I represented the UK at the North-South Corridor Conference held in Lusaka on 6 and 7 April, attended by Presidents of Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia, and other Ministers from the region. The presidents, on behalf of their respective regional economic communities, announced plans to implement critical reforms to improve cross-border trade, reduce transport delays and costs, and promote public and private investment. For their part, donors agreed to provide $1.2 billion of funding to meet the costs of this comprehensive programme to upgrade road, rail, port and energy infrastructure. I announced the UK Government’s commitment of £100 million over five years towards this total.
The North-South Corridor programme will upgrade 4,000 km of road—the equivalent to the road distance between Barcelona and Athens—and rehabilitate 600 km of rail track. It will work with the Governments of Tanzania, DRC, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa to remove red tape, allowing a greater and quicker flow of goods regionally and internationally. Power supply and transmission in the region will also improve with new investments accelerating the generation of 35GW of new power capacity through the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) region by 2015.
The North-South Corridor programme is an innovative aid for trade initiative that could offer a model for increasing trade and deepening regional integration in Africa. It is consistent with the recent G20 agreements to ensure more open trading, continued investment flows to developing countries, and well-financed trade. Investing in both the physical infrastructure along the North-South Corridor and cutting bureaucratic red tape between these countries will improve trading and investment opportunities in the region and increase prospects for generating growth, creating jobs and reducing poverty. In an economic downturn, it is vital that economies are kept moving and the North-South Corridor will play a vital role in opening up trade in Africa through improved transport infrastructure, more efficient borders and reliable energy supplies.