Africa must ‘boost infrastructure spending’!!??

Insufficient infrastructure spending remains “the biggest risk” to Africa’s economic growth, the boss of mobile phone network Bharti Airtel, has said.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sunil Bharti Mittal said African governments should spend as much as possible on infrastructure.

Graham Mackay, chairman of brewer SAB Miller, added that such spending was trailing Africa’s economic growth.

He said it was resulting in “bottlenecks” for businesses.

‘Go for broke’

Mr Mittal’s mobile phone network is one of the largest in Africa, now operating in more than 15 African countries.

“Africa is a very large continent that [still needs] a lot of investment in infrastructure,” Mr Mittal said. “That is to my mind the biggest risk to Africa’s [economic] growth.

“Governments should go for broke, and get as much infrastructure built as possible. Can you imagine if Africa was to start investing heavily in infrastructure?”

Despite, his concerns, Mr Mittal said some countries were performing strongly in regard to their spending on infrastructure, covering everything from electricity generation and distribution, to road building and provision of fresh water.

He highlighted Ghana, Rwanda and “pockets of ” Nigeria for praise.

UK-based brewing group SAB Miller traces its origins back to South Africa, and it remains the largest brewer in the country.

Mr Mackay said: “Are Africa’s infrastructure investments keeping up with its economic growth? I would say no.

“On balance the infrastructure deficit is widening rather than narrowing.”

He added that his company often had to make “heroic endeavours” to get things done in certain countries.

Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria, said that while the infrastructure gap in Africa was “significant”, countries across the continent were continuing to take action to improve the situation.


The world invested capital in Africa, post-1950s, to create infrastructures and economic activity. But then, they force the developing world’s governments to reduce investment by the governments and the private sector do the investing, with the ideology of Neoliberalism. And now, they want the governments to start investing in their countries? It makes me think, was the restructuring for the sake of developing world, or was it just another way to forcibly open-up developing countries for exploitation?


11 thoughts on “Africa must ‘boost infrastructure spending’!!??

  1. Chelsea says:

    I agree with this in principle, but shouldn’t countries focus on political stability first so that civil unrest doesn’t destroy the infrastructure?

    • mludin says:

      Good point, but political stability will come if the people are satisfied with their government. If there is no infrastructure, then there will be unrest because people will want commitments from their governments.

  2. You may be interested in this podcast: Battling Cancer in Africa, Jan.4, 2013. It touches on several factors in African development (specifically Uganda) including infrastructure, government spending, donor spending, technical training, innovation, etc. There is no one silver bullet for the ills of the developing world, but I would agree that the Global North has to resist back-seat driving and play more of a support role.

    • mludin says:

      But what kind of role should the global north play? Should they have an active role in Africa or should they just provide financial support and let Africa work it out themselves?

  3. Katiana says:

    I think that the post-1950s era was a combination of misguided assistance and the idea that businesses could further their growth by getting contracts in the developing world. I do think that investment in infrastructure would be helpful in many countries. Political stability is important, as if the country is on the brink of war the investment will be lost. I have seen first-hand the effect that infrastructure investment has had in Rwanda and their development has sped leaps and bounds ahead since the genocide. However, I also think that this is not the only aspect that needs to be addressed, as Rwanda still experiences slums and extreme rural poverty and there are many issues that crop up in relation to that.

    • mludin says:

      It is true that infrastructure is one aspect in the development process Katiana, but it can be considered as one of the biggest macro development strategies. For example, if a farmer at a micro level produces crops and there is no proper road and transportation system(macro level), then his produce will rot away. Infrastructure is a big topic and can include wide array of stuff. City planning is also part of infrastructure.

    • mludin says:

      I am assuming when they say infrastructure, they are referring to the wider picture, which would include city planning. The key question would be, which infrastructures should be built first? Resources are very limited, and the list of infrastructure must be prioritized.

  4. I think investing further into infrastructure in Africa can be good and bad. It can be good because it will provide more jobs for the population and somewhat combat the unemployment rates.
    However, it can be bad because it will open up these countries to absolute exploitation through big corporations. Since most of these countries have a corrupt regime, you can count on the fact that local businesses will be taking a big hit if this plan gets the go ahead. These governments will do the usual by contracting big scale companies that will provide them with cheaper service at the expense of exploiting the resources and labour that these countries have to offer. The local population will also be employed in lowly paying jobs that will end once the infrastructure plans are completed, leaving back at square one struggling to make ends meet.

    • mludin says:

      It is true that big money spending will attract big corporations which could potentially result in greater harm then good. But this could be said to any step taken towards development. As I mentioned to Katiana, there are some essential infrastructure which is always needed for growth of any state. Transportation is the backbone of any form of growth. You need it for health care (reduces time and extends operation groups for emergency services), education (provides accessibility), security (provides accessibility) and business (one of the pre-conditions for economic boom). So it comes down to the choice of spending while knowing the risks of corruption, or not at all.

  5. In a course I was told that Africa has had 60-years to figure out how to get colonialism out of the equation, so this should no longer be an excuse. However, it still is not out. Not only do we see damage from the classical colonialism there is the perpetuated forces that I believe are too many to simply be called neo-colonialism. This is a topic I avoid for all the wrong reasons, because it makes me question the unintended consequences of what we are going to do with our development projects. Are we just getting an education to be a norm from of neo-colonialists? I don’t think so, but it is something to be conscious of.

    • mludin says:

      This becomes a topic of philosophy. I prefer the stance of working towards bring positive change. The future is uncertain, so when we tread on the topic of development, we have to be cautious, but it should not be an excuse to stop what we are doing. If we know that a certain method is not working, but we still repeat it, it is stupidity. If we try something new (with the intention of bringing positive change) and fail in our goal, it will be negative experience. So what I am saying is that, we have to take the risk (to a certain limit) to bringing positive change, even if it brings negative side-effects (while unknown to us at the beginning).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: