The African Union's key programme implementing agency has said the appointment of Opposition leader Raila Odinga as special envoy for infrastructure could help speed up integration.
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), which facilitates and coordinates the development of continental programmes, said Mr Odinga's experience and general political support across Africa is a key resource to mobilise communities to support the vision to open borders and connect countries with infrastructure.
"I am absolutely confident that the high representative is more than capable of 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," said Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO of Nepad in Johannesburg, according to a statement released on Tuesday evening.
Dr Mayaki spoke after welcoming Mr Odinga to the agency for the first time on Tuesday since he was appointed as the African Union High Representative for Infrastructure. He said the African Union Commission and Nepad are fully committed and ready to support Mr Odinga.
Nepad often facilitates joint projects as well as mobilising resources and engaging the global community, regional economic communities and countries in transforming Africa, according to its website. Some of the projects include regional power grids and transportation networks. And the AU sees it as key to Africa's Agenda 2063 goals, through which the continent hopes to build more connecting roads, railways, open borders and provided adequate electricity to homes among others as part of an overall integration project.
In Johannesburg, the ODM leader stepped out of local politics, calling on countries in Africa to support integration. "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," Mr Odinga said, according to a speech shared with the media.
He added: "For all this to happen, we need to stay focused on the priority infrastructure projects. Having an integrated approach will help us realise quick wins."