Infrastructure development is a top priority for stakeholders involved in Africa's growth. There is a need to give African continents better access to infrastructure, but there is also the need to do it in a manner that is not going to harm these African countries. In this article, we will take a look at how to achieve sustainable and environmentally friendly development for African infrastructure, what this means for the economy and ways organisations can ensure just transitions take place at all times.
Sustainable Infrastructure In A Nutshell
For context; you may hear “green” or “smart” buildings when sustainable infrastructure conversations are being had. This is because sustainable infrastructure covers a range of initiatives such as energy, water and land management, green areas, smart technology, coupled with using sustainable and durable building materials. Sustainable infrastructure also caters to renewing, rebuilding, redesigning, as well as reusing materials as well as existing infrastructure. It forms part of the sustainable development goals that are under the UN (Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Goal 11: Infrastructure as well as Sustainable Cities and Communities). These and 15 other goals are part of the UN’s initiative to curb social, political, public health and well-being, environmental, economic and poverty concerns all over the world, and due to public and private investments, these goals may be achieved. Sustainable infrastructure has overlapping benefits from environmental, economic and social perspectives. Here are a few explainers:
- Environmental: aids climate resilience, lowers clean-up costs, reduces pollution, improves resilience to disaster
- Economic: offers GDP growth opportunities and better financial stability, creates jobs, and improves productivity
- Social: promotes community engagement and social responsibility
There is an obvious focus on climate resilient infrastructure in countries most at risk from the physical effects of climate change. Countries on the lower side of the equator, such as the Maldives, the Netherlands and Singapore, are all focusing on sustainable development to help mitigate the worst possible impact of climate change, including flooding and rising sea levels.
How To Achieve Sustainable Infrastructure
We can collectively lend a hand when it comes to ensuring sustainable infrastructure becomes a reality. Let’s take the Covid-19 pandemic’s results, for example. Since the dawn of ‘the new normal’, we have become more environmentally friendly with solutions such as planting and growing our own food, using less plastic and more biodegradable packaging and using water sparingly. Large corporations and governing bodies at national, regional and city levels are instrumental to the shaping of sustainable infrastructure goals and closing the finance gap in three key ways:
1. Policy measures matter
- Clear and supportive policies, rules and regulations will enable environments to ensure sustainability and resilience.
- Sustainability in procurement and investment plans should be included
- Transparency in the public sector by promoting anti-corruption, service delivery and cost evaluation
2. Information flows
- Long term infrastructure plans should be published in order to help investors with clear progress on projects
- Promoting, communicating, and highlighting benefits of sustainable infrastructure
- Collaborative efforts across jurisdictions and governing bodies that develop standards while collecting performance data
3. Mobilising finance
- Tax, financial support mechanisms and capital boosting
- Attract private investors by leveraging public funding and credit enhancement mechanisms
- Funding the upfront costs that make sustainable infrastructure projects initially more expensive than conventional projects.
- Boosting capital markets and developing standards for green bonds.
Green infrastructure development and environmentally friendly infrastructure solutions can be achieved in African countries. In fact, the likes of Akon City showcase how sustainable infrastructure development projects can benefit countries and their economy. Plus, they are a great indicator for the solutions to climate change that many African countries suffer from due to their climate. Together we can all achieve this green future.