Africa’s involvement in public-private partnerships (PPPs) has been limited relative to other continents, but that is changing lately. Increasing demands on national budgets have compelled African governments to seek collaboration with private-sector companies to cover the financing gap for much-needed infrastructure and other development projects through PPPs.
The World Geospatial Industry Council (WGIC) commissioned a study to understand the experiences and preferences of African geospatial professionals towards PPP and compiled its findings in the recently released Africa Geospatial Public-Private Partnerships: Business and Financial Considerations. A cohort of eighty-seven geospatial professionals participated in the quantitative survey, with 48.3% associated with government or institutional sectors working in Africa. Remarkably, the survey revealed that over 58% of the total respondents had been involved in a PPP (current or previous), reinforcing WGIC’s proposition (Figure 1).
In addition, over 76% of the respondents stated that the projects are still operational (Figure 2). Even as African governments and industry are increasingly open to PPPs, they realize that the success of PPP projects is contingent on a host of factors, including institutional infrastructure, enabling policies, and ease of doing business. Notably, prominent lenders such as the African Development Bank (ADB) urge African countries to improve business environments by creating the necessary legal and regulatory frameworks for PPPs and facilitating networking and sharing experiences among regulatory agencies and similar organizations.
As the African landscape begins to transform with PPP, a few countries are already ahead of the game. While South Africa is often cited as the most mature market in the continent in the development and execution of PPPs across multiple sectors, a handful of markets are not far behind. Kenya is another mature PPP market. The country implemented its PPP Act in 2013 and is in the process of passing a number of amendments aimed at improving PPP processing turnaround times. Nonetheless, most markets across Africa are still trying to operationalize their frameworks.
WGIC’s report explores the current African geospatial landscape to gauge the readiness of countries to participate in geospatial PPPs. The report presented a typology of fifty-three African nations based on the attributes considered to be enabling conditions as below:
✔Presence of a spatial data infrastructure (SDI);
✔The presence of geospatial/Earth observation infrastructure, which was evidenced by multiple satellite launches, university programs and private geospatial and Earth observation companies;
✔Presence of a government-established space agency;
✔ The business and legal environment, a ranking provided by the World Bank based on the ease of doing business, regulations and the economy’s performance, and
✔Transparency, an index provided by Transparency International that evaluates each country in the world and provides a ranking based on ten categories of openness in various government action.
Figure 3 provides an a-priori ranking of African countries based on the above parameters. This ranking was highly requested by the African geospatial stakeholders as a valuable business tool for geospatial PPP development.
Based on the presence of the enabling conditions, the index divides countries into three groups. Overall, the scores, as well as the readiness for geospatial PPP development are higher in Advanced Nations (16 countries), mid-range in Emerging Nations (26 countries) and lower in Nascent Nations (11 countries). These groupings only apply to readiness to participate in geospatial PPPs. They should not be misconstrued as indicative of any other connotation or implication. This readiness index is a resource tool and guideline to further assist business model development when considering a geospatial PPP project and approach.
Advanced Nations – High geospatial PPP readiness
Most of the Advanced Nations present compelling evidence of mature SDI, robust geospatial infrastructure and EO capabilities. Further, these countries have well-established space agencies with active ground stations and/or satellite launch capabilities. They scored relatively higher in terms of their business and legal environments, and there is clear evidence of PPP laws and guidelines. Further, these countries registered higher transparency in government functions. These countries, numbering sixteen of the fifty three African countries surveyed, are good candidates with a higher readiness for geospatial PPPs. Countries evidencing these characteristics at a high level include Egypt, Ghana, Namibia, Rwanda and Tunisia.
Emerging Nations – Medium geospatial PPP readiness
Emerging Nations have functional SDIs that are not mature yet. They exhibit a much lower incidence of geospatial infrastructure and EO capabilities. They often have embryonic space agencies or lack one and generally have a less robust business and legal environments. Additionally, these nations typically demonstrate significantly lower levels of transparency in government functions. Interestingly, all the countries listed as Emerging Nations have either PPP laws or policies or both, making them possible candidates with a medium-level readiness for engaging in geospatial PPPs. Twenty-six African countries fall into this category. Examples of Emerging Nations include Gabon, Mozambique, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia, all of which have participated in PPPs in the past.
Nascent Nations – Lower geospatial PPP readiness
Nascent Nations are characterized by their minimal engagement in geospatial activities to date. Eight of the eleven countries in this segment have just initiated SDI activity. Only Libya has an embryonic space agency. In addition, most of these nations have scored poorly in areas of business and legal environments and transparency in government functions. Despite these limitations, several have engaged in PPPs in the past. Nascent Nations include Burundi, Guinea, Libya, Mauritania, the Central African Republic, Chad and the Republic of the Congo.
The report identified PPPs across all three segments. Notably, only ninety-four of the 491 PPPs undertaken between 1990-2020 were in countries with a PPP government unit. This figure represents just about 19.14% of the total number of PPPs. Four of the sixteen Advanced Nations have no government PPP units but have undertaken PPPs. Similarly, thirteen of the twenty-six Emerging Nations have undertaken a good number of PPPs in the past without government PPP units. These trends indicate heightened receptivity towards PPPs among African countries, regardless of the presence or absence of dedicated government PPP units.
To dive deeper into the African geospatial PPPs, download the report here.
Africa Geospatial Public Private Partnerships: Business and Financial Considerations Report
The report demonstrates there are indeed strong needs and compelling stories for developing and supporting geospatial infrastructure and Earth observation (EO) sectors with PPPs in Africa.
The Africa Geospatial PPP Readiness Index ranks fifty-three African nations based on the strength of the enabling conditions and provides detailed guidance on various business tools for developing mature geospatial PPPs. The geospatial PPP how-to guide enumerates the process with a detailed list of steps to follow while developing a geospatial PPP to ensure its success.