Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty AlleviationFor the past four decades, the Chinese government has viewed poverty alleviation as integral to its economic development. The government’s efforts against poverty have intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping who proposed ambitious measures to eliminate poverty by the end of 2020.

China has made tremendous progress in alleviating poverty through the government’s efforts, as the number of people living in poverty in China has fallen from 750 million in 1990 to just 16.6 million in 2019. However, obstacles remain ahead of China’s efforts to completely eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living for its residents.

Poverty Eradication Under Xi Jinping

In 2014, China’s government implemented a strategy of Targeted Poverty Alleviation, which allows the government and local officials to address the needs of individuals and households rather than entire villages. Local officials use data from a local registration system containing information from more than 128,000 villages to identify and provide support to poverty-stricken areas. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, Targeted Poverty Alleviation follows an approach based on policies in five areas:

  • Industrial development
  • Social Security
  • Education
  • Eco-compensation
  • Relocation

 At a local level, the Targeted Poverty Alleviation program employs the pairing-up strategy, which enables impoverished families in western provinces to receive support from the more affluent eastern provinces. Officials who exclusively support rural inhabitants support impoverished households, including those in ethnic minority areas. The government supports the local industry by establishing internet commerce centers in rural areas known as Taobao villages. In Taobao villages, rural residents can support themselves by selling crops and local products online. By 2015, Taobao villages supported 200,000 shop owners and employed one million people.

The Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign has also implemented nationwide initiatives to facilitate industrial development. In 2019, China spent 19 billion dollars on a variety of infrastructure initiatives. Through these initiatives, China has been able to build or renovate more than 124,000 miles of roads and provide 94% of rural villagers with internet access.

China also uses a resettlement program to help elevate rural residents from poverty. Under this program, the government encourages residents in remote and ecologically vulnerable rural regions to relocate to areas closer to the cities. By one estimate, over nine million people have been resettled by this initiative between 2016 and 2020. Increased economic opportunities in cities and reforms that allow greater internal migration in China have also encouraged resettlement. These migrations have resulted in China’s urbanization rate rising from 17.92% in 1978 to 57.3% in 2016.

Metrics of Success

China’s efforts to alleviate poverty have been judged as tremendously successful by most measures. Between 2014 and 2019, 68 million rural residents have risen from poverty. China’s reforms to its economy has enabled 730 million people to emerge from poverty over the past four decades, accounting for nearly three-fourths of global poverty accomplishments from this time period. According to the UN Millennium Global Development Report, China’s policies have enabled the international community to meet the UN’s goal of reducing extreme global poverty by 50%.

China’s economic success has enabled it to address disparities between its urban and rural populations in healthcare. Urban and rural populations have both witnessed infant mortality rates decline below 1%, and maternal mortality rates for urban and rural mothers have declined and attained parity at the level of two per million in 2019.

Obstacles

Despite China’s progress in eliminating poverty, the nation continues to face obstacles in attaining its ambitious standards and supporting the needs of poor residents. Local officials’ administration of financial support is often arbitrary or impeded by stringent bureaucratic procedures, which has resulted in some poor households being denied or receiving insufficient financial support. The increased funds invested in poverty alleviation efforts has also contributed to significant “corruption and mismanagement.”

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) reported that 730 yuan (112.21 million USD) in poverty alleviation funds were misappropriated in 2018 through violations, such as embezzlement, fraud and bribery. The government uses the CCDI to maintain oversight on how its funding is used, and officials who fail to accomplish poverty reduction in their region face expulsion from the Communist Party and “career oblivion.”

The government’s poverty alleviation efforts have also been criticized for its emphasis on the rural poor while ignoring those in urban areas who are struggling to meet high living costs. China’s poverty alleviation campaign invited high polluting industries, such as those that have been associated with reduced air and water quality in impoverished regions, causing many to question whether China’s progress is sustainable. The relocation program has also been controversial as many rural residents often relinquish their land for little compensation, only to subsequently struggle to find work in the cities. Government officials have also expressed impatience with residents who were unwilling to relocate.

The progress of the poverty alleviation campaign was also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial four months of 2020, unemployment rose to 6.2% and one expert calculates that 80 million people in China were unemployed when rural villagers and migrant workers were included in the calculation. Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, Beijing has not relented in its endeavor to eliminate poverty, and experts doubt that China will admit to having failed to meet its goal for 2020, regardless of the state of the economy. Regardless of whether China attains its goal for 2020, experts doubt that it will abandon its endeavors to improve its people’s standard of living.

China’s efforts towards eradicating poverty have yielded tremendous success, yet the government and the country’s people will be responsible for ensuring that its progress is sustainable and results in tangible improvements to the standard of living of people in urban and rural areas.

Bilal Amodu
Photo: Pixabay

road infrastructure in ugandaUganda is a country in East Africa made up of around 43 million people. There are three transport systems in Uganda: airways, railways and roadways. Most roads in Uganda are in a poor condition. As a result, this inadequate road infrastructure leads to dangerous conditions and poses a safety threat to its users. Here are three effects of inadequate road infrastructure in Uganda.

3 Effects of Inadequate Road Infrastructure in Uganda

  1. Inadequate roads lead to more deaths. Unpaved roads are dangerous because cars can fall into potholes or get hit by debris. In 2016, 20 accidents happened on the Mbale-Nkokonjeru road in Uganda because of dangerous conditions. Moreover, one in 10 deaths in Uganda occurred because of road accidents in 2018. Uganda accordingly ranks first in road fatalities in East Africa. Additionally, road accidents in Uganda increased by 74% from 2006 to 2016. The Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) has been in charge of most road renovations in Uganda. In Mbale Municipality, the UNRA has attempted to get private companies to place tarmac on the roads. However, the companies have abandoned the projects. The residents of Mbale Municipality continue to be outraged by terrible road infrastructure in Uganda and have protested several times about the unfinished roads.
  2. Poor road infrastructure in Uganda reduces tourism. Tourists rely on roads to go to different villages and experience Uganda, a land-locked country. Unpaved roads create problems for travelers trying to get to different locations. For example, the Queen Elizabeth National Park Road usually takes more than two hours to travel 72 kilometers, but it can take more than four hours if the weather conditions change because it is not a finished road. If mudslides or severe weather conditions occur, the roads are unnavigable. However, tourism accounted for $1.6 billion or 7.7% of Uganda’s GDP in 2019. In addition, the tourism sector created 667,600 jobs for Ugandan residents in 2019. Despite the government’s attempts to increase tourism, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has not focused on road construction.
  3. Farmers rely on roads to transport agricultural products. The agricultural sector is one of the largest industries in Uganda, making up 70% of available jobs. The Ministry of Works and Transport estimated that 95% of cargo is moved through roads, while only 16% of roads are finished in Uganda. The inadequate road infrastructure in Uganda elevates the cost of transportation. Additionally, gasoline prices in Uganda stand at about $1 a liter, but most farmers make only $7 a day. Hazardous road conditions may require farmers to use more gasoline, thus raising the price of transportation. Along with this, users may need to repair their vehicles more often because of unpaved roads being unsuitable for the two rainy seasons in Uganda. Farmers unable to travel to sell produce lack a steady income.

The Ugandan Government’s Solution

The U.N. recommended that the Ugandan government implement a Decade of Action to target road safety from 2011 to 2020. In order to succeed, Uganda had to follow certain guidelines set by the U.N. They included working with local governments to create a better infrastructure and educating the public on road safety. So far, the Ugandan government has completed only 40% of the plan, but it is an ongoing process.

The U.N.’s main criticism of Uganda’s policies is that there is no method of implementing road safety. The UNRA does not have sufficient jurisdiction to engineer roads in the best way to deal with heavy traffic, steep cliffs and mudslides. However, the UNRA continues to work on road projects to improve infrastructure in Uganda. For example, the China Communications Construction Company finished the Mubende – Kakumiro – Kagadi road with asphalt in January 2020.

Road infrastructure in Uganda still needs tremendous improvement. By continuing to create contracts with private countries and enforcing road safety laws, the Ugandan government can work toward bettering inadequate road infrastructure. In doing so, Uganda would advance toward reaching the U.N.’s Decade of Action guidelines.

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in BhutanBhutan is a small country tucked away in the mountainous terrain of the Himalayas. Known as the Kingdom of Happiness, Bhutan is notable for creating its Gross National Happiness Index. This index serves as a tool for the Government of Bhutan to outline what must be done in order to foster and maintain a holistically sustainable environment. To uphold this index, Bhutan has made it a priority to reduce poverty in Bhutan and better the quality of life for the population.

Poverty in Bhutan

Poverty in Bhutan stems largely from issues with the country’s terrain. The Himalayas, while beautiful, are also difficult to cultivate, traverse and control. Farmers struggle to grow enough crops to maintain a stable income due to the limited access to farmable land. What workable land there is, often rests at the whims of various natural disasters. The lack of education and diverse job opportunities also have made it difficult for many to rise out of their economic situation without help and intervention.

Over the last 10 years, the government has made impressive strides to address poverty in Bhutan. Between 2007 and 2012, poverty dropped from 23% down to 12%. In 2017, Bhutan announced that it had once again cut its poverty rate by half over five years, dropping the number down to 5.8%.

Strategies and Improvements

The value of land productivity has been rising and thus, farming has become a more profitable and sustainable industry. Bhutan cultivates less than 3% of its land but the country has shifted to producing high-value commercial crops. These crops sell for a high price with countries such as India and Bangladesh, making up for the lack of farmable land. Trade agreements have stimulated the value of agricultural exports, increasing the international cash flow into Bhutan’s own economy.

Infrastructure and road production have become vital players in the reduction of poverty in Bhutan. The Government of Bhutan set out to update existing paths, develop new highways and ensure that no town is more than a half-day walk from the closest road. High-quality roads allow for traffic both through and out of rural areas. This increased traffic to urban areas provides easier access to jobs, education and other opportunities for those who previously struggled with inaccessibility.

Hydroelectric projects also play a sizeable role in Bhutan’s efforts to fight poverty. These projects have not only stimulated job growth within rural communities but have also brought in many foreign workers. The presence of these workers increases local spending, benefitting rural communities with income.

Looking Forward

Over the last decade, the rate of poverty in Bhutan has fallen to new lows. While there are still many in the country that struggle with poor living conditions, the government is working to ensure that they too will benefit from the economic changes that Bhutan is trying to normalize. The Gross National Happiness Index accounts for all the people of the country and thus, Bhutan will continue to work at helping its people until all are holistically happy.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

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