African water infrastructure growth slows while other sectors improve

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By Southern Times Correspondent

African infrastructure development growth has slightly improved between 2016 and 2018. 

According to the African Development Bank’s African Infrastructure Index (AIDI),  infrastructure growth has been seen mainly in the ICT and energy sectors while the water supply and sanitation sector is still lagging behind . 

The index which was developed by the bank to monitor the continent’s progress in infrastructure growth, covers the period 2000-2018 and presents selected indicators that comprise the index’s major components, namely electricity, transport, ICT, and water and sanitation. 

 A report released in July  by AfDB stated that AIDI scores improved for almost all African countries between 2016 and 2018. 

“The global index imputed for the entire continent has risen from 27.12 to 28.44. The range of performance for the top 10 countries, including the Seychelles, Egypt, Libya, South Africa, Mauritius, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Cabo Verde and Botswana improved from 35.63-93.92 in 2016 to 36.79-94.32 in 2018. 

"However, the improvement in the indices for the electricity and transport sectors is more pronounced in the top 10 performing countries. The top performers include Libya, 3.62 points; Republic of Congo, 3.06 points; South Africa, 3.01 points; Gabon, 2.92 points; and Côte d’Ivoire, 2.90. The ranking of the top ten remains unchanged, with Seychelles retaining,” stated the report. 

Nevertheless, a major concern raised in the brief is on the progress of infrastructure development of water supply and sanitation. The index showed that most African countries have witnessed slower progress in water supply and sanitation, compared to developing countries in other regions of the world. Surprisingly, some countries that ranked in the top 10 according to the index still lack improved sanitation facilities, particularly in rural areas. 

According to the report, in half of the African countries, less than 35 percent of the population have access to improved sanitation facilities, and less than 76 percent have access to portable water. The progress made in sanitation is still well below the targets set by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Analysts are of the view that policy makers have been focusing mostly on seemingly directly investment related infrastructures putting a blind eye on the importance of water supply infrastructures. 

The report recommended that African leaders need to urgently address this anomaly given the massive impact of this sector on the quality of life of Africans and its linkages to other sectors such as health — particularly in rural areas. Clearly, policies and investments targeting this sector are imperative to drive up overall AIDI scores and to achieve many of the SDGs. 

In comparison of the continent’s regions, the report showed that North Africa is the top performer in the overall infrastructure development scores followed by Southern Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa. 

North and Southern Africa recorded higher performances in the following areas: ICT (mobile phone and internet subscription with greater international internet bandwidth), improved sanitation facilities, and transport. 

On the other hand, West Africa performs well in fixed line phone subscriptions, the number of internet users, paved road density and, to a lesser degree, electricity generation. 

Central Africa and East Africa recorded moderate and sometimes low performance in international internet bandwidth, paved road density, and phone subscriptions (both mobile and fixed). Between 2016 and 2018, Central Africa recorded a notable decline in both ICT and electricity indexes. However, the sub region recorded a slight improvement in water and sanitation.

“Virtually all major countries improved their scores in the AIDI 2018, though at different rates. The top 10 countries retained their overall rankings over the period. It is noteworthy that any significant improvement in the rankings of countries was mainly due to progress in the ICT sector and, to a lesser degree, in transport. At the sub regional level, no changes were recorded in the rankings over the period. 

"However, although Central and East African countries (accounting for about 0.4 billion people) have maintained their fourth and fifth positions respectively, these sub regions have the greatest potential to improve their future scores and rankings,” concluded the report.  

 

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