Global Citizen

WATCH | 'Without infrastructure, Africa cannot compete with globe': Harith Group chair Tshepo Mahloele

23 May 2024 - 07:00
Harith chair Tshepo Mahloele speaks at the Global Citizen Now summit in New York City last year.
Image: Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen Harith chair Tshepo Mahloele speaks at the Global Citizen Now summit in New York City last year.

“Unless you get the infrastructure set up, the infrastructure working, all the other things you want to do for any economy or region, they are just not going to take shape,” says Harith Group founder Tshepo Mahloele.

Mahloele spoke to TimesLIVE in New York earlier in May during the Global Citizen NOW summit which is seeking to drive action to end extreme poverty. Leaders from the worlds of public policy, media, entertainment, philanthropy, advocacy and the private sector convened for two days focused on “taking action today to save tomorrow”.

Mahloele is one of the originators of the $630m (R11.69bn) Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund.

“This needs to be a based on connectivity, power, all those things which can then make trade happen, those things which can make the region or the country or the area be able to compete, because without the infrastructure, you can't compete regionally nor much less so globally.”

“We talk about poverty, we talk about development, we talk about all those things. Until you have a base upon which you can do that, you're not going to do that.

“One of the panellists said a very important thing: 'We want to talk about computers and all these things like mobility. But unless you get a base of infrastructure to enable these things to happen, we are just going to fail. So we need to then have infrastructure and mobility that can help with the connectivity and then you have a ticket to the game to be able to compete in that global environment.

“Unless you have that, then we'll always be talking about Africa as a charity case, as a non economical investment case.”

Mahloele and actor Djimon Hounsou took part in a panel about the future of Africa during the summit.

Beninese-born Hounsou advocated for ending energy poverty in Africa. His foundation, the Djimon Hounsou Foundation, focuses on strengthening pan-African identity and self-awareness.

The award-winning actor, best remembered for his performance in the 2002 movie Blood Diamond, said developed nations need to be held accountable for “unleashing climate injustice across the globe”.

Climate change will “force people to move off their land, potentially provoke conflict and cause economic and political instability”, the actor said.

Mahloele also stressed the potential of the African continent.

“It is it economical investment case and we've shown that with these projects that we have done because they are not financed with concessional money, they are financed with absolute capital that we've raised from all our various investors, and we are giving them a return for that.

“Trillions of dollars are going into infrastructure across the whole world. If you go and work out what percentage of that goes to the continent [of Africa], which has 1.4-billion of the 8-billion people on the [planet], I think if I'm not wrong, it's less than 2% or even less than 1.5%. So therefore that just doesn't cut it to enable the continent to realise its potential,” he said.

“The continent of Africa is gifted in terms of resources. It also needs to come to the party to realise and be able to use its inherent resources to be able to compete on that global stage. But then the way we fund maybe developed economies, I think we should also consider to afford the same courtesy to the continent of Africa.”