By 2050, the United Nations forecasts that Africa’s population will balloon to 2.4 billion people. Moreover, our continent will not only be full of new souls, but the average age of our population will be much lower than the rest of the world.
This means Africa has the opportunity to benefit from a massive and dynamic workforce eager to build a new future for themselves and to make a mark on the world. Likewise, African nations are investing aggressively into a variety of mega-projects that they hope will support this growth sustainably. The following list outlines just a handful of the most promising projects currently in development.
To start, let’s look at my home country of Nigeria:
1,400-kilometres long and at the cost of $11 billion USD, the Lagos-Calabar railway is one of Africa’s most ambitious projects. The rail project will link Lagos in the west to Calabar in the east, while also connecting the cities of Port Harcourt, Uyo, and Aba along the way. Once completed, this transportation network will significantly enhance the movement of goods and services across the region.
Mambilla hydroelectric power project
As Nigeria looks to boost its energy production to match the needs of its booming economy and population, the government has finally invested into making the Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project a reality. Over three decades in planning, this $5.8 billion project will connect to three dams across the Donga River in Taraba State, eventually generating a total installed capacity of 3,050MW of electricity.
Lekki Deep Seaport
In the Ibeju-Lekki axis of Lagos State, one of Western Africa’s largest infrastructure projects is being planned. The Lekki Deep Seaport is a $1.2 billion venture that is due for completion in 2021.
From here, let’s look outward to some of the other world-leading infrastructure projects currently in development across the rest of Africa:
Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
In the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia, this $4.8 billion project has been in the works since 2011 and is scheduled for completion in the mid-2020s. It will then take another five to 15 years for the reservoir to fill with water. But once fully activated, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate 6,450 MW of power for Ethiopia and neighbouring countries, and will also be recognized as the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, as well as the seventh largest in the world.
TuNur solar park
Leading the way into the future, TuNur is building a massive, 4.5GW solar energy park in Tunisia, over an area three times the size of Manhattan, New York. By absorbing the energy from the Saharan sun, this project will then sell electricity to Malta, Italy and France using submarine cables, powering up to two million European homes.
Suez Canal expansion
Since 2014, construction has been underway to add 22 miles to the Suez Canal in a new shipping lane beside the original 102-mile canal. Once completed by 2023, this expansion is expected to double annual revenue with the room for added ships.
Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway
Similar to the Lagos-Calabar Railway, Kenya is investing $10 billion into a 969-kilometre standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Malaba. This project is vital because only 5% of the country's shipping is currently done using freight, but once complete, this new railway will help to push that figure up to 40% by 2025. This new line will also cut travel time between the country's two most important cities down to 4.5 hours, instead of nine hours by bus. So far, the 472km rail line from Mombasa to Nairobi is complete, with the remaining phases still in development.
Through a collaboration between Tanzania, China and Oman, the ambitious Bagamoyo port is now being developed in Tanzania, along with 190 industries built throughout a 1,700-hectare special economic zone adjacent to the port. With an initial investment of $11 billion, this mega infrastructure project is designed to become Africa's largest port, one capable of handling 20 million containers per year once it’s fully completed by 2045. Without a doubt, this project will position Bagamoyo (and Tanzania overall) into a regional economic powerhouse.
Grand Inga Dam
This project has been in the works since the 1950s and even today continues to find difficulties to finance the $100 billion needed to make it a reality. However, once completed by the late 2020s, the Grand Inga Dam could one day become the world’s largest hydroelectric dam, tapping into the mighty Congo River to generate an average output of 39,000 MW annually, twice as much as China’s Three Gorges Dam.
Finally, let’s end off our list with a few honourable mentions of new and innovative smart cities currently in development across Africa:
Modderfontein New City
This ambitious South African city building project is being financed by the Chinese development firm Zendai Property Limited to the tune of $8 billion. With construction already underway just 20km northeast of Johannesburg, the city of Modderfontein will feature 13 million sqm of commercial, retail, warehousing, office, residential, recreational, and institutional land use. And once completed by the early 2030s, Modderfontein will serve as a hub for Chinese firms investing in African infrastructure.
Konza Technology City
Construction is already underway to build the "African Silicon Savanna," Kenya's first smart city and one that is being purpose-built to attract technology workers and investors. With a budget of $14.5 billion, and located 64 km south of the capital Nairobi, Konza will work to diversify Kenya's economic growth by establishing districts for business process outsourcing, disaster recovery centres, call centres, software development, data centres, light manufacturing industries, and research institutions. If successful, Konza will create 17,000 direct, high-value jobs, along with 68,000 indirect jobs by 2030.
Eko Atlantic City
Finally, Nigeria has its own smart city, mega project (and one that I’m personally involved with) called Eko Atlantic. This new coastal city is being built on Victoria Island adjacent to Lagos, Nigeria. It is a focal point for investors capitalizing on rich development growth based on massive demand – and it’s a gateway to emerging markets of the continent.
Ronald Chagoury Jr is the Vice Chairman of South Energyx Nigeria Limited, which is part of the Chagoury Group, a multinational business conglomerate based in Lagos, Nigeria. The company is currently working on Eko Atlantic, a new city construction project located off Victoria Island, adjacent to Lagos.