Energy, freight transport, water and digital infrastructure have been identified in South Africa’s draft National Infrastructure Plan 2050, as the four critical network sectors that should receive priority over the next 30 years. These basic building blocks for economic development and progress will, no doubt, remain central in the final plan too. In all four areas, there is significant pent-up demand. Without sufficient electricity, it is more expensive to build new mines and mineral processing plants. Without water security, agricultural investment is stymied. Without sufficient ports, rail and roads, entire manufacturing value chains grind to a halt. Without digital infrastructure, the communication, coordination and marketing becomes challenging for all businesses. Absent these supply-side building blocks, the pipeline of other growth-enhancing and job-generating projects, big and small, will remain insufficient to position South Africa to tackle its deep-seated problems of widespread poverty, rising unemployment and extreme inequality. Indeed, there are also infrastructure needs in many areas beyond these four priority sectors. Nevertheless, progress in these areas will go some way towards opening up investment in other infrastructure segments, as well as in the productive sectors of farming, mining and manufacturing.
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