What do you prefer – roads or schools?
Development in Africa – Governments have to make tough choices
As you possibly know the African continent (specifically Sub-Saharan Africa) is less developed than the Western world. Good news is that Africa is trying hard to step up and keep up with worldwide developments. Development in Africa is a hot topic for years and there have been many discussions on how to kick-start this development.
The infrastructure deficit in many countries makes development difficult. How can you develop an area when there is no proper road connecting the key spots? Those are some of the challenges that need to be overcome.
In 2009, the World Bank estimated that Africa as a whole would need $93 billion each year to, most likely, catch up with the developed countries of this earth. In 2014, IMF concluded that only $51.4 billion each year was spent meaning a $40 billion shortage every year to achieve this goal.
As these statistics show, many actions are taken to improve infrastructure but what about other important factors like education, health, defense, economy, etc. Development in Africa encompasses more than just roads. Many African leaders and governments have impossible decisions to make and trade-offs that they need to do over and over. This year we can choose for the roads and next year we put that money in the development of schools.
So what to aim for?
Investing in roads will increase economic growth rapidly because local business are now ‘connected’ and potential customers can find their way easier. Schools however will have larger long-term benefits country wise but the short-term benefits are not that evident. Another ‘disadvantage’ of investing in schools is that there are more ‘operational’ costs involved like salaries, building maintenance, curriculum development, education materials etc.
You see that development in Africa is not that easily implemented. Apart from these evident distinctions there is a more compelling reason to go for short-term benefits which is the political advantages. A new government in power has mostly 4 years to prove their worth hence want quick results. A common question they have to answer is the following:
Investing in top class roads by a South African road builder or get a ‘good looking’ reasonable quality road by a Chinese contractor for half the price?
Yes you know the answer and this is what is happening all over the continent. There are few governments that will aim for the long-term results knowing that they have so many other hurdles to overcome.
Please comment if you have ideas or suggestions on how to take this up.
* If you want more details please read further here.
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