Local infrastructure

 

The story of African infrastructure is complex and often cannot be distilled into a simple discussion.

 

It is one rooted in its colonial past, mirrors the socialism that  characterized post-independence Africa and reflects the burden of rapid population growth.

 

Our guest on this podcast is perhaps uniquely qualified to lead such a nuanced discussion.

 

Enock Mpofu is a Zimbabwean architect and infrastructure specialist, who currently works at the Zimbabwe Open University, with extensive experience in local government within Zimbabwe. He retains a lot of interest and is well-read on the subject.

 

As an urban town-planner, Enock sees the crucial role that town-planning has, as it help structure the movement of various facets of society.

 

And although much of sub-Saharan Africa history remains lost to this day, oral tradition points to the importance of communal planning. This was eventually superseded by colonial town-planners who brought a more Western-style planning which still remains to this day.

 

Evidence of the importance of town-planning is best illustrated by Lagos, Nigéria. By Independence, Lagos, had grown in its own way unplanned way with residential areas built up with  no sewer system. this prompted the move of the political capital to Abuja–as a reset button of a sort,

 

Enock remarks that Africa exhibits the classic trends of developing countries’ population. This is typically characterized by a large young population relative to working age and retired individuals.

 

This speaks to rapid population growth, and this has put pressure on African cities as more and more people move to urban areas.

 

Not enough infrastructure was being built to cater for this mass of people, and led to publications lamenting the rapid urbanization.

 

“Urban areas as centers of economic activity and political power have seen disproportionate development when compared to rural areas. Enock sees this as emblematic of the kind of economic activity in rural areas, typically agriculture, which are not seen as immediately important.”

 

The silver lining is that the same publications now have headlines pointing to Africa’s rise. The same challenge of a young population poses great economic prospects typically known as the Demographic Dividend.

 

This is when the young population now enters the work force and begins to be contributing members of society. African governments have taken note and have instituted measures to address the shortage in infrastructure.

 

East Africa for example has made measures to be more integrative, and developing policies that promote infrastructure development, and could serve as a template through EAC.

 

Urban areas as centers of economic activity and political power have seen disproportionate development when compared to rural areas. Enock sees this as emblematic of the kind of economic activity in rural areas, typically agriculture, which are not seen as immediately important.

 

His advice to potential investors in African infrastructure: Take time to travel throughout the continent. The news tends to lump Africa into one homogenous entity but Africa is very diverse and a discerning investor will do well to find out for themselves.  

 

Enock  particularly views going into areas that are off the beaten path as more informative. He regards it as a social responsibility to develop investment that is inclusive of all.

 

Secondly any investor should identify a team of competent professionals to accurately assess any potential opportunity.

 

This team should be able to determine the capability of potential partners to deliver as agreed as well ability to service the debt at the stated rates.

 

A further note to investors is for them to be clear on the kind of partnership they seek. While Africa’s democracies are not yet as sophisticated, developing lobbying platforms that promote protection of investor rights should be a priority.

 

By a similar token, sufficient knowledge of the economic climate and regulations should inform any investor.

 

To learn more about wisinomad, visit www.wisinomad.com and send in your application.

 

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