Engineers Against Poverty
Engineers Against Poverty mobilizes engineers around the globe to fight poverty through more effective, transparent and equitable infrastructure development. Founded with an engineering focus, the U.K.-based group has expanded its work to improve ways of life in low- and middle-income countries by advocating for ethical working conditions, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing poverty worldwide. As a massive infrastructure funding gap stands in the way of global poverty relief, Engineers Against Poverty works to empower a multi-sector network to improve infrastructure policy and practices.

Infrastructure and Global Poverty

Engineers and infrastructure development play a vital role in the fight against global poverty. According to the Asian Development Bank, poverty reduction requires not only well-governed economic development, but also improved infrastructure for irrigation, electricity, water and sanitation and other basic needs. In 2016, Our World in Data reported that 40% of the globe experienced water scarcity and 13% of the world did not have electricity. In 2015 and 2016, one-third of the global population did not have access to an all-weather road. Engineers Against Poverty explains that infrastructure will play a vital role in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which were released in 2015 to be achieved by 2030.

“For EAP, its goal is to scale up influence on global infrastructure policy and practice to promote sustainable social, climate and economic impacts that contribute toward the elimination of poverty,” Engineers Against Policy Senior Communications Manager Charlotte Broyd said.

The Infrastructure Funding Gap

One of the greatest barriers to global poverty reduction is a massive infrastructure funding gap. At the 2015 release of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Economic Forum reported the infrastructure funding gap would prove the biggest challenge to meet the SDGs. The World Economic Forum explained that there exists a $15 trillion investment gap between the money needed and the existing funding to reach “adequate global infrastructure by 2040.” This gap, Engineers Against Poverty explains, must be tackled as a “governance challenge.” Up to one-third of global investment in infrastructure is lost to mismanagement in governance, particularly in low-income countries.

Broyd commented, “There is a role for many stakeholders in addressing the infrastructure investment gap (governments, international organizations as well as donors). For donors specifically, they can help by recognising the importance of transparency and accountability in the infrastructure sector and the need for support to initiatives and others promoting these principles. This is particularly important in the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis where any economic loss must be minimized.”

The World Bank has identified collaboration between the private and public sectors as a key approach to closing the infrastructure funding gap. The former managing director of the World Bank explained at the release of the SDGs that to help mitigate these investment hazards, investors and donors must make more comprehensive investments in policy, insurance, regulation and more to make their investments effective.

Engineers Against Poverty’s Infrastructure Transparency Initiative

Engineers Against Poverty’s global Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST) is key to closing this infrastructure funding gap. CoST, which currently works in 19 countries, encourages collaboration between civilians, engineers and policy-makers to work toward “improving transparency and accountability in public infrastructure” to reduce investment losses to mismanagement and corruption.

CoST has already seen success in many countries, including Thailand, where transparency, competitive bidding, decreasing contract prices and more efficient fund management have saved the country $360 million in infrastructure spending since 2015. In Afghanistan, CoST-prompted contract reviews saved the country $8.3 million in just one year for road-network maintenance.

The initiative focuses on increasing infrastructure project transparency by improving data disclosure, ensuring data is accessible to the public, creating social accountability for decision-makers and empowering civilians and communities to advocate for better infrastructure governance and delivery. By 2018, CoST had helped disclose data on around 11,000 projects through accessible platforms. CoST has also established legal mandates and disclosure commitments with governments in many countries.

“Our experience indicates that informed citizens and responsive public institutions help drive reforms that reduce mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption and the risks posed to the public from poor quality infrastructure,” the CoST website explains.

A key feature of CoST is citizen engagement and media attention, which enables civilians to hold their policy-makers accountable and make the infrastructure funding gap a priority for civil society. “CoST has enabled citizens to advocate for quality infrastructure through community events in several of its countries including Uganda, Ghana, Malawi and Thailand,” Broyd said. “Simply by raising the issues affecting them, citizens give the media powerful stories to report, which has generated much good publicity.”

CoST therefore illustrates the importance of involving citizens in solving poverty locally, nationally and globally. The combined efforts of engaged civilians and Engineers Against Poverty stand to make important headway in the fight against global poverty.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in IranIran, officially recognized as the Islamic Republic of Iran, has a population of more than 84 million. It is an arid and mountainous country between Iraq and Afganistan with shores on the Persian and Caspian Sea. Iran is the 17th largest country in the world. Healthcare in Iran has improved since the implementation of the Primary Health Care system, but there is still a divide between rural and urban access.

In 1974, Iran began fueling more resources into the expansion and development of its healthcare system. The government hoped that implementing Primary Health Care (PHC) would improve citizens’ access to healthcare in Iran. By 1979, PHC networks slowly began integrating into healthcare in Iran. It wasn’t fully developed and functioning until 1985.

Rural and Urban Divide

Since the Iranian government created a PHC, it has continued to expand healthcare. Currently, Iran has public and private systems; however, public healthcare has taken on the main role in healthcare services. Unfortunately, there continue to be disparities between rural and urban access. Rural citizens obtain healthcare services at health houses that are scattered across Iran’s countryside. These places generally have two working medical professionals with basic equipment to meet standards needs for nearby residents.

There is approximately one health house to care for the needs of 1,200 rural citizens. These centers offer general healthcare needs, such as vaccinations, maternal and child health and health education. As of 2018, around 90% of those in rural areas had access to basic health services. Although these health houses didn’t provide the same care as urban hospitals it did increase the access to health services for those living in rural areas. Those in rural communities did not have to venture into urban cities for their basic healthcare needs or checkups.

At least 75% of the population lives in urban areas and cities. Here, they have access to Iran’s private and public hospitals. There are 773 hospitals in urban areas in Iran. This is where advanced medial professionals reside and specialized treatment is available for the citizens. However, even in urban areas hospital infrastructure is lacking.

Reconstructing Healthcare in Iran

In May 2014, healthcare in Iran entered a major reconstruction period as the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MoHME) began implementing its new Heath Transformation Plan (HTP). The new plan involved nine packages to reform the current healthcare system, including improved access and quality of healthcare and increasing the number of specialized doctors. These improvements have since provided healthcare to almost 10 million Iranians in “marginalized areas” throughout Iran. The program also rehabilitated 13,000 existing health centers and built 3,000.

While there continue to be disparities in healthcare access between rural and urban areas. Iran has continued to increase its expenditures for healthcare services and create programs like the Heath Transformation Plan. This has helped healthcare in Iran to continue on the path of growth and development while allowing Iranians to have more confidence in their countries healthcare system.

George Hashemi
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Guinea
Guinea, officially the Republic of Guinea, is a Western African country located between Mali to the northeast and Sierra Leone to the southwest. With a population of 12.41 million and a total gross domestic product (GDP) equivalent to $11.4 billion, Guinea is one of the poorest nations in the world. Guinea’s poverty has limited its ability to develop the infrastructure necessary to sustain the health of its citizens. The people of Guinea have historically faced widespread public health risks such as malaria and Ebola. Infrastructural improvements resulting from domestic and global efforts are improving healthcare in Guinea.

The Problem: Lack of Healthcare Spending

As of 2018, Guinea’s per capita GDP of $920.80 amounted to only 7% of the world’s average. Within this figure, Guinea’s healthcare spending averaged the equivalent of $34 per capita. This minute healthcare budget has led to a variety of public health problems in Guinea, especially before 2014, such as:

  • Maternal & Under-5 Mortality: Guinea’s maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Between 2006 and 2012, an average of 724 mothers passed away per every 100,000 live births. Guinea’s under-5 mortality rate is also a global stand-out. In the same time frame, an average of almost 120 children under the age of 5 passed away per every 1,000 births.
  • Malaria: Malaria has historically been troubling for Guinea, taking more lives annually than any other disease and ranking as the country’s top public health concern. The disease strains Guinea’s healthcare system and heavily contributes to its under-5 mortality rate. Malaria causes 31% of consultations, 25% of hospitalizations and 14% of hospital deaths of children under the age of 5.
  • Epidemic Risk: From 2014-2016, Guinea endured the worst of the Ebola epidemic. Originating in Guinea and spreading to nine other countries, reports determined there were a total of 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths. Guinea was ill-prepared to face this outbreak due to limited resources and is at even greater risk from faster and more infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Despite these issues, healthcare in Guinea is showing significant progress thanks to a combination of domestic and global efforts beginning in 2014. In the midst of the 2014 Ebola epidemic, the United States, alongside almost 30 other countries, co-initiated the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). The agenda focuses on struggling countries at high risk for infectious diseases like Guinea, equipping them with the resources to improve health systems by revitalizing their physical and organizational infrastructure. The GHSA would mark the beginning of a series of legislation to improve the capacity of Guinea’s healthcare system through infrastructure improvement. Here are the top three infrastructure changes for healthcare in Guinea.

 3 Infrastructure Changes for Healthcare in Guinea

  1. Emergency Operations Centers: The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) helped create a system of public health Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) in 2015. These centers successfully responded to yellow fever, anthrax and Lassa fever in Guinea. They also strengthened vaccination campaigns for polio, tetanus and measles.
  2. Health Commodities: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aims to increase the capacity of Guinea’s public health systems by providing resources such as health training, equipment and technical assistance to struggling communities. The USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program, launched in February 2017, has helped maintain a continuous supply of these commodities.
  3. Epidemic/Pandemic Preparedness: The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aims to help communities prepare and respond to health crises such as epidemics and pandemics. In conjunction with USAID funding, the IFRC created the Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) in 2017. This program strengthens the ability to prevent and address infectious diseases in Guinea and seven other countries. The infrastructure created through this program will continue to help in the preparation and response to such global crises as the COVID-19.

These global efforts have already proven effective. Guinea’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 724 per 100,000 births in 2006-2012 to 576 in 2017. Similarly, the under-5 mortality rate dropped from 120 per 1,000 births to about 100. 

While Guinea’s mortality rates may be decreasing and its healthcare improving, there is still much the country needs to do to attain a suitable healthcare system: even the country’s lower mortality rates are still among the highest in the world. Guinea must maintain and push forward global initiatives for better infrastructure for the sake of its livelihood.

– Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

infrastructure development in CambodiaCambodia has remained one of the fastest-growing economies since 2017. The Southeast Asian country’s growth rate averaged about 7.9 percent since the mid-90s. The economy’s fast growth can be attributed to Cambodia’s focus on textiles, tourism and infrastructure development. Although still agriculture-dependent, Cambodia is improving its lagging infrastructure and attempting to rise out of its lower-middle-income status. Foreign nations such as China and organizations such as the European Development Bank are investing in infrastructure development in Cambodia, such as transport infrastructure to help Cambodia facilitate trade, increase competitiveness, add jobs and help reduce poverty.

Progress in Infrastructure Development

Although infrastructure development in Cambodia is increasing, only 96 percent of rural roads and 70 percent of provincial roads are paved. The World Bank-financed the Road Asset Management Project (RAMP) to support Cambodia’s path to road development, which resulted in more than 292 miles of rehabilitated roads with improved climate resiliency and road safety. Ports are also important to Cambodian trade, though it has been stated that the country’s seaport has the highest fees out of all Asian countries. The government said in 2019 that it would reduce its high fees to help increase competitive prices.

Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (SAP) is Cambodia’s only commercial and international deep seaport. Since 2014, the number of containers the port received has grown by 11 percent. It can hold about 4,560 containers total, but there is a plan to expand the port so that it can handle approximately 90 percent of ships in the region by 2023. When completed the TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) will rise from 537,000 to 1.29 million. A TEU is the length of a standard shipping container.

Investors See a Positive Future in Cambodia

China is Cambodia’s largest investor. Cambodia is seen as an important project due to frequent trade between the two nations. The development of roads, ports, railways and other forms of transportation benefits both countries. China has created jobs through manufacturing investments and has contributed to real estate and hydropower plant construction. China Development Bank invested more than $5.7 billion from 2007 to 2019 in infrastructure development in Cambodia, and the bank is constructing an expressway between Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh costing $1.87 billion. The port in Sihanoukville is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The European Development Bank (EIB) is also seeing a great future in Cambodia’s development, as it is investing $57 million in Cambodian rural infrastructure starting in 2020. The project is a joint operation between the EIB, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Royal Government of Cambodia. About 200,000 rural families will benefit from new technology, safer roads and better food supply. The money is invested in the Sustainable Assets for Agriculture Markets, Business and Trade project (SAAMBAT), which is a rural development project launched in February 2020. The project will create 4,500 jobs and 500 SMEs. It will also result in training 25,000 Cambodians on digital technologies that will improve business and increase trade.

Infrastructure development in Cambodia is not the only area affected by recent population growth. Poverty reduced from 48 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2018, which went along with Cambodia’s fast growth rate in the past two decades. As a country develops, its poverty rate is lowered. Ports, roads, airports and the power sector are all improving as part of Cambodia’s Rectangular Strategy Phase V, which encourages the development process and the policies that align with further development. Cambodia’s goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 expresses the country’s positive outlook in its future.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Chinese Investment in Africa
China’s rise to economic prominence is unparalleled in modern history. In just 40 years, China has become the manufacturing center of the world, built an enviable infrastructure system and created a robust middle class by lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The regime has also expanded Chinese investments abroad, funding a wide range of projects in far-flung corners of the globe. China’s international strategy has met with skepticism from the West due to allegations of corrupt business practices and sketchy dealings between often authoritarian states. This article will explain the effects of Chinese investment in Africa specifically, exploring the impact through the perspective of the international community, China itself and the receiving African nations.

The Extent

The value of Chinese investment in Africa since 2005 has passed $2 trillion. Chinese investment has many dimensions but primarily focuses on infrastructure and resource extraction. The regime’s plan to extract and ship resources through Chinese-built infrastructure connects more foreign markets to China as part of an ambitious megaproject called the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, China benefits by ensuring its supply of material needed to further economic growth and receiving nations benefit through job creation and economic diversification. Additionally, Chinese entrepreneurs own over 10,000 businesses on the continent.

One can only accomplish a proper understanding of foreign influence in Africa comparatively. Chinese interests in Africa are primarily commercial, but raise alarm bells in the West due to the scale of China’s acquisition of hard assets. Meanwhile, the West has had cultural and political interests in Africa for centuries, interests that continue today through the presence of Western military bases, political boundaries and cultural footprints of language and religion.

The Benefits

The ease and effectiveness of Chinese investment have provided many benefits for African nations. From its perspective, China provides fast access to capital and prompt delivery of services and workers. Additionally, Chinese loans do not need receiving nations to meet the ethical restrictions that organizations like the IMF require. The nature of Chinese investment often produces tangible results. Infrastructure projects increase access to transportation, healthcare, education and telecommunication services for ordinary Africans. Resource extraction diversifies the economy and can immediately sell to China’s booming market, as Chinese trade to Africa generally eclipses $100 billion every year.

Outside of investment, China plays an active role in addressing poverty on the continent. In 2018, the regime approved a $60 billion aid package and currently participates in five U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa. In general, African nations view China as a valuable ally with no history of colonialism, but also as an avenue for successful economic development.

The Concerns

While the economic benefits of Chinese investment are numerous, allegations about the regime’s business practices and intentions are of justifiable concern. The lack of accountability measures and regulatory mechanisms on the continent have led corrupt actors to hijack many Chinese-funded projects. In many cases, extraction and infrastructure markets are more concerned with connecting resource markets to China than considering the needs of the population. The influx of Chinese entrepreneurs and cheap goods have also decimated domestic industries such as the Nigerian textile market.

Additionally, Chinese investment projects often lack sustainability regulations and native Chinese laborers frequently dominate them. In fact, every million dollars of Chinese investment only creates 1.78 jobs for African citizens. Chinese lending practices have also received criticism for creating trade imbalances and debt for countries unable to pay them back in time. Finally, Chinese intentions are hard to ascertain, and as their economic influence grows, so does their ability to influence Africa’s diplomatic and political landscape.

The Solutions

Despite the shortcomings of Chinese investment in Africa, there are policy and organizational solutions actively addressing these issues. The findings of international organizations such as the U.N. and WHO can influence the state of Chinese business dealings. In particular, the Ease of Doing Business Index and WHO influence provides international awareness and transparency to Chinese investment projects. African nations have also realized the need to implement more effective regulatory mechanisms in order to combat corrupt dealings.

Additionally, nations such as Nigeria and South Africa have accepted deals from the U.S. and E.U. as a way to mediate Chinese diplomatic influence. China has also sought to improve its image, improving procedural transparency and establishing NGOs throughout Africa. The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute has opened a division in Africa, where it seeks to empower LGBTQ individuals by producing documentaries and spreading visual works. Transnational NGOs with Chinese offices such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the “Free Lunch for Children” campaign have started operating in Africa as well.

Despite uncertainty dominating it, Chinese investment in Africa has provided undeniable benefits to ordinary Africans. Ensuring that Chinese actions receive mediation will take the concerted effort of international institutions and accountability mechanisms. With concentrated reforms and an open diplomatic dialogue, Chinese financial support will be instrumental in helping the international community alleviate global poverty.

– Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in Honduras
Poverty remains an issue in Honduras, but it is making progress in rural infrastructure development, education improvement and agriculture income growth. As reported in 2017, Honduras has a poverty rate of about 52 percent, partly due to slow economic development, extreme violence and political corruption. Those in poverty rely heavily on outside aid from the World Bank, the U.S. and various non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Thanks to the World Bank and its partners, major development projects in Honduras were successful, such as the Social Protection Project and the Rural Infrastructure Project. Progress is currently ongoing to reduce poverty, develop the Honduran economy and improve life for those in poor rural areas.

Social Protection Project

The Social Protection Project cost $77 million, began in 2010 and ended in 2018. Although poverty reduced from 65 percent in 2005 to 52 percent in 2017, poverty remains an issue and is one of the main reasons for Hondurans fleeing the country. One major effect of Honduras’ poverty is parents taking their children out of school and having them work to help the household earn a sufficient income. Since income is low, poor Hondurans often cannot afford quality health care.

Malnutrition in children under 5 was 43 percent for those in poverty and school enrollment for ages 12 to 14 was 65 percent. To combat this, the World Bank and Honduras worked together to improve education and health care. At the end of the project, school attendance increased by 5 percent for 6 to 17-year-olds and school enrollment increased by 5 percent. Child labor reduced by 2.6 percent and about 50 percent of the recipients from 0 to 23 months of age received vaccinations. More than 300,000 families benefited from the Social Protection Project. Conditional cash transfers helped reduce poverty for those who participated in the project, which granted monthly income to the extreme poor.

Rural Infrastructure Project

The Rural Infrastructure Project began in 2005 and ended in 2016. Most roads in Honduras are unpaved and about 16 percent of people in rural areas lack a clean drinking water source, which increases the risk of contracting diseases. Also, about 22 percent of sanitation facilities remain unimproved and 30 percent of those in rural areas lack electricity. The Government of Honduras worked with the World Bank to improve its lagging infrastructure because of this. The project benefited more than 300,000 households.

Among many other infrastructure improvements, the project resulted in installing 4,893 latrines and constructing 113 water and sanitation projects. The project improved more than 413 miles of roadways and financed more than 8,550 rural electrification projects, with most of the electricity powered from solar photovoltaic energy. The project also improved more than 500 miles of power lines, which made it easier to develop remote areas of Honduras such as the slums in the western part of the country.

U.S. Involvement

The U.S. is one of the main donors to Honduras. Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the U.S. grants aid to those in need of foreign assistance. The U.S. Congress created the MCC in 2004 with strong bipartisan support. The MCC spent more than $200 million in infrastructure and agriculture improvements through four major projects in Honduras from 2005 to 2010. Some of the results include more than 350 miles of rural roads improved and paved. The biggest result was increasing monthly agriculture income by $3.50. The increase in income might seem small, but not for those in poverty, especially Hondurans who live in extreme poverty, off of less than $2 a day. For reference, the middle-income country poverty rate is around $5.50.

Poverty is slow to decline in Honduras, yet successful development projects in Honduras show improvement in other areas. Infrastructure is improving through the help of the U.S. and the World Bank. Poverty declined gradually from about 65 percent in 2005 to 52 percent in 2017. Development projects in Honduras in rural areas, such as through electrification, education and health care improvements and road construction shows promise for improving livelihoods for Hondurans in poverty.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Investment in RwandaThe commonly held belief on Chinese investment in African countries is that China is only interested in exploiting the continent for its mineral resources and establishing a sycophantic relationship with some of the world’s most vulnerable developing nations. However, the investment in Rwanda makes little sense if short term profit and influence are the country’s only motives. Rwanda lacks the natural resources that its neighbors have. Furthermore, its population will only yield a small number of consumers of Chinese goods in the future. Motivations aside, China’s investment is helping to develop the country in ways that will positively impact the lives of the country’s poor.

Rwanda’s Rapidly Improving Infrastructure

The investment in Rwanda has had no bigger impact than in the area of infrastructure with projects that include the construction of hotels, schools, hospitals and multi-thousand capacity stadiums in the underdeveloped eastern province. China also constructed 80 percent of the country’s roads, beginning with a loan of 250 million yuan in 2009. This equals about $36,040,200 million.

In the short term, the Chinese have reduced the cost of construction and have created jobs for local people according to Qinghai Liu, A Chinese expert in the research on China’s investment in Africa. Evidence exists to support her claim as well. One example is the construction of the Administrative Office Complex located in the capital city of Kigali. The Chinese builders employ some 260 Rwandan employees and provide them training in construction skills.

China is also funding an agriculture technology center to help improve Rwanda’s farming. Construction has also extended into real estate. Chinese enterprises are building 4,500 villas and apartments in Vision City for an emerging middle class. Recently, the Chinese embassy donated building materials for housing for the most vulnerable families.

The Tradeoff

The Rwandan government has found a willing investment partner in China whose aid is not preconditioned on democratization, liberalization and privatization. Rwanda has even modeled its development on China, lacking an emphasis on personal and social freedoms. Should Rwanda be unable to pay its debts, it is unclear what China might do to make good on its investment. Sri Lanka is the only country to have defaulted on its loans with China in the past. China seized the economically vital port of Hambantota in a response that remains controversial to this day.

Though there are obvious political and social concerns that come with the investment in Rwanda, the poor are benefiting. There is evidence that China is playing a concrete role in helping to lift Rwandans out of poverty. In big and small ways, China is helping Rwanda in its development, and not just the rich are benefiting.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Google

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica
Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Costa Rica is famous for its thriving wildlife, but what many may not realize is that Costa Rica prides itself as one of the greenest countries in the world. Here are 10 facts about renewable energy in Costa Rica.

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

  1. Most of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources. More than 99 percent of the energy in Costa Rica was generated from renewable sources in 2019. According to the country’s National Center for Energy Control, Costa Rica has been running on more than 98 percent renewable energy since 2014. The majority of this energy, 67.5 percent, comes from hydropower. Additionally, wind power generates 17 percent, geothermal sources make up 13.5 percent and biomass and solar panels comprise 0.84 percent. The remaining 1.16 percent is from backup plants.
  2. Costa Rica has universal access to electricity. Costa Rica has an estimated population of 5.05 million people. In 2018, at least 79 percent of the population lived in urban areas, and 20 percent lived in rural areas. Both rural and urban populations benefit from renewable energy in Costa Rica, as 100 percent of the households have access to electricity generated from renewable sources.
  3. Costa Rica lasted 300 consecutive days on renewable energy alone. Costa Rica set the record in 2017 for most consecutive days with renewable energy. The previous record for this feat was in 2015 when Costa Rica lasted 299 consecutive days on pure, clean energy.
  4. Deforestation has successfully been reversed in Costa Rica. Deforestation is detrimental to both civilization and wildlife. It can make agricultural practices and maintaining food supply difficult as it can lead to climate change, desertification, soil erosion and increased greenhouse gases. Beginning in the 1980s, the government of Costa Rica implemented policies to protect its natural forests. By 2016, the amount of land covered by forest has doubled to more than 50 percent of the country’s total landmass.
  5. Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program. Costa Rica created the PES program in the 1990s as part of protective policies put in place to combat deforestation. The success of renewable energy in Costa Rica is partially due to the pioneering of this program. Through it, landowners receive direct payments for ecological services when they adopt techniques that do not negatively impact the environment and maintain quality of life. The ecological services that can be provided include clean water, irrigation, energy production, biodiversity and scenic beauty. This allows for landowners, especially farmers, to earn an extra income even during unprofitable seasons.
  6. Costa Rica is producing so much energy that it can be sold. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) began selling its energy surplus to Central America’s Regional Electricity Market in 2015. The electricity helps power Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador. By 2019, Costa Rica has earned more than $180 million in sales of surplus energy.
  7. Costa Rica has committed to eliminating fossil fuels. In 2018, Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvarado, announced at his inauguration that he plans to ban all fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized country. The plan will begin in 2021 and features ideas that tackle problems in the transportation sector, such as implementing fully electric trains by 2050.
  8. There’s a roadblock in Costa Rica’s green vision. The transportation sector is one of Costa Rica’s weakest links. Much of the infrastructure, even in cities, is in poor condition. This leads to more people relying on cars than on public transportation. Costa Rica’s State of the Region reports that there are 287 cars per 1,000 people. Fewer than 2 percent of these cars are hybrids or electric cars. This generates a demand for fossil fuels (oil) with gas spending on the rise.
  9. Additionally, 82 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Nearly all households in Costa Rica have access to an improved water source. An improved water source includes piped water in a home or from another source, such as a public tap, wells or rainwater collection. However, this doesn’t mean that all households have water safe for drinking. Even though most of Costa Rica’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, the water supply is not very clean. About 18 percent of Costa Rica’s population lacks access to drinking water due to a shortage of infrastructure and government support. Unfortunately, minority groups make up this 18 percent, including people who are indigenous, impoverished, Afro-descendants and migrant workers.
  10. People in Costa Rica live healthier, longer lives. In a 2015 study by Bloomberg, Costa Rica was ranked as the healthiest country in Latin America and 24th in the world. Additionally, Costa Rica has one of the highest average life expectancy at 80 years. In fact, according to a study in 2016, Costa Rica’s poor live longer than the poor in the United States. Further, the lack of access to healthcare in the U.S. could be part of the reason why. This could also be due to psychosocial factors. Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan is Pura Vida, meaning “pure life.” Pura Vida is about slowing down and relaxing to enjoy what life has to offer.

Costa Rica is by no means perfect. As the government devotes much of its efforts to environmental sustainability, it takes away from maintaining infrastructure throughout the country. However, it is clear that Costa Rica is doing something right. The majority of the population has access to clean water and electricity, which is due to the enormous production of renewable energy. “Pura Vida” may just be a saying in Costa Rica, but it certainly connects to the country’s commitment to relying on what nature has to offer.

Emily Young 
Photo: Pixabay

Industrialization in Kenya
With a current growth rate hovering between 5 and 6 percent, Kenya is one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Industrialization in Kenya, as part of Vision 2030, is a priority that could help transform the agriculture-dependent country into a developed economy. According to Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, its three main goals include increasing foreign investment, improving the business environment and reducing corruption. Kenya has a massive goal of reaching a GDP of $211 billion. That would be approximately the same GDP as Romania in 2017. Kenya’s GDP increased from $18 billion in 2005 to $78 billion in 2017. The 2017 figure was $17 billion more than expected. China is one foreign investor that sees potential in developing Kenya’s economy.

Why Develop Kenya?

One side effect of developing an economy is a reduced poverty rate. Approximately 60 percent of Kenyans work in the agriculture industry, which is typical for developing economies. A developed economy such as the U.S. involves a mostly service dependent economy.

A drought-affected part of Kenya in 2017 slowed GDP growth, increased inflation to 8 percent and harmed the economy. President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the need for industrialization in Kenya and the country’s dependence on agriculture. Vision 2030 includes increasing manufacturing from 11 percent of Kenya’s GDP to 20 percent of its GDP and focuses on developing its oil, minerals, tourism, infrastructure and geothermal sectors.

Businesses and countries investing in Kenya could add jobs for Kenyans, help diversify into a new market and improve trade between the two entities. Foreign direct investment was $1.6 billion in 2018. The United Kingdom, China, Belgium, the Netherlands and South Africa are the main investors. Banking, tourism, mining, infrastructure and information and communications technology are some of the investment sectors for these countries.

First Steps to Industrialization in Kenya

China is a major investor in Kenyan infrastructure. The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) costs $3.6 billion and connects the capital with the largest city in Kenya. The China Road and Bridge Corporation hired more than 25,000 Kenyans to work on the railway that opened in 2017. It extended the railway to Naivasha in October 2019. More than one million people rode the SGR in 2018.

China Road and Bridge Corporation also invested in the Nairobi Southern Bypass Highway that relieves congestion through the capital city Nairobi by redirecting traffic to and from the port city of Mombasa. Mombasa has a population of over three million and receives visitors from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan. “There is no doubt the infrastructure projects financed and developed by China are making a huge impact in the country, especially when you look at the ease of travel and employment opportunities,” said Philip Mainga, managing director of Kenya Railway Corporation.

The World Bank also helped rural regions with its Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project. The project involved the construction of more than 60 miles of roads. Also, the project built 52 miles of footpaths, 66 miles of drainage canals, 39 miles of sewer pipelines, 68 miles of water pipelines and 134 security lights by its end date of November 2019.

Progress Ongoing in Kenya

Various organizations completed many other projects that have benefitted millions of Kenyans. Vision 2030 includes ambitious goals that will benefit its economy and people through job growth, key sectors growth and poverty reduction. One of Kenya’s key sectors, tourism, already saw a 5.6 percent growth in 2018, which is higher than the global average of 3.9 percent. The Information and Communication Technology sector saw an average growth of 10.8 percent since 2016, giving Kenya its “Silicon Savannah” name. Kenya’s poverty rate continues to decline as the country develops. Its poverty rate lowered from 46 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2016, demonstrating that progress is ongoing in poverty reduction and industrialization in Kenya.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Transport Infrastructure in Myanmar
One way Myanmar is accelerating economic development, and therefore reducing poverty, is through investing in transport infrastructure. A major side effect of economic development is poverty reduction. Development often results in job growth, higher productivity and improved education. Myanmar, as well as other developing countries, noticed massive poverty reduction that followed economic growth. However, economic growth is not the only solution to reducing poverty. Despite the southeast Asian country reducing poverty from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017, poverty still affects one in four people. Myanmar is currently updating and adding roads in rural areas. Additionally, Myanmar is constructing bridges, highways and railways to increase transport between Thailand, an important trade partner.

Benefits of Investing in Transport Infrastructure

Based on the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 2016 Myanmar Transport Policy Note, the country needs about $60 billion in transport investments between 2016 and 2030 for transport infrastructure in Myanmar to be completely developed. Myanmar has approximately 20 million people who lack basic road access. Further, 60 percent of highways are in poor condition. The ADB also stated that Myanmar’s GDP could potentially increase to 13 percent or about $40 billion if transport infrastructure investments increased to 3 to 4 percent of the GDP. For reference, Myanmar spent about 1 to 1.5 percent of its GDP on transport infrastructure between 2005 and 2015.

Policy for Transport Infrastructure

As part of Myanmar’s Sustainable Development Policy 2018-30, transport infrastructure development is a prioritized area. The third goal in the report relates to creating jobs and boosting the economy with the help of the private sector. The National Strategy for Rural Roads and Access 2016, Myanmar National Transport Master Plan 2016 and National Export Strategy 2015-2019 are three plans focused on upgrading or constructing transport infrastructure in rural and urban areas. Investing in transport infrastructure in Myanmar could improve trade between Thailand and other countries, as upgraded ports, railways, roads and bridges will open up the country for trade.

Bridges and Roads

The second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge is a bridge over the Moei River in east Myanmar that opened in 2019. The $126 million bridge connects the city of Myawaddy in Myanmar with Mae Sot in Thailand. Myanmar expects the bridge will significantly improve business between the two trade partners.

Two bridge projects in the capital Yangon are also underway. The Yangon-Thanlyin Bridge will connect the capital with Thanlyin, a major port city that handles most of the export and import shipments into and out of Myanmar. Estimates determine that construction on the $278 million bridge should end by 2021. Another bridge connecting Yangon with Dala in the southwest costs $188 million. Construction for this bridge should end by 2022. Dala is an underdeveloped and rural area that lacks bridges across the Yangon River; therefore, this forces inhabitants to take a ferry to cross the river. The bridge will not only help locals reduce travel time but also increase trade throughout Yangon.

Railways

Investments also include the construction of railways, after Myanmar noticed that the number of vehicles on roadways doubled from 2012 to 2016. Traffic within Yangon has become two to three times slower within the same time period. Yangon has a population of more than seven million, so reducing traffic congestion is an important issue. This also explains the push for bridge construction within the capital. The result of this observation led to the creation of the National Transport Master Plan in 2014. One part of the plan involves upgrading the $3 billion Yangon-Mandalay rail line. Work began in 2018, and it should be completed by 2023. Travel times between Yangon and Mandalay will likely reduce from 12 hours to eight hours.

Progress

Evidence of further progress in transport infrastructure in Myanmar is clear through the paved highway network, which increased by 35 percent. The country is developing at around 6 to 7 percent; however, according to the ADB, further investment in transport infrastructure is necessary to completely develop the transport sector. Job growth and improved trade are two major results of transport infrastructure investment. As the bridges and railways come to completion in the coming years, transportation within and outside Myanmar could greatly improve.

Lucas Schmidt
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