An agricultural marketing expert says challenges to investing in Africa’s infrastructure must be met and overcome for the rural poor to be able to earn a living. Ann Tutwiler is the managing director of agricultural markets for the Hewlett Foundation’s Global Development Program, which supports organizations trying to reduce poverty. In this fifth and final part of our series, she tells Voice of America’s Cole Mallard that the need for infrastructure is great and ranges from roads, railroads and ports to telecommunications and the Internet; and “the tough thing is really deciding what to do first.”
TO INVEST OR NOT TO INVEST
A second challenge, she says, is convincing private and public bankers that agricultural projects are potentially profitable. The need for agriculture is significant, she says, but it’s hard to convince them that infrastructure investment in Africa will be profitable in the long run.
Tutwiler says one way to encourage successful outside investment is for Africans to identify areas where they have an economic advantage, such as the processing of natural resources. She says the profits from the sale of these resources can then be used in a way that convinces private and public investors that agricultural projects are potentially profitable.
Tutwiler says an encouraging aspect is that there’s more international interest in pursuing infrastructure investment than in the past because governance is more transparent, “… and I think that does help; it helps the banks and the private sector businesses want to put their money in Africa.”
Tutwiler says in the past, infrastructure investments have often been determined by politics; for example, “Where is the president’s home town?” She says, “With more openness and more transparency it’s easier for decisions to be made on the basis of sound economics.”