In Africa, more than anywhere else, the need for improved infrastructure is critical. We use our expertise and knowledge of the area to ensure that happens.
While the requirements vary wildly from country to country, it’s estimated that over half of the the continent’s population are still living without electricity and around 300 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. More than 700 million live without access to good sanitation – one of the leading causes of illness and death across the continent – while a lack of decent roads or viable transport networks means that both internal and global trade are significantly lower than anywhere else in the world.
The majority of this need exists in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in rural and remote areas. Much of North Africa has actually made real progress, with some countries enjoying virtually full-access to basic infrastructure. This means that the infrastructure imbalance is not only something that separates Africa from the rest of the world, it’s also something that creates gulfs between African nations, giving rise to political and humanitarian issues and causing certain nations to be left behind in their efforts to bridge the infrastructure gap.
million African people still rely on surface water to survive
Billion hours of otherwise productive time is spent collecting water
The provision of clean water is perhaps one of the best examples of the situation facing Africa today. Nations such as Egypt, Mauritius and Algeria are able to provide piped water to 100% of their citizens, while countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Liberia are being left behind. In some cases as many as 75% of people are without clean water, which has complex and far-reaching consequences.
One of the immediate problems is, obviously, the health of the people in affected areas. Waterborne illnesses such as cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea are contracted by drinking untreated, standing water and are among the leading causes of death and disease across the developing world.
These illnesses are very treatable and preventable but many countries within Africa lack the infrastructure to treat them (hospitals or transport networks to deliver medicines), or to prevent them (water treatment systems and distribution networks).
From an economic point of view, millions of hours are lost each year through illness or with people having to walk large distances to collect water and, as the demand for water grows, the strain placed upon the limited resources of many African nations is also growing. It affects the farming and mining industries and is also leading to vast numbers of people having to relocate, upsetting the delicate balance that exists within these nations and often leads to increased pressures being placed on urban infrastructure.
And water is just one example. Countless businesses suffer from a basic lack of reliable power for industrial processes. Many cannot get their goods to market due to poor transportation while the export of goods and minerals is an incredibly costly and time consuming endeavour for international companies.
The infrastructure gap has already grown so much that individual governments and economies of these nations cannot meet the financial demands being placed upon them. Therefore, for the economies of these nations as well as the health of their people, investment from private sources is something that has become increasingly necessary. Historically, this has been difficult due to the political and practical limitations in certain countries but, if done correctly, infrastructure projects of this kind can have a real impact and deliver excellent returns for private investors.