As mobile phone coverage improves, other basic infrastructure is slow to catch up (123RF)
As mobile phone coverage improves, other basic infrastructure is slow to catch up (123RF)

African rural infrastructure still lacking

3 March 2016

Africa has made key improvements in recent years, such as gaining near-universal mobile phone coverage, but the development of other forms of infrastructure remains an enormous challenge, a new survey reports.

The Afrobarometer report “Building on progress: Infrastructure development still a major challenge in Africa” found that electricity, water, sewerage, and road networks was lacking, particularly in rural areas.

Whereas 93% of Africans in the 35 countries surveyed have access to mobile phone coverage, only 65% have access to an electricity grid, 63% to piped water infrastructure and 30% to sewerage.

However the report found that 18 of the surveyed countries, tracked since 2005/2006 have made “steady though slow, progress in infrastructure development”.

On average, the availability of all infrastructure services has improved, the report claimed.

Access to electricity and water is now universal in Mauritius and Egypt and overall North Africa had best access to services, closely followed by Central Africa. East Africa ranked lowest.

For example only 17% of Burundians live in zones connected to an electric grid, and only 17% of Liberians have access to piped water.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has pointed out that Africa invests only 4% of its GDP in infrastructure, compared to China’s 14%. The bank believes “bridging the infrastructure gap could increase GDP growth by an estimated 2% points a year”.

Rural residents were far more disadvantaged than urban residents with on average 40% less access to electric grids, sewerage, and piped water infrastructure.

When it comes to mobile phone service, however, the average gap is only 10 percentage points.

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