Are Public-Private Partnerships a Panacea for Africa’s Digital Infrastructure Deficit?
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Monday 5 April 2021: On Wednesday 24 March 2021, The African Legal Support Facility (ALSF) held the second webinar in its series of PPP webinars for Anglophone Africa. The objective of the webinar was to explore the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) as a means of addressing the digital infrastructure gaps across the continent.
Pre- Pandemic Africa’s need for a digital transformation had been clearly identified and was beginning to be addressed. The pandemic has however magnified the digital infrastructure deficit as the social and economic fortitude of governments (and their citizens) has, to a certain extent, been dependent on their ability to adopt and implement digital technology. Consequently private investment has been chronicled as a solution for the digital infrastructure deficit.
The use of PPPs in infrastructure projects across the continent is and continues to be one of the favoured mechanisms for the injection of private money. The question of extending its use to digital infrastructure was posed by the ALSF’s moderators (Shaina Salman, Legal Counsel and Toyin Ojo, Senior Legal Counsel) with a particular focus on the delivery of internet access.
The Panel, consisting of Sydney Domoraud, Managing Partner of Emire Partners, Christophe Dossarps, Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Infrastructure Fund (SIF) Source, and Jason Parker, Partner at Hunton Williams Kurth LLP, agreed that there were numerous complexities surrounding the use PPPs in digital infrastructure contracts. The major challenges discussed included the difficulty in pinpointing the public service or public asset that would be the subject matter of the PPP contract and the inherent difficulty in coupling a fast-evolving technology with a long term contract. The panelists agreed that PPPs must not be considered as the “Panacea” but merely one potential option, depending on the public asset and/or service. Governments should instead focus on providing a conducive environment for private investment which will in turn provide various avenues, including PPPs where appropriate, for digital infrastructure development. Private sector investment can be enhanced through:
The importance of Internet connectivity arguably ranks close behind water and electricity, and is one of the keys to unlocking Africa’s economic prosperity. Africa stands on the precipice of this fourth industrial revolution with a youthful population ready to embrace it. Its leaders must therefore seize the opportunity to develop this greenfield sector by engaging those best to equipped to drive it forward – “Carpe Diem”.
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About the ALSF
Created by the African Development Bank in 2010, the ALSF provides legal and technical assistance and capacity building in matters relating to infrastructure, extractives, natural resources, energy, sovereign debt and commercial creditor litigation.
Shaina Salman, Legal Counsel: firstname.lastname@example.org
Eve Ehoura, Communication Officer : email@example.com
ALSF Website: https://www.alsf.int