International Development Secretary to Boost Infrastructure in the Poorest Countries With UK Aid

Alok Sharma announces a new Commission, bringing together leading experts to turbo-charge quality infrastructure projects in developing countries

Alok Sharma with Unilever factory workers Bethlehem Tesfaye and Mieraf Tesfaye during his visit to Ethiopia. Picture: Anna Dubuis/DFID
  • International Development Secretary Alok Sharma announces a new Commission, bringing together leading experts to turbo-charge quality infrastructure projects in developing countries.

  • During a visit to Ethiopia, Alok Sharma called for the UK to lead the world to mobilise private sector investment to create jobs and build sustainable economic growth that will lift millions out of poverty.

  • Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies with huge potential for future trade with the UK. A new International Development Infrastructure Commission has been announced by the International Development Secretary Alok Sharma following his first visit to Ethiopia.

The Commission will be made up of UK and international business leaders, bringing the very best of British expertise, and will make recommendations to improve the planning, delivery and financing of infrastructure projects. The focus will be to help make investment in infrastructure in developing countries more attractive to businesses and investors.

Mobilising private sector funding in infrastructure is essential to help plug the annual $2.5 trillion gap that the poorest countries need to meet the Global Goals.

Africa is the world’s second fastest-growing region but currently 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity. The Commission will help facilitate private sector support to build more sustainable and resilient cities and improve access to clean energy and water.

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said:

An extra $2.5 trillion is needed every year to end poverty in developing countries and the UK must mobilise private sector investment to overcome this challenge.
Alongside the lifesaving work of UK aid, we need to boost infrastructure projects that form the backbone of economic growth.
This Commission will aim to turbo-charge investment in green, sustainable infrastructure, leading to more jobs, better access to basic services and opportunities for businesses, creating the UK’s future trading partners.

Alongside mobilising private sector investment, Mr Sharma also announced extra UK aid specifically for Ethiopia as it builds more sustainable infrastructure, helping cities to grow in a green way and providing affordable clean energy.

While visiting Ethiopia, which is one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, Mr Sharma met with British investors and the Ethiopian Government to discuss the opportunities and challenges of working in a developing economy.

The visit comes ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in 2020 which will look to build on future opportunities for trade between the UK and African businesses.

Notes to Editors

The International Development Infrastructure Commission is a group of infrastructure leaders from the UK, Africa and Asia, who will advise the International Development Secretary on how to increase the UK’s role in financing and developing infrastructure that promotes inclusive growth, while meeting the Paris Climate Commitments.

It will address key gaps in the global support for infrastructure planning, financing and delivery to support higher impact, lower carbon international infrastructure. This will help create a greener, cleaner world.

Today’s announcement of support for infrastructure in Ethiopia is a new allocation of £10 million that will help city economies to become more productive, deliver access to renewable power for businesses and households and strengthen investment in key infrastructure.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates that to meet the Global Goals an investment gap in developing countries of around $2.5 trillion per year needs to be filled.

Recent estimates from the African Development Fund put the continent’s minimum infrastructure needs at up to £140 billion a year. With at least half of that requirement unfunded, private sector investment is urgently needed.

Mr Sharma’s visit to east Africa comes ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit, which will be held in London next year. The summit will bring together businesses and governments to promote both the investment opportunities across Africa and the scale of the UK’s investment offer.

He met with female entrepreneurs working in partnership with Unilever which, alongside UK aid, is providing vital training and expertise to help women start their own businesses and access affordable household products to sell.

Over the next 10 years, Ethiopia’s import and export volumes are expected to at least double. Mr Sharma heard how UK aid is supporting Modjo Dry Port improve their systems to reduce the costs and time it takes for goods to move through customs, easing trade.

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