An effort is underway to promote investment in Africa’s infrastructure including roads, electricity and water management – to help cut rural poverty. Mike Taylor is a senior fellow with the private, Washington-based group, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa. In this second of a five-part series, he told Voice of America’s Cole Mallard that poverty in Africa affects not only individual incomes but also social services, such as health care and education.
AGRICULTURE IS KEY
Taylor says investment in infrastructure can reduce poverty by improving agriculture. He says roads make it possible for fertilizer and seeds to get to farmers and for farmers’ products to get to market; water systems make irrigation possible, and electricity provides power for schools and agricultural machinery. He says improved infrastructure is also needed for health care: “for access to health care we need roads, we need the ability to get electricity to clinics; health risks…are a huge threat to well-being and to economic development in Africa.”
Infrastructure is needed for education as well, he says: “kids spend a lot of time fetching water rather than going to school,” and electricity provides light, making it possible for them to study. Taylor says “one of the things that’s so compelling about infrastructure investment as an element of development in Africa is that it cuts across the board and meets such a wide variety of needs; it’s really the foundation for economic growth and poverty reduction across Africa.”
Taylor says that accountability is an important aspect of infrastructure investment planning. He says African institutions themselves are making substantial progress. For example, he refers to the role played by the African Development Bank, “the care they put into selecting and planning infrastructure investments and then following up to be sure that the investments are implemented as planned.” Another example is the African Peer Review Mechanism, under which African governments open themselves up to experts around the continent who review their practices on poverty reduction, economic issues, democracy and poverty. Taylor says the African Peer Review Mechanism “is all about accountability. There’s a very important trend in Africa towards embracing accountability for actually achieving the goals of poverty reduction.”