Poor infrastructure, high transport costs and the loss of technical capacity will hinder the Republic of Congo's growth as well as efforts to achieve regional economic integration, according to a recent African Development Bank study, Infrastructure Development in Congo: Constraints and Medium-Term Priorities.
According to the Africa Infrastructure Development Index, Congo ranked 24th out of 53 countries overall in 2009, with an even lower score in areas of energy infrastructure, quality of roads and access to drinking water. Only 7.1 per cent of the country's roads are paved, and its railway network is poor. A lack of maintenance and rehabilitation has resulted in the deterioration of existing infrastructure and high service costs, particularly in the transport sector.
The bulk of investment in Congolese infrastructure comes from domestic resources, with capital investment favoured over maintenance. The Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD) estimates that close to 23 per cent of overall investment in infrastructure in the Congo should be earmarked for operations and maintenance, while in reality more than 95 per cent of total spending for the 2006-2010 period financed new projects, with operational expenses accounting for just 0.2 per cent. According to AICD, Congo needs to spend USD 946 million per year between 2005 and 2015 to upgrade its infrastructure, compared to the USD 692 million spent annually over the last five years.
The AfDB study makes several recommendations to assist the Government of the Republic of Congo in its efforts to upgrade the country's economic infrastructure and accelerate growth, including: an increase in financing for infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance; the introduction of reform measures to encourage greater private sector investment; and a strengthening of technical capacity building.
The link between infrastructure and economic growth underlines the important role of international financial institutions (IFIs) like the AfDB in financing regional infrastructure projects, providing expertise in how to mobilize private sector financing, as well as the successful implementation of necessary reforms.