addition to this, although the infrastructure sector is a sector known to have very few female professionals, gender diversity was obviously made an integral part of the event, evident in the selection of speakers and invited participants.
Of the 16 concurrent panels, 5 were dedicated to discussing how infrastructure development in Africa could strive towards inclusivity. These were as follows:
- Energy Solutions for All: Alternative Energy for Households
- Development Partners: Complementary approaches to Inclusive Infrastructure
- Getting the Framework Right: Policies & Regulations for Inclusive Infrastructure
- Maximizing Opportunities, Meeting Needs: The Private Sector in delivering the Gender Dividend in Infrastructure
- Skills development for more Inclusive Infrastructure
These sessions were organized against the background that infrastructure development in the continent has not benefited everyone equally. According to Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the AfDB Special Envoy on Gender, the priorities placed on certain infrastructure has created diverging realities for the continent’s economy and society. She stressed that if “we (African’s and our development partners) want to make a difference on the continent women, youth and marginalized groups should yield the benefits of our interventions”.
The Session on Getting the Framework Right: Policies & Regulations for Inclusive Infrastructure provided the platform for the ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) to present its work and accomplishments in promoting inclusive energy infrastructure development in West Africa, notably through the ECOWAS Policy for Gender Mainstreaming in Energy Access, the Facility for Gender responsive energy projects (ECOW-GEN Facility), and the project to develop the ECOWAS Regulation for Gender Assessment in Energy Infrastructure Development.
Mahama Kappiah, the Executive Director of ECREEE, emphasized the importance of gender ministries working collaboratively with the energy ministries, as well as other relevant ministries, to ensure that the policies and regulatory instruments were executed. This was in line with the consensus reached on the overriding importance of policy implementation. Mr. Ngwenya, SG of COMESA, insisted that African countries had to follow through with the policies developed.
Other conclusions reached include: countries’ ownership of their development blueprint, to ensure that social inclusion is more than a priority on paper but adhered to by non-states actors engaged in development; Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) have a key role to play, by ensuring that gender assessments are well reflected in their environmental and social impacts assessment studies; social infrastructure development should not be allowed to lag behind economic infrastructure development; research and generation of data is important to ensure that improvement is made toward inclusive development.
Change is key, but it does not come naturally. Change needs change drivers, people who will implement the policy – Mr. Mahama Kappiah, Executive Director of ECREEE