Johannesburg — Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday visited the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Agency in Johannesburg, in his first official visit since he was appointed the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development.
In his maiden visit since the appointment by African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki, Odinga said African States needed to address existing gaps in infrastructure development if the continent is to tap into its full potential.
"As an afro-optimist and not pessimist, my message to Africans is that Africa needs to tap into its own potential. The number one issue that we need to tackle is infrastructure," said Odinga.
Odinga visited the NEPAD Agency to discuss his new continental role, particularly as champion for the upgrading and modernisation of the missing links of the Trans-African Highways Network and the Continental High-Speed Freight Railways Network - two important Infrastructure projects of Agenda 2063 - and its First Ten-Year Implementation Plan.
Odinga's work will be in support of strengthening infrastructure projects undertaken by the African Union Commission and the NEPAD Agency, within the framework of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
"I am absolutely confident that the High Representative is more than capable in assisting the continent to tackle its infrastructure challenges, since he has the comparative advantage of being technically knowledgeable in this field, and he also has the requisite political backing," Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency said in welcoming Odinga.
"I believe that African countries should be able to trade freely among themselves through the African Continental Free Trade Area, and the skies should be open through the Single African Air Transport Market," Odinga said.
He added that, "For all this to happen, we need to stay focused on the priority infrastructure projects and start with the key ones already identified in PIDA, and Agenda 2063. Having an integrated approach will help us realise quick wins."
Dr Mayaki reiterated that the African Union Commission and NEPAD Agency are delighted with the appointment of Hon. Odinga as the continent's High Representative for Infrastructure, as well as the political will that has been shown.
"We are fully committed and ready to support you," he informed Odinga.
Going forward, the NEPAD Agency-led Technical Working Group, comprising the AUC Department of Infrastructure, foot-print Regional Economic Communities and Member States of the missing links corridors, will convene a technical review meeting in Sudan on the High Representative's work plan for 2019, slated for 11-13 November 2018, in Khartoum.
To enhance regional integration and trade, two important activities to be discussed by the experts, the High Representative and Regional Economic Community Executives, will be the proposed establishment of a joint corridor coordinating authority for the LAPSSET transport corridor.