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EU Technical Assistance to the African Union • Infrastructure Support Mechanism (ISM)
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1. Background: Infrastructure as one of the most important constraints for Africa’s development

According to the African Union Commission (AUC) Medium-term Plan 2018-2023 “Delivering AU Reforms and Accelerating Agenda 2063”, infrastructure is the cornerstone of the African economy. Investment in infrastructure accounts for over half of the recent improvements in economic growth in Africa and has the potential to achieve even more.

Africa has undergone fundamental changes over the last decade: Galloping urbanization, the rise of the middle class and the youth bulge have boosted growth which in turn has fuelled demand for infrastructure services including energy, transportation, ICT, water supply.

The key challenges to address for infrastructure to contribute to sustainable growth in Africa are: Resource mobilization to address the infrastructure finance gap, building resilience to Climate change, bridging the divide in unequal access to infrastructure between urban and rural areas and the search for a sustainable development model adapted to African realities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the critical role of transport, energy, water and ICT systems in achieving continuity of supply chains, and resilience to crisis situations. Support to infrastructure sectors will be critical in the post COVID-19 recovery period to build resilience and to contribute to recovery efforts.

2. The support of the European Union to African Infrastructure:

The African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) pursue intense dialogue to increase investment in infrastructure, services and regulatory reforms to develop efficient and sustainable regional infrastructure networks. During the 5th AU-EU Summit in Abidjan in November 2017, both sides decided on further cooperation and actions in Infrastructure under the joint priority area “Mobilizing Investments for African structural sustainable transformation” for the period leading up to the next Summit. Under this priority area, they committed (art. 65 of the Abidjan Declaration) to “continue to promote intra-Africa trade and advance greater economic integration, notably by further developing sustainable connectivity, building on the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), NEPAD programmes and the AU Agenda 2063 flagship projects, NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI)” and to “promote the full implementation of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision with a view to establishing and strengthening a single Africa Air Transport Market”.

The AU-EU cooperation on infrastructure focuses on the four PIDA sectors: Energy, Transport, Transboundary Water Ressource Managenent (TWRM) and Information and Communication technology (ICT). In this context, our project, a Technical Assistance to the African Union/Infrastructure Support mechanism (AU/ISM), was devised.

The “Technical Assistance to the African Union – Infrastructure Support Mechanism” (TA to AU/ISM) was launched on 11th of November 2019, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the overall objective to help African Stakeholders, improving access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks in the fields of Water, Energy, Transport and ICT. The ISM TA will last till October 2022.

The Team of the TA to AU/ISM includes:

  • 3 long term Experts in charge of assisting the three (3) Beneficiaries: AUC, AUDA-NEPAD and AFCAC, called Key Expert 1/Team Leader, Key Expert 2, Transactional Expert to AUDA-NEPAD & Key Expert 3, Air Transport Specialist to AUC and AFCAC;
  • Backstopping Team of the DT-Global: Director and Project Manager;
  • Short-term Consultants called Non-Key Experts (NKEs) supporting the implementation of specific projects.

3. Rationale:

The ISM action includes 2 types of activities; Supporting institutions essentially AUC and AFCAC to develop policy and regulatory frameworks for infrastructure, Capacity building targeting mainly AUDA_NEPAD for transaction advisory and resource mobilization. The impact of the pandemic and the focus of countries and institutions on recovery and growth all point towards the need to fast track implementation of infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure deficits including Energy, Transportation, ICT, Water supply and Cross border and urban infrastructure have been acknowledged to be the biggest constraints to economic development in Africa while also having the potential to contribute to post COVID-19 recovery through job creation, industrialization, trade, and growth.

4. Objectives:

The current project is part of the Multi-annual indicative programme (MIP) for the Pan-African programme 2018-2020. It is the 2nd component of the EU programme entitled “Boost African continental Integration, EU-Africa economic integration through enhanced evidence-based policy making on trade and investment”.

The action is part of a wider initiative to promote economic integration. In fact, the programme highlights the importance of this action in the context of establishing of the AfCFTA in order to deepen economic integration and investment, from both Africa and the rest of the world, particularly, the promotion of the rules-based free market agenda and to enhance the investment environment.

The AfCFTA and investment in general are clearly priorities of the EU- Africa partnership. The Abidjan Declaration adopted during the 5th AU-EU Summit identifies investment as one of the Joint Africa EU strategic priorities: “mobilizing investment for African structural transformation” (with reference on the EIP). The component 2, named, Investment, is thus perfectly in line with the main objectives of the AU-EU strategy, and will impact the different proposals for investments as part of the Africa Investment Platform (AFIP) under the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) of the External Investment Plan (EIP).

The EIP provides a new integrated approach: in order to increase sustainable growth and job creation in Africa, more investments and the improvement of the investment climate in African partner countries are required. In the field of infrastructure this ISM TA will complement the work executed of maximizing the alignment of AU and EU instruments and achieving better cross-sectoral coordination.

The Specific Objective of the Programme is “Enhanced evidence-based policy making on trade and investment”.

The programme objective reinforces the idea of incorporating economic integration into policy making. The improvement of infrastructures, main objective of the project, is thus relevant because seen as a prerequisite for growth and economic integration and vice versa, growth will attract investments that will enable infrastructure investments. We thus understand very clearly the link and complementarity between the Programme and the Project objectives.

The Overall Objective of this action is to: “Help improving access to integrated regional and continental infrastructure networks in the fields of water, energy, transport and ICT”.