Africa News blog

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Time to build Africa?

February 2, 2009

Where once African officials might have viewed infrastructure projects solely as a good source of kickbacks, these days there is pressure from electorates, at least in some countries, to deliver on promises of improvements.

The growth that many African states have enjoyed in recent years has exposed the failure of the continent’s infrastructure still more starkly – with even South Africa suffering the kind of power outages that much of the rest of Africa has grown far too used to.

Infrastructure is in theory the focus of this year’s African Union summit, although as always it will be overshadowed by crisis in Somalia, Zimbabwe, Congo, Darfur etc…

The global financial crisis is an even bigger threat to hopes of strengthening Africa’s infrastructure.

Last year, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda all set out to borrow money internationally through sovereign bonds, for the upgrade and expansion of roads, water supplies, irrigation schemes and electricity generation capacities. That followed Ghana’s successful launch in 2007 of sub-Saharan Africa’s first Eurobond outside South Africa to help fund infrastructure development.

But the plans of the east African countries have been knocked off course despite early assertions from confident governments that they would not be affected by the global downturn which began in the Western world.

Kenya is exploring alternative ways of raising the $500 million it had originally planned to raise from a debut Eurobond. Tanzania and Uganda both made similar announcements.

But the problem of poor infrastructure remains as pressing as ever and could restrict growth in Africa once the current global financial storm ends.

A senior World Bank official has said Africa risks a “lost decade” of underdevelopment if it neglects projects to boost energy and transport infrastructure because of the global financial crisis – comparing the situation they face now to that in Asian countries a decade ago.

How much of a priority should infrastructure be for African governments at this time? Is there anything they can do to raise the money needed? What do you think?


Borrowing money can only be justified if there is a well thought project that will yield dividends is aimed. There have been promises that Chinese investments in Congo will have contributed to infrastructure building in Congo, but to no avail up to present. Countries such as Congo should focus first in sound economic management before embarking in borrowing


Cutting down on the rampant corruption is a priority.
Stabilize countries enough and encourage foreign investment at all levels: it will bring in the money and the know-how (teachers and business).
Open technically inclined universities to create and retain brain power.
Encourage culture of a large number of plants- not water thirsty monocultures only- and encourage good farming practices that won’t fluctuate so badly that they create instability in agriculture (the basis of any civilization).
Creation of grass roots social programs to help cut down poverty.
Utilization of old military equipment to help create basic infrastructure like roads from water sources to twon and villages. It’s great Public Relations too.
Start now with recycling at large scale so in ten or twenty years time the developing countries will have clean air and water resources, as well as a much smaller mountain of trash.
Many of these suggestions only require some initial good will with a minimal monetary investment but it is well known that where there is a will, there is a way, so nothing is impossible.

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

Water scarcity, illness, and poverty all go hand in hand. But, people do not realize that infrastructure-deficiency is the real problem in areas around the world (particularly Africa), rather than an actual lack of water. That’s the case in northwest Senegal, where a project to install infrastructure was completed in February – and covered in an interesting TV segment from Voice of America News. 009-01/2009-01-16-voa77.cfm?CFID=9341275 2&CFTOKEN=79890370&jsessionid=de302d4191 563e31cd7811dd474d5615d314


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