Energy Deficiency Restricts Development Progress in Africa

By William Kabagambe

In the twenty-first century, access to energy is vital to society’s basic needs. Modern energy sources are critical inputs to economic development, yet 1.2 billion people around the world live without access to electricity. In Africa alone, 600 million people do not have access to electricity, and even those with access use a fraction of the power that US citizens do.

Demand for energy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in particular is growing; the region is projected to consume close to 1,600 terawatt hours by 2040, four times the amount used in 2010. Despite the increasing demand, more than half of SSA’s nations are currently experiencing power shortages and rolling blackouts. Without reliable energy from the grid, most business and families must rely on generators. In SSA, generators can cost between three to six times more than they do in the rest of the world. Given the high costs of electricity generation, development objectives are increasingly difficult to attain, resulting in unemployment and economic stagnation. With growing populations and declining economic growth, the challenges to improved energy access are numerous.  SSA must create critical infrastructure, implement effective policy and promote new sources of investments if it is to unlock its development potential.

A woman uses fuel to cook in Burkina Faso. The WHO estimates that around 3 billion people globally still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels in open fires and leaky stoves. Image courtesy of Flickr user TREEAID under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

A woman uses fuel to cook in Burkina Faso. The WHO estimates that around 3 billion people globally still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels in open fires and leaky stoves. Image courtesy of Flickr user TREEAID under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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Developing India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Test of Governance

By Amy Chang

This July, Indian Prime Minister Modi’s government approved the use of the Swiss Challenge Model (SCM) as part of an effort to increase private sector investment for the renovation of 400 railways across the country. SCM is a form of public procurement in which the government publicizes unsolicited bids for projects and invites third party actors to match or exceed them.  Later in October, the SCM was also adopted to develop the Andaman and Nicobar Islands—a cluster of islands due east of India in the Bay of Bengal.

The decision to adopt the SCM comes against the backdrop of a sharp plunge in private sector investment for infrastructure projects in India, and the government hopes it will help cut red tape and increase efficiency by allowing local companies and investors to craft proposals in line with their capabilities and needs. There are, however, serious concerns regarding the level of accountability that the SCM process requires, particularly when dealing with projects where public authorities have limited knowledge and experience.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands remain largely ecologically and socially untouched by the outside world.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands remain largely untouched by the outside world.

The World Bank estimates that India needs $1.7 trillion to fund its infrastructure gap by 2020, but current levels of funding are insufficient to cover that cost: Private investment in infrastructure fell from $23.8 billion in 2012 to $3.6 billion last year. Under the SCM, companies present an unsolicited proposal to the government, and then the project is opened to other third-party bidders. The original proposer then has the right to counter-match any final offer. The SCM invites private investors to formulate their own projects, while still encouraging competition through an open bidding process. Continue reading

Can Morocco Continue to Attract Foreign Investment?

By Motoki Aoki

In the past five years, the Kingdom of Morocco has been the most rapidly transforming economy in the unstable North African region—and arguably even in the world. Morocco has made an incredible leap in the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business index, ranking 71 out of 189 economies compared to 130 in 2009. This dramatic improvement attracted the attention of the private sector, drawing even more foreign cash into the kingdom. In 2014, Morocco became the second-largest destination for FDI in North Africa and the third-largest recipient of FDI on the African continent. This year, Morocco continues to win foreign investors’ attention.

Last month, French aircraft company Figeac Aéro announced plans to invest $29 million to open a production plant in Morocco, generating 500 direct jobs. The French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen will invest $632 million in a low-cost vehicle assembly factory, with production scheduled to start in 2019. This is estimated to create 4,500 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs by the time the factory is operational. Additionally, Japanese company Furukawa Electric, the world’s third-largest fiber-optics manufacturer, is poised to invest $8 million to build a Moroccan plant and tap into the growing demand for communications infrastructure in Africa. Not only do these private investments create jobs, they also boost exports of vehicular, aeronautic, and electronic equipment.

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Casablanca is an important trade and financial hub for both Morocco and the African continent.

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Green Infrastructure: Leveraging Natural Processes for Affordable Water Management

The global development community is gearing up to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, illustrating a key shift in development priorities. Rather than focusing purely on goals and indicators, as the MDGs did, this new set of goals will additionally focus on the sustainability of development. One huge task is to provide global water security. Amidst rapid urbanization, water security in cities is a growing struggle, and providing water sustainably is even more of a challenge. A possible solution to this lies in “green infrastructure.”

“Green infrastructure” refers to a type of infrastructure engineered to maximize natural processes to manage water, mainly for cities and urban areas. These natural processes can include filtration through certain soils, flows of water through aqueducts and other gravity-based processes, or storing run-off water in certain specified land areas. These “green” processes can help control polluted run-off and erosion, as well as helping to sustainably and continually provide clean water for cities. Green infrastructure is distinguished from “gray infrastructure,” which includes the more typical basins, sewage systems, pipes, and filtration centers. Gray infrastructure can be expensive, cumbersome, and often subject to degradation over time. In many cases “green infrastructure” offers a sustainable way to manage, store, and distribute water because it utilizes natural processes instead of imposing artificial systems.

Lima, Peru is revitalizing a pre-incan canal system to more effectively manage water treatment and management.

Lima, Peru is revitalizing a pre-Incan canal system for more effective and sustainable water management and treatment.

One example of green infrastructure was recently in the news for its innovative approach to providing water to Peru’s desert capital city, Lima. In response to a growing water shortage, Lima has dedicated $22 million to restore an ancient, pre-Incan canal system. The canals funnel water from mountain streams into the mountain itself, where it percolates, filtrates, and releases slowly over the course of the dry season. “Gray infrastructure” water management techniques would send the water too quickly to Lima, which would result in mudslides and erosion in the wet season and severe water shortages in the dry season. The green infrastructure solution adds at least 1 cubic meter per second of water to the city. This solution is also cheaper than building a canal or storage facilities, especially in light of the rapid urbanization of the region. Lima is expected to grow by at least 700,000 people in the next five years, and green infrastructure solutions are flexible and sustainable even with that growth. Continue reading

Development Unplugged: Driving Progress Without the Internet

By Elizabeth Melampy

Earlier this year, the US-based NGO Digital Democracy held a coding conference in Peru called “Hack the Rainforest.” While most coding relies on the internet, this conference took place in a rural outpost of 100,000 people in the Peruvian Amazon where there is limited internet access. Coders addressed an unpopular question in development: how can technological advances help those with no internet access?

Despite high predictions of the growth of internet penetration, some of the world’s most rural regions are years away from reliable internet access. In South America, some 54.7 percent of people have access to the internet, a 1,455.6 percent increase in users since 2000. That progress is impossible to discount, and many development agencies and proposals are looking at ways to both increase internet penetration and then to use the internet as a valuable developmental tool.

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For some areas, like this stretch of Peruvian Amazon, internet access is not yet available.

At the same time, almost half of the region remains without internet access. Creating development strategies that rely on internet access ignores half of the population, and this ignored half is often based in remote regions most in need of development. Infrastructure barriers to internet access remain massive in many places; while universal internet access is within the future realm of possibility, it is still years away. Development shouldn’t have to wait for people to get access to the internet, even if that means we need to come up with new, “offline” strategies in the meantime. Continue reading