Time to overcome African paradoxes and shape its bright future

Let's start with two basic facts regarding East Africa: 1 Africa has a huge energy potential. 2 The much-needed development of the energy sector is intertwined with development of infrastructure.

These two statements are in many respects paradoxical.

Roads and rails are probably the most important means of connecting African potential with the world. However, rail networks are disconnected, in very poor condition or many times they are absent even though much needed. Also, Sub-Saharan Africa has a large road network, but in Malawi, Mozambique and some other countries, the asset value of the road network exceeds 30% of GDP, which means there is a huge maintenance burden. Unfortunately, besides the urban - rural connectivity demand and the need to get access to energy resources, there is a huge problem with the regulatory framework governing transport services as well as road safety.

Development of infrastructure is not only about gaining money from Africa's richness; it's mainly about helping the African people, the majority of whom lack the chance to use basic social facilities like hospitals and schools. Out of the 915 million Sub-Saharan Africans only 290 million have access to electricity, even though Sub-Saharan Africa – with its 30% of global oil and gas discoveries made over the last five years – is set to become the world leader in energy generation. Despite its concealed reserves, energy prices for Africa's inhabitants are extremely high and commodity prices are volatile, which causes much uncertainty.

The space to develop the energy sector surely exists and development of the infrastructure will follow. Nevertheless, if Africa is not capable of shaping its future with its own resources, then how can the problem of financing infrastructure projects be solved?

Recently, China and India showed serious interest in African development. Even though investing into what no one seems to be interested in, outside investors should not try to establish themselves on the market only to fight for what belongs to Africans. Business in Africa can be profitable for both investors and Africans – that's why a profitable option for Africa is to rely on capital market. In other words, Africa needs public-private partnerships to grow like mushrooms after the rain.

A fair number of ongoing and imminently starting projects will be discussed at the Project Finance for Energy and Infrastructure East Africa Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 22-23 July 2015. The participants will get a chance to hear the presentations and discussions of governmental representatives, academics and experts from the field. Topics will cover a large range of issues such as effective project finance, solar energy development, investment opportunities in off-grid and rural electrification, with a focus on Kenyan, Rwandan, Tanzanian and Ugandan development. They will also get an opportunity to learn more about specific projects such as the Malawi Rail PPP Project and the Kampala Jinja Expressway PPP as well as many others.