Any developing nation, region or continent needs modern infrastructure to turn around its economy and improve its social status. Africa still lags behind in infrastructure development with the largest deficit being found in the energy sector. African leaders are quickly realizing the benefits of modern infrastructure hence the evident inter-regional collaborations in executing massive infrastructure projects throughout the continent.
There are countless benefits of having modern infrastructure in Africa and the best way to break it down would be to discuss the major categories of infrastructure. Infrastructure is normally divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ infrastructure. Hard Infrastructure is made up of fixed assets such as transport, energy, water & solid waste management, communications and earth monitoring & measurement networks. Soft Infrastructure on the other hand consists of some physical infrastructures that mainly focus on the provision of specialized services. This kind of infrastructure is made up of governance, economic, social as well as cultural, sports and recreational infrastructures.
Transport is a crucial form of infrastructure for the development of any nation or region. Modern transport systems ease the movement of goods and people within and across their borders. Transport is a significant form of infrastructure for any civilized society and it connects almost all other forms of infrastructure. To further understand the importance of modern transport systems in Africa, projects like the Abidjan-Lagos Motorway set to take off in 2015 will connect 5 West African countries; Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria along a coastal route.
The Mombasa-Kigali Standard Gauge Railway launched in late 2013 is another modern transport project meant to bring a huge economic and social change within East Africa. The railway line which has commenced construction at the Kenya’s Port of Mombasa will run through Kampala in Uganda up to the capital of Rwanda, Kigali. This project which is expected to end in 2018 has already strengthened the East African Community with more economic benefits expected.
The North South Corridor (NSC) Aid for Trade Programme is another major transport project connecting 8 countries with over 150 projects focused on air transport, road and rail among other sectors of modern infrastructure. The NSC Project is meant to connect Tanzania’s Capital Dar es Salaam with the mines of the Zambia and DRC. This project initiated by The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and East African Community (EAC) will eventually connect to South Africa’s port of Durban.
Africa faces the largest energy deficit than any other continent globally. This deficit is experienced in the capacity generated, the consumption of electricity and even the security of supplying power to the most remote areas of Africa. The power generated by the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa to power her 1 billion people is equivalent to the power generated by nations like Spain with a population of less than 50 million. Africa’s power consumption currently standing at 124 kilowatt hours per capita per year is not only 10% of any developing region globally, but it is barely enough to power a 100-watt light bulb per head for only 3 hours a day.
This deficit therefore calls for modernization of the energy infrastructure throughout Africa leading to projects such as The Jasper Power Project, which is being managed by SolarReserve. SolarReserve is a renewable energy firm which is building a 96 Megawatt solar Photovoltaic (PV) plant in South Africa. The Jasper Power Project has been funded by Google to the tune of $12 billion and aims to generate 18 Gigawatts (GW) of clean energy by the year 2030.
The Lake Turkana Wind Power Project is another energy project aimed at increasing the capacity of power generated in East Africa. The project is ongoing in the northeast of Kenya to be Africa’s largest wind farm project. This wind farm is expected to provide up to 300 Megawatts of clean energy from the 365 wind turbines being installed.
Another energy generation project in Africa is The Rusumo Falls Hydroelectric Project, which is a hydroelectric power station planned to sit along the Kagera River in Rwanda. The neighboring nations of Burundi and Tanzania are set to benefit from over 80 Megawatts of power expected from the Rusumo Falls project.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is undoubtedly the backbone of modern business and ultimately the backbone of modern development. All sectors of life have literally become dependent of ICT to run smooth and accountable operations while saving much more time compared to the era of analogue operations. Today, Africa has a mobile penetration of 63% compared to only 5% GSM coverage in 1999. There are also over 250 million mobile phone users with over 500 million subscriptions all over Africa.
Africa has an internet penetration of just over 16% but this figure is expected to rise steadily with the increasing number of undersea cables supplying Africa with bandwidths of over 80 Terabytes. There are currently 10 leading Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Africa namely: Seacom, EASSy, TEAMs, WACS, MainOne, GLO1, ACE, SAex, WASACE and BRICS covering all African countries with a coastline before penetrating the landlocked nations. It is estimated that if the current trend continues, Africa will enjoy an extra $300 billion annually from the internet related businesses. This is a major benefit for the economies and livelihood of Africans.