Big infrastructure is inadequate: the World Bank’s solutions.
May 18, 2018
After the sunset, Africa is all dark, except for Nigeria, north Africa and South Africa.
Therefore, it is not shocking that in sub-Saharan area productivity is smashed by lack of adequate infrastructure and basic services, such as access to energy, water and a mobility fulfilling transport’s needs. In this area, 44 countries produce almost as much energy as Spain, which has only 46 million inhabitants. Electricity consumption is worth one tenth of how much the so-called developed countries produce.
Sub-Saharan countries’ levels are lower than low-income countries’ ones.
In last years, as we have seen, something has improved, but difficulties are more than evident.
Relative to other continents, Africa is characterized by low overall population density (36 people per square kilometre), low rates of urbanization (35 percent), but relatively rapid rates of urban growth (3.6% a year), a relatively large number of landlocked countries (15), and numerous small economies. International frontiers bear little relation either to natural features (such as river basins) or to artificial features (such as cities and their accessibility to trading channels, such as ports). Intraregional connectivity is therefore very low, whether measured in transcontinental highway links, power interconnectors, or fiber-optic backbones. Most continuous transport corridors are concerned with providing access to seaports, whereas the intraregional road network is characterized by major discontinuities. Few cross-border interconnectors exist to support regional power exchange, even though many countries are too small to produce power economically on their own. Because of their geographic isolation, landlocked countries in particular suffer from the lack of regional connectivity. Both the spatial distribution and rapid migration of Africa’s population create major challenges for reaching universal access. In rural areas, over 20% of the population lives in dispersed settlements where typical population densities are less than 15 people per square kilometre; hence, the costs of providing infrastructure are comparatively high. In urban areas, population growth rates averaging 3.6% a year are leaving infrastructure service providers severely stretched. As a result, urban service coverage has actually declined over the last decade, and lower-cost alternatives are filling the resulting gap. And, as a result, the costs of providing a basic infrastructure package will have to be twice as much as in other developing cities.
World Bank has several suggestions, such as enabling regional power trade by laying 22,000 megawatts of cross-border transmission lines, interconnecting capitals, ports, border crossings, and secondary cities with a good-quality road network, providing all-season road access to Africa’s high-value agricultural land, raising household electrification rates by 10 percentage points.
These goals were already in 2008 – 2011 analysis.
However, also because of petroleum recession and Arab Spring, too little has been done.
But Africa is creative. Facing big goals, it provides minimum innovations, which together could reach unbelievable levels, that could be the African answer to structured projects of world big institutions.