The Bioceanic Road Corridor
Paraguay is a landlocked country with neglected transportation infrastructure. The inner portion of Paraguay in particular contains very few paved roads. In fact, the entirety of Paraguay contains 9,300 miles of paved roads, primarily on the outer edges of the country. For comparison, California, which is roughly the same size as Paraguay, contains 396,540 miles of paved roads.

The inland of Paraguay is incredibly difficult to traverse in its current state, with hundreds of miles of swamp, savannah and scrub, called the Gran Chaco. Traveling through the country with large vehicles, such as semi-trailer trucks, is nearly impossible. One truck driver noted that driving from the industrial city of Loma Plata to Carmelo Peralta, a mere 165 miles away,  could take up to 12 hours, primarily on dirt roads. If it rained, the truck could end up stuck in the mud for days. This made transport across Paraguay a logistical disaster. Export of goods to non-local markets was incredibly difficult and expensive. However, this may soon be a worry of the past. The Paraguay government has constructed 1,864 miles of paved roads since 2018. More importantly, it began construction on its portion of the Bioceanic Road Corridor in 2019.

Bioceanic Road Corridor 

The Bioceanic Road Corridor is a dual-carriage motorway that will stretch east to west from Chile, through Argentina and Paraguay, and end in Brazil. The four countries have long discussed this plan but Paraguay is finally putting it into action. Paraguay’s section of the road will stretch 338 miles. Additionally, this project plans to implement rail and fiber optic connections from Chile to Brazil. Thanks to the corridor, the stretch of road between Loma Plata to Carmelo Peralta now only takes four hours to traverse.

Impact on Paraguay 

The completion of the Bioceanic Road Corridor will revolutionize trade for Paraguay. The primary stretch of road will travel across the country, with a large bridge from Carmelo Peralta to Brazil over the Apa River. Simultaneously, the Trans-Chaco Highway running north to south will widen and improve. Before this project began, shipping goods was very costly. Now, the country will have access to the Pacific ports of Chile and the Atlantic ports of Brazil. The hope is that this corridor will allow Paraguayan goods to enter the booming Asian market. Expectations have determined that, upon the completion of the corridor, agricultural producers in the southern cone of Paraguay will save an average of 14 days and $1,000 per container shipment.

Not only will trade improve but day-to-day life in Paraguay will also see benefits. Getting to the hospital from the Chaco will be far easier with these newly paved roads. In addition, an increase in the transport industry should create hundreds of regional jobs.

Issues

While the Bioceanic Road Corridor will have plenty of benefits, some issues may arise from the construction of such a large road through the Chaco. Of course, there are worries about deforestation in the Chaco leading to the loss of biodiversity. To counter this, the government plans for the corridor to include 15 underpasses for wildlife. Furthermore, some believe this investment would be better placed in the hands of the small agricultural producers that make up 20% of Paraguay’s GDP.

Despite these concerns, Paraguay’s future looks brighter with the implementation of the corridor. The corridor should lead to an increase in trade, the creation of more jobs and the saving of thousands of hours of manpower. Additionally, the quality of life of those living in the Chaco should improve. As of right now, the Bioceanic Road Corridor looks to be the new Silk Road for those in Paraguay.  

 – Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania Builds Infrastructure
The Tanzanian government announced that it will begin construction on a $1.9 billion railway throughout the country to better increase the country’s infrastructure and connect communities. The country will pay for the railway from loans and the government said it will not raise or impose any taxes on the citizens to afford the railway. The railway is part of a larger railway line that will cover 1,219 km with the hopes of boosting Tanzanian trade with its neighbors. The section that the government announced will connect two towns, Makutopora and Tabora, in central Tanzania. Once the full 1,219 km railway line is complete, it will run from Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port, Makutopora, to a port city on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tabora, which Tanzania also shares with Uganda and Kenya. During the announcement of the project, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan stated that the line will be a priority because of its importance in connecting the country to its neighbors.  The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure will help bridge the divided country.

Earlier Railway Construction

In January 2021, the Tanzanian government announced a different railway line that would be built in the country using Chinese companies. The announcement, which occurred a year ago, lengthens Chinese involvement in Tanzania to now more than 10 years. In the announcement, the government of Tanzania said that the railroad will connect Mwanza to Dar es Salaam and span a distance of 341 kilometers from one side to the other. The announcement was part of a 2,561 kilometer of new railways through the country that will connect Dar es Salaam to the rest of the country.

According to Reuters, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway Construction Limited won the contract worth 3.0617 trillion shillings or $1.32 billion to build the railway. The former has already won several other projects in Tanzania and is now working on the railway.

Economics

In recent years, the fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure increased its debts as more infrastructure projects are in the works across the country. In 2021, fiscal spending was $15.7 billion while donors only covered 8% of the amount. The government expects to see a 6.3% growth in the economy by 2023 from 2021.

In July 2020, Tanzania was upgraded from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country and the government has hopes of being a middle-income country by 2030. To reach this goal the government of Tanzania is working to develop its infrastructure, energy, and agriculture sectors to grow its economy and provide more opportunities for exports.

Along with this, the private sector is working to expand mining in a country that has faced underinvestment in the past. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tanzania was not as badly affected as its neighbors mostly affecting its travel and tourism sector of the economy.

Extreme Poverty

It is estimated that the percentage of people in extreme poverty in Tanzania increased from 49.3% to 50.4% from 2019 to 2020 and 1 million Tanzanians have fallen into that group in 2020 alone.

Before this time and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was experiencing rather low poverty rates based on the national poverty line according to data from the World Bank with 26.4% of the population living in poverty. An overwhelming majority of the urban population at 71% falls under the non-poor category while only 42% of the rural population falls into the same category.

The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure could benefit future generations as they grow up and improve Tanzania’s ability to make sure it can take care of its citizenry and provide a reliable source of transportation and movement of people and goods throughout the country.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Railway Connection
In January 2022, the governments of two African countries, Burundi and Tanzania, entered into a $900 million agreement to build a connecting railway between the two nations’ capitals. This railway deal has come about due to both countries’ economies showing remarkable growth and a significant number of added jobs in both nations’ workforces. Additionally, the deal will positively impact trade and decrease poverty rates for both Tanzania and Burundi.

Poverty in Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked African country that ranks as the most impoverished nation globally. The country struggles with food insecurity and a poverty rate that is challenging to decrease. Burundi’s poverty rate now hovers at about 70%, increasing from 64.9% in 2013.

A lack of access to clean water and Burundi’s dependence on agriculture as a primary source of income exacerbates Burundi’s struggles. Agriculture’s status as the nation’s main source of income is likely to change as the progress on the railway commences.

Burundi’s economy dried up in 2015 as the government went through electoral changes that led to a contraction in the economy, according to the World Bank. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic also led to a halt in Burundian economic growth. However, the new railway deal with Tanzania could increase trade and job availability and boost both countries economically.

Poverty in Tanzania

Tanzania has struggled to improve its economy and decrease its poverty rate, although it has had more success in this regard in comparison to Burundi. Since 2000, Tanzania’s economy has ranked as “one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies,” with an annually increasing GDP of almost 7%. However, Tanzania’s economic growth dipped to 2.1% in fiscal year 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic pummeled the country. Fortunately, Tanzania is bouncing back economically as the nation regains its footing.

Tanzania’s primary business sectors with the most significant economic contributions are agricultural processing and mining. Both business sectors remained steady in the past year in terms of work and output, and even with inflation and the ongoing pandemic, the sectors remained stable in their economic contributions. With that in mind, the nation is determined to branch out to other economic sectors and not rely so heavily on agriculture and mining. The railway deal between Tanzania and Burundi will ignite new economic growth and development opportunities for various sectors in Tanzania.

Tanzania and Burundi’s Workforces

Tanzania and Burundi have large workforces in agriculture and mining. In 2020, Tanzania’s agricultural workforce accounted for close to 65% of the country’s overall workforce while Tanzania’s mining industry employed more than 310,000 individuals in 2019. Up to 160,000 Burundians rely on mining for their livelihoods. As of 2019, more than 85% of the Burundian population depended on agriculture as their primary source of income.

Tanzania’s and Burundi’s governments are determined to expand their workforces to generate economic growth with the new railway deal. Burundi’s industrial and structural workforce contributes less than 10% to the country’s overall gross domestic product (GDP). The average salary for a Burundian construction worker is 690,000 BIF, roughly $340 per month. Anyone working in construction in Burundi is heavily underpaid.

Tanzania’s construction workers often do not have formal training. The monthly salary of Tanzanian construction workers is slightly higher than the average wages of Burundi’s construction workers. The highest average salary for a Tanzanian construction worker is 1,830,062.00 TZS, roughly $700 a month.

The Tanzanian and Burundian governments are implementing a railway deal to develop a railroad to connect. This could help the countries could provide new jobs, increase salaries for construction workers and lessen dependence on agriculture and mining.

The Potential Impact of the Railway Deal

The two governments developed the railway deal to create inter-nation trade and travel and improve both economies simultaneously. Developing the integrated railway network will take several months and maintenance will require trained professionals to begin construction and keep the railways functional.

In the United States, 119 miles or 190 kilometers of rail work require 4,000 professionals for construction and maintenance and additional work in the surrounding areas. The Tanzania and Burundi deal will span a minimum of 282 kilometers; thus, the potential for job opportunities in Tanzania and Burundi is significant.

There are expectations of further possibilities for increased trade and new partnerships to develop as the railway starts operating. Tanzania and Burundi expect the added trade routes will enhance trade with the East African Communities (EAC), according to All Africa.

Tanzania and Burundi’s trade efforts are significant in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). For all regional markets in Africa, the Tanzania and Burundi new railway system could create inter-regional trade, boost employment rates, drop poverty rates and increase salaries for all involved.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

EU’s Global Gateway
In competition with China, the European Union (EU) pledged in December 2021 to give €300 billion to countries around the world in order to help them rebuild their infrastructure. The EU’s Global Gateway is a ‘global investment plan’ that will offer options to countries that are currently dependent upon China’s Belt and Road Initiative and also provide different opportunities through the United States’ and G7’s Build Back Better World initiative. These three different strategies and initiatives will all work in cooperation but also compete with each other to increase infrastructure in underdeveloped countries around the world and bring jobs and opportunities to raise people out of poverty.

The announcement comes after the meeting of the G7 in June 2021, where the members had agreed to launch an infrastructure partnership to meet global infrastructure development needs and will build off of the success of the 2018 EU-Asia Connectivity Strategy. The EU announced on December 1, 2021, that it will direct €300 billion equal to $340 billion to public and private infrastructure investments over the next six years through 2027.

Global Gateway Projects

With the announcement of the Global Gateway Strategy, the EU has also laid out how it will divide the money into different sectors such as digital, transport, energy and health. In a press release from the European Commission, it is written that the Global Gateway will “boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport and strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.” Europe is also hoping that the Global Gateway will help improve its strategic interests and most importantly boost its supply chains which Europe noticed the instability throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan will focus on providing physical infrastructure such as “fibre optic cables, clean transport corridors and clean power transmission lines.”

EU’s Global Gateway Strategy vs. China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Although the official announcement of the Global Gateway did not mention China or its economic development plan called the Belt and Road Initiative, this new deal comes into direct competition with China’s economic development plan which critics question for forcing already underdeveloped countries into unsustainable levels of debt. Further, the EU’s version will provide financing for countries “under fair and favorable terms in order to limit the risk of debt distress.”

How China’s Belt and Road Initiative Works

China’s Belt and Road Initiative focuses mainly on offering assistance to foreign countries in the form of loans and thus the loans are the only way the countries can improve their infrastructure. Compared to the EU’s $340 billion plan, China plans to spend up to $1 trillion for its plan, which began in 2013. The projects approved with funds from the Global Gateway must support high standards to keep workers safe and properly paid for their work. The money for the plan will come from the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus. This can provide €40 billion guaranteed while giving grants up to €18 billion through external programs.

How the Global Gateway Works

The Global Gateway is bringing together the EU and its member states with financial and development institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) while also mobilizing the private sector to create an even larger impact. In addition to financial contributions for projects, the EU will also offer technical aid to their partners to enhance their ability for credible projects. The Global Gateway will provide a much-needed option to countries that have limited choices for foreign economic development aid. In the case of Sri Lanka, it had taken part in China’s Belt and Road Initiative to build the Hambantota Port. However, when it turned out that Sri Lanka was unable to repay its loan, China forced the nation to “hand over a majority stake and 99-year lease on the port to a Chinese firm.”

Conclusion

The EU’s Global Gateway is a necessary achievement for the advancement of progress for countries and their citizens around the world. This is a true achievement of the G7 and will go a long way in supplying sufficient projects and infrastructure to lift people out of poverty around the world. With the support of the European Union and its focus on lifting people out of poverty and competition building foreign countries, the Global Gateway should be able to aid in the reduction of poverty around the world.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Irrigation Systems in AfghanistanIrrigation has been an integral component of agriculture since the Mesopotamian era with farmers around the world relying on irrigation methods to water vegetation. For economies that depend on agriculture to foster growth, having sufficient irrigation systems is very important. Accordingly, the improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan have boosted the economic standing of Afghan citizens.

Advancements in Bamyan Province

A decade ago, the Bamyan Province located in Central Afghanistan determined a need for irrigation upgrades after canals flooded villages and crops. To combat this problem, the Irrigation Restoration Development Project (IRDP) oversaw the renovations of canals in two Bamyan Province communities in 2009. Some of the rehabilitations included “lining the Balkhi canal bed and sides with concrete, installing metal gate valves at weak points prone to flooding” and building small footbridges at strategic points of the canal. According to IRDP Bamyan provincial manager, Amin Zaki, improving water management will “help rural farmers improve their livelihoods and raise their standard of living as a result.” Given that 90% of Bamyan’s citizens rely on agriculture, the benefits of the advancements rippled through the communities. The advancements help create economic and living improvements for “more than 600 households in the four villages —Foladi, Nawrozi, Qhazan and Sia Khar Bloq—served by [the] Balkhi canal.”

Dokani village farmers close to the Balkhi canal were even able to switch their dominant crops because of the irrigation upgrades. Instead of growing baghali beans, the farmers currently grow potatoes and wheat, which are higher-earning crops. Overall, more than 425,000 households profited from the IRDP renovations, and in future years, the organization is looking to tackle two additional water management projects in Bamyan.

Crop Improvements in Kabul Province

The Kabul Province also possessed poor irrigation systems, which caused disputes over water distribution. To make improvements, in 2017, the On-Farm Water Management Project renovated the 8-kilometer long Pazhak canal and the 3.5-kilometer long Qara Qhochi canal. The projects benefit hundreds of households by increasing the speed at which water reaches the farms, improving the maintenance process of the canals and enhancing crop diversity. Thus, farmers are using the benefits to farm more land and grow crops they previously did not have enough water to provide support. As this demonstrates, improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan are extremely important.

Recent Turmoil

After the United States withdrew troops from Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban significantly expanded its power. According to CNN, the Taliban now controls “17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals, all of which have been captured” in one week as of August 13, 2021. Some of the ramifications of the Taliban’s growing control include the removal of girls from school, forced marriages of women to Taliban fighters and horrific bloodshed in battle areas. Despite the economic progress made through improvements to irrigation systems in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s recent seizure of provincial capitals threatens the advancements.

Looking Forward

As food and fuel prices increase following the Taliban’s blockage of import routes and hundreds of families face displacement from their homes, Afghanistan’s economic and governmental stability is in question. While the past decade has demonstrated the positive impact a rehabilitation project can have on the Afghan people, continued aid from global leaders could help ensure that the country’s progress does not dissipate in the coming months.

– Madeline Murphy
Photo: Flickr

USAID’s Intervention in Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war (1991-2002) commenced a humanitarian crisis that severed its relationship with the international community. The conflict decimated the country’s infrastructure, stinted its agricultural economy and killed over 50,000 citizens. At its end, the war left a legacy of destruction and bequeathed to its predominantly young citizens a highly underdeveloped economy with no strategy for reconstruction. As a result, for the last century, Sierra Leone has desperately needed economic aid for reconstruction to repair its infrastructure and stimulate economic productivity. In response, USAID has worked alongside Sierra Leone’s administration, granting foreign aid to help with development and poverty alleviation. Following USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone, the country evolved and is slowly incorporating itself back into the international community. 

Infrastructural Development

Infrastructural development fosters steady trade and higher profits and enhances the economy. Consequently, it increases wages and results in a higher quality of life for people.

In recent years, the relationship between infrastructural development and poverty alleviation has become noticeable in Sierra Leone. In 2015, the United States Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation gave the underdeveloped country $44.4 million to rebuild infrastructure, homes and highways. As a result, Sierra Leone has made significant strides, creating a network of highways as well as the Freetown Port, which could increase boat traffic by 30%. In 2021, the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) also pledged to give $217 million for a new power plant in Freetown, “providing power generation to meet approximately 24 percent of projected electricity.”

With the help of foreign aid, Sierra Leone also published the “New Direction” manifesto, an infrastructure plan that will connect valuable mining belts through a series of roads and construct a new railway line through its provinces. Infrastructural development has also let Sierra Leone adopt humanitarian initiatives, evident in its establishment of the Ministry of Water Resources in 2013. Although the project has a pending deadline, it promises to provide 21,000 m3 of portable water, which will serve 420,000 citizens located in the East of Freetown communities.

Such initiatives will allow for trade efficiency and economic independence, which will augment Sierra Leone’s economy, alleviate poverty and let the government provide for its citizens. USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has resulted in infrastructural reconstruction initiatives, which will continue to fuel economic and social uplift.

Economic Productivity

To further assist economic growth, the United States invested $12 million for development in Sierra Leone’s agricultural sector, which accounts for 60% of the country’s GDP. These funds will let Sierra Leone buy the technology and equipment it needs to expand its agricultural sector onto previously uncultivated lands, which make up 75% of the country. Such an expansion would decrease the percentage (80%) of foodstuffs it imports from other countries and allow for further economic self-reliance. A thriving agrarian sector would also derive higher profits and provide the funds for higher quality fisheries, improved mining techniques and other large-scale business enterprises.

Overall, these economic developments, which USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone spurred on, have positively affected its economy, which has increased 5.1% to a GDP of $4.2 billion. In 2016, labor employment grew to 2.472 million, contrasting the 1.985 million employed in 2004. Recently, only 4.47% of the total labor force did not have employment. These numbers hold a bright future for Sierra Leone’s economic productivity and, as such, promise to eradicate the poverty that has long plagued its borders.

Medical Institutions and Aid

USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has also involved disease relief by aiding the country’s medical sector. In 2014, an Ebola outbreak contaminated 14,124 Sierra Leoneans, killing 3,956 people. In response, USAID established the Pillar II activities and investments, where U.S. organizations and partners gave $2.4 billion to Sierra Leone’s government, and West African countries, to contain the fatal disease. Significantly, 60% of these funds went into Sierra Leone’s medical sector, effectively strengthening the country’s healthcare system and putting an end to the spread of Ebola. USAID continues to support Sierra Leone’s medical field, beginning the Strengthening Post-Ebola Health Governance (SHG) program in 2017, which gives healthcare services and establishes Village Development Committees (VDCs) to oversee health services throughout the country.

By helping improve Sierra Leone’s health services, USAID not only saves lives and neutralizes viral diseases but also contains them before they infiltrate the international community. USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has let the country prosper and move away from its dark past. Sierra Leone’s civil war ravaged its infrastructure and economy, while Ebola exposed the weakness of its medical sector. However, organizations such as USAID have significantly impacted reconstruction, thereby promising a brighter future for countries that have been long underdeveloped.

Although USAID’s intervention in Sierra Leone has proved beneficial, more progress is necessary. Funding from countries and organizations will be beneficial for Sierra Leone so that it can prosper well into the future.

– Jacob Crosley
Photo: Flickr

city planning and poverty reductionWhen Bogotá, Colombia, elected Enrique Peñalosa mayor in 1997, Mayor Peñalosa faced an uphill battle. Informal settlements, faulty public transportation and congested roads increased poverty and reduced the quality of life for Bogotá’s citizens. Mayor Peñalosa had a plan, though, and his success in fusing city planning and poverty reduction provides a blueprint for developing world mayors around the globe.

Bogotá’s Challenges in the 1990s

Bogotá faced many challenges as a city in the 1990s. With a lack of city planning, informal settlements dominated the landscape. Nearly 200,000 illegal water connections existed and only 60% of the population had access to the main sewer system. Fearing crime and the bustle of moving cars, many could not enjoy the streets on which they lived, with impoverished neighborhoods lacking accessible public spaces.

With these challenges, Peñalosa knew there was only so much he could do. He realized that in his one term as mayor, he would not be able to lift every citizen of Bogotá out of poverty. Thus, he decided to look at the implications of poverty. To him, development constituted a “better way of living, not being richer.” The lack of access to water, food, housing, transportation and green space, which the wealthy class enjoyed in plenty, constituted poverty, not just a low monthly income. By addressing those issues directly, Peñalosa could combine city planning and poverty reduction without aiming to increase wages.

Formalizing Informality

One of the biggest problems urban populations face in the 21st century is informality. As of 2019, according to the United Nations, nearly one billion people live in informal housing or slums. Informal housing commonly leads to community marginalization and decreased access to food and water distribution networks. Fortunately, city planning and poverty reduction strategies can rectify these situations, and, Peñalosa did just that.

During his tenure as mayor, Peñalosa formalized 322 neighborhoods and provided nearly 700 sewers for informal settlements, drastically improving the livelihoods of those living in these neighborhoods. Utilizing many city planning strategies, he also provided better transportation access so that those living in these neighborhoods could access the amenities of the wider city. His strategy of focusing on formalizing and connecting informal settlements rather than increasing wages allows for a greater return on investment as the wider access to the city will naturally boost the quality of life.

Sustainability and Public Spaces

Peñalosa entered his tenure as mayor with the goal of developing Bogotá around people and not cars. In a city where just about 30% of people drove cars, designing a city entirely around this vehicle would be illogical. He especially wanted public spaces suitable for the most vulnerable, the elderly and children, aiming to reduce poverty by increasing standards of living.

Peñalosa focused on three types of public spaces for reducing poverty. He first focused on a common city planning and poverty reduction strategy: transportation. In his tenure he built roughly 220 miles of protected bike lanes, opening up the streets to more than just cars. He also formalized the public transportation network to allow more equitable access.

His second strategy for city planning and poverty reduction covered educational space, building libraries and public schools to accommodate 200,000 new students. The educational infrastructure serves as one of the most important tools in fighting poverty and boosting literacy.

Third, he focused on leisure spaces, ordering the construction and restoration of public parks. Access to these three spaces combined —  transportation, educational facilities and leisure spaces — can greatly reduce the impacts of poverty. Furthermore, the public status of these amenities meant that access would not depend on an individual’s wage.

Implications for Fighting Poverty

Mayors around the world can use Peñalosa’s tenure as a blueprint for their own cities. The strategies for city planning and poverty reduction that Peñalosa used were innovative at the time, but further research has shown their efficacy worldwide. Formalizing informal areas and expanding green space has become a norm for urbanists across the globe. While not without its flaws, Peñalosa’s strategy to combine city planning and poverty reduction helped fight poverty by focusing on raising living standards rather than pure income measurements.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Wikimedia

mega ports in Morocco
Morocco’s geographic location gives it an advantage when it comes to developing the country’s economy. Morocco borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, making it the closest African country to Europe. Mega ports in Morocco are among the many infrastructure developments that are revolutionizing the country as Morocco proceeds to build and expand its transportation infrastructure to connect the two continents.

Tanger Med

The Tanger Med port adopted its name from the port’s home city of Tangier in northwestern Morocco. Because of its important geographic location, Tangier has played a significant role in trade between Africa and Europe since ancient times.

The first site, known as Tanger Med 1, has two terminals. The first terminal started in 2007 after the King of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, laid the first stone in 2002. Following that, the second terminal started just one year later. Tanger Med 1 has a capacity of 3.5 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs). The terminals created 6,000 jobs at the port and an additional 70,000 jobs in the trade zone area.

After the establishment of Tanger Med 1, the King gave the order for a second container port, Tanger Med 2, with an investment of $1.5 billion. The port contained two more terminals, beginning construction officially in 2015. In the summer of 2019, Tanger Med 2 formally opened. Tanger Med became the largest port in the Mediterranean region, exceeding Valencia and Algeciras’ container ports with six million TEUs. Because of the outstanding performance of Tanger Med, the first of the mega ports in Morocco and the biggest in Africa, the government decided to build similar mega ports in other cities.

Nador West Med

Nador West Med is the second of the mega ports in Morocco. With almost half of its construction complete, the port will be fully ready by the end of 2022. The project will cost $13.8 million, consisting of new infrastructure and an industrial port.

The first phase of the Nador West port will include a 1,520-meter container dock for larger ships. It will also include a 600-meter dock for general goods to serve larger merchant ships. Furthermore, the Nador West Med port will have oil and chemical tankers, each able to carry approximately 170,000 tons.

New road construction will expand the route from six meters to nine meters and fortify the pavement. Nador West Med will have a tremendous socio-economic impact on the region. Once the port opens, it will reduce the unemployment rate with more jobs, allow for easy entry to the region and provide tax benefits for the country.

Dakhla Atlantic Port

Another port, the Dakhla Atlantic Port, will be built in Dakhla, located in a long, narrow peninsula in the southwest of Morocco. In 2020, the King announced significant investments that will cover the southern region of Morocco, including a mega port in Dakhla. This port will enhance many sectors such as fisheries, mining, energy, tourism and agriculture, processing approximately 2.2 million tons of goods yearly. With a cost of roughly $1.1 billion, the port will elevate direct commerce between Africa, Europe and the Americas following its completion in 2026. It will also include a space of 1,650 hectares for industrial and logistical services.

Certainly, mega ports in Morocco are boosting the country’s economy with a powerful presence in the region. Due to its strategic geographic location, Morocco’s ports allow the establishment of more investments and create a significant number of jobs. Moving forward, these mega ports should continue to bring many benefits for the country and the region.

– Zineb Williams
Photo: Unsplash

internet access in MoldovaMoldova is among the European countries with the highest poverty rate. However, it has made significant progress in reducing poverty since becoming independent from the Soviet Union, with the national poverty rate decreasing “from 28% in 2010 to 13% by 2018.” Furthermore, over the past two decades, Moldova’s GDP has risen by an annual rate of roughly 4.6%, largely due to consumption and the significance of remittances. Although COVID-19 has stalled progress in poverty reduction, potentially even reversing progress, there is hope for Moldova to get back on track to economic growth and advancement. Widespread internet access in Moldova may help the country strengthen and recover.

Small Country, Vast Internet

Despite the tiny country’s high poverty rate, internet access in Moldova ranks among the best in the world. Roughly 90% of Moldova’s population enjoys “superfast gigabit internet access.” While “the United States is twice as urbanized as Moldova, its gigabit coverage” reaches only 18% of the population. Only South Korea and Singapore, both much wealthier and more urbanized than Moldova, boast better coverage. The rest of the top 10 countries for gigabit coverage rank among the world’s 40 wealthiest nations globally. Meanwhile, Moldova ranks as only the 98th wealthiest nation in the world.

Since the dismantling of the Soviet Union in 1991, the international community has provided Moldova with grants and loans aimed at spurring economic growth and reducing poverty. The privatization of telecoms was a prerequisite in a developmental assistance offer from the World Bank in the late 2000s. To fulfill the condition, “a fiber optic cable was laid across” the Dniester River in 2009. Thanks to the new infrastructure, internet access became widespread as 99% of Moldovan communities were able to connect to the fiber optic network. Fiber optic cable also connects Moldova directly to Frankfurt in Germany, a major European digital hub.

Emigration and the Benefits of Connectivity

Moldova has high emigration rates —  as much as a quarter of the population live and work in Russia and other European countries, often illegally. As a consequence, Moldova is highly dependant on remittances. Many Moldovans working abroad purchase computers and send them to their families in Moldova for communication purposes. These communication methods require internet access, boosting the demand for internet access in Moldova even further.

Thanks to Moldova’s excellent internet speeds and connectivity, many countries have begun outsourcing IT and call center jobs to Moldova. Italy, in particular, outsources many jobs to Moldova because many Moldovans speak Italian as a second language. These outsourced jobs serve to ignite economic growth in Moldova, providing citizens with employment opportunities and a way out of poverty.

Internet Access and Poverty Reduction

The internet is recognized as a tool that contributes to the social and economic development of a country. Internet access aids in the “delivery of essential services such as education and healthcare.” Through the internet, people have access to remote job opportunities that were once out of reach. Furthermore, the internet not only expands people’s access to job opportunities but also creates a demand for jobs in the technology and engineering sectors.

According to the World Bank, increasing “internet penetration to 75% of the population in all developing countries” would contribute up to $2 trillion to their combined GDPs. Furthermore, this rate of penetration would generate “more than 140 million jobs” globally.

Widespread internet access in Moldova may help the country to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. With the added assistance of international powers already investing in the country, Moldova can pick up where it left off and continue its trend of poverty reduction.

Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Build Back Better World Initiative
Congress has been negotiating the size and scope of a domestic infrastructure bill for most of Joe Biden’s presidency. Still, action is necessary to further infrastructure abroad. The U.S. and its allies in the G7 recognize this need and have launched the Build Back Better World Initiative (B3W) to address global infrastructure challenges. A closer look at the initiative provides insight into the state of infrastructure in low and middle-income countries around the world.

The Infrastructure Gap

Infrastructure connects people and goods, which allows economies to scale and grow. Forming highways, ports, bridges, railways, pipelines, sewage systems and more, infrastructure projects are vital for transport, communication, energy and health. Infrastructure projects are the foundation of economic development and are vital to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including universal access to water and electricity. 

Infrastructure projects are also important for developing nations because the projects can be a major source of employment, spurring economic growth and allowing workers to gain new skills. The White House currently estimates that the infrastructure needed in low and middle-income countries globally totals more than $40 trillion.

Infrastructure gaps are significant because the gaps hinder economic growth. According to World Bank research, “Every 10% increase in infrastructure provision increases [economic] output by approximately 1% in the long term.” In other words, spending on infrastructure grows an economy. Further, as environmental challenges continue to threaten nations around the world, the World Bank says that even small investments in climate-resilient infrastructure can save trillions of dollars in recovery efforts.

The Build Back Better World Initiative

Partnering with G7 nations, the U.S. launched the B3W to alleviate some of the problems associated with infrastructure gaps. The White House will look toward not only its allies but the private sector for hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for infrastructure investment. The administration says that it will leverage partnerships with the private sector because “status quo funding and financing approaches are inadequate” to meet the size of these challenges. 

The focus for projects is four distinct areas, including climate, health, digital technology and gender equity. The aim is to reach all around the world with different partners, but, USAID and other U.S. development groups will take leading roles. However, there is still an understanding that local needs will be a priority, as “infrastructure that is developed in partnership with those whom it benefits will last longer and generate more development impact.” 

The Biden administration has stressed the importance of good governance in foreign assistance and has already noted the importance of using B3W as a way to encourage full transparency with monitoring tools, common contracts and metrics for evaluation.

The Build Back Better World Initiative and US Interest

Foreign assistance supports U.S. strategic interests, which is why Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh has indicated support for the initiative. In recent years, especially when the U.S. has taken a step back from foreign affairs, China has accelerated spending on global infrastructure with the Belt and Road Initiative. 

However, Singh indicates that the point of the initiative is not to inflame hostilities or work as an anti-China group but rather to provide an alternative to Belt and Road financing. The goal is to “rally countries around a positive agenda that projects our shared values.” B3W supports U.S. interests by providing an alternative and showing that the U.S. is once again ready and willing to be a good partner for the world.

With Congress working on a domestic infrastructure package, it is important to not lose sight of the critical need for sustained and significant investment in infrastructure around the world. Infrastructure projects connect the world, making it safer and healthier. Funding infrastructure around the world as part of the Build Back Better World Initiative aligns with U.S. strategic interests. Hopefully, this initiative will encourage bridging gaps and becoming a more connected world.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr