The African Continental Free Trade Agreement The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is the largest free-trade agreement in the world with a 1.2 billion-person market and a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars. It was signed in March of 2018 by 44 African heads of state, and following the initial signing, 5 more countries joined in July for a total of 49. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s primary focus is to increase intra-African trade by promoting free movement of goods and tariff-free trade. In fact, for the countries that joined, tariffs are expected to decrease by 90 percent within 5 years.

According to an article by The Economist, roughly 82 percent of African goods are exported to other countries. Due to high transport costs, poor infrastructure (e.g. in West Africa, less than one-fifth of the roads are paved) and time-consuming border procedures, it is more costly to trade within Africa than to export to foreign countries.

With the new free-trade agreement, a more competitive market will emerge that will reduce costs for consumers. Additionally, producers will have access to a larger number of potential buyers, as well as more investment opportunities from foreign countries. Strengthening intercontinental trade has the potential to protect the countries in Africa from the impact of exogenous trade shocks.

Maximizing the Impacts of AfCFTA

In order to reap the highest benefits from the new intra-continental free trade agreement, it is imperative to make adjustments to Africa’s trade structure. However, trade facilitation is not an easy task. It involves coordination between countries, transparency in policies and easing the movement of goods. Currently, intra-African trade accounts for only 16 percent of Africa’s total exports, while the bulk of its exports are to Europe (38 percent), China (19 percent), and the U.S. (15 percent). With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that intra-African trade will see a 52 percent increase by 2022.

Infrastructure Development

Reducing non-tariff barriers, like transport time for goods, is an essential component of solidifying the new free-trade agreement. According to the International Monetary Fund, the average cost of importing a container in Africa is about $2,492, which is significantly more expensive than the cost of exporting to another continent. This helps to explain Africa’s high incentive to export the majority of its goods.

In order to aid with the implementation of infrastructure projects, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has facilitated two main systems of information. The African Infrastructure Database (AID) concerns itself mainly with data management and stores information about ongoing infrastructure development projects including the location as well as relevant financial and economic information. The Virtual PIDA Information Centre contains regional and continental infrastructure projects and promotes investment opportunities.

Clearly, higher access to information regarding infrastructure projects can help countries organize themselves around infrastructure development efficiently. This will help to reduce the intra-African costs of trade by fostering more easily navigable and cheaper transport routes between countries.

Economic Integration

It is crucial to consider that the informal trade sector contributes to a large amount of overall trade in Africa. The Africa Economic Brief is a document published by Jean-Guy Afrika and Gerald Ajumbo that discusses the specifics of informal trade in Africa. It states that the informal cross border trade sector (ICBT) represents 30-40 percent of total intra-African trade. In West and Central Africa, women make up almost 60 percent of informal traders, and 70 percent in Southern Africa.

Problems that affect the formal sector, like infrastructure and trade, have a disproportionate effect on the informal sector—especially for marginalized groups such as women and youth. It is unclear how the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will affect these groups as trade is adjusted; however, an increased focus on local trade and easier trade routes will likely facilitate trade for everyone involved. Since informal trade struggles with the same main issues as formal trade, making trade more accessible in the formal sector can create positive spillovers.

The informal trade sector is an important one to protect. Big businesses often avoid trading with rural areas due to high transportation costs, so instead these areas rely on informal trade for food, clothing and other commodities. Furthermore, ICBT provides a vital source of income to individuals who are often low-income or low-skilled. According to the Africa Economic Brief, studies estimate the average value of informal cross border trade to be 17.6 billion dollars per year in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In order to provide support for informal traders in Eastern and Southern Africa, the United Nations is funding a project to help decrease gender-specific obstacles in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. A focus on female empowerment will help maintain and improve the informal trade sector and contribute to poverty reduction.

With support from various organizations, countries in Africa are taking defining steps to reduce taxes, transport times, and an increase in market competition. Signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement opens Africa up to free trade and, if facilitated effectively, it will have enormous positive implications for Africa’s economy.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in KenyaThe East African Community (The EAC) consists of Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. However, the only country not on the U.N.’s list of Least Developed Countries is Kenya, which is why it is the best qualified to become an intra-regional hub for trade in East Africa. Presently, the Kenyan government is looking for offers to improve and expand infrastructure networks. This will inevitably create significant trade opportunities throughout Eastern and Central Africa. The expansion of infrastructure in Kenya will create a direct, positive impact on all of this country’s immediate neighbors.

Projects Being Implemented for Infrastructure in Kenya

  • Trading: The Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) projects will open up a passageway for an increase of trade opportunities with Kenya’s northern neighbors, South Sudan and Ethiopia. The development of this project will lead to opportunities in construction of railroads, roads, airports, houses and utilities. Opportunities are expected in multiple areas of Kenya because of the LAPSSET project.
  • Housing: The National Housing Corporation is using its principal agency status of implementing the government housing policy by putting a program in place to enable interested investors to recognize the current goal of building 150,000 housing units per year. Facilitating this project into action will create more openings for Kenyans and their living situation, allowing people to move up in the housing world, instead of staying in the same place for decades.
  • Economy: The Kenya Airports Authority is in the midst of building a shopping mall, a hotel, a business zone and a commercial passenger terminal at JKIA. This terminal would provide successful bidding companies with equipment and materials for this improvement to Kenya’s Airport. This development would most likely increase the flow of people through Kenya because of the improved infrastructure, pulling Kenya towards its goal of becoming an intra-regional hub for infrastructure.
  • Telecommunications and Transportation: There is a $556 billion investment planned for infrastructure development in Kenya. The majority of this investment will focus on telecommunications and power generation infrastructure. There are also major road projects that are ongoing, one being the Nairobi Southern Bypass, which was appointed in 2012 and is now 40 percent complete. An estimated $5.14 billion has been set aside for road project investment in Kenya. Many industries are expected to benefit from this planned infrastructure, which include oil and gas, mining, agriculture and retail.

Through large investments like these, Kenya will soon become the center for trade in Africa because of its resources, as well as potential investors that are willing to contribute to the growing infrastructure in Kenya. However, delays and an increase in completion cost may take place as a result of legal issues. Limitations on the type of projects international firms can get involved in have been enacted because of legislative changes to the process. Before these restrictions can be addressed, global firms will have to form local partnerships in order for infrastructure projects in Kenya to be accepted. Once these obstacles are overcome, Kenya will hopefully become a center for trade for people throughout the continent of Africa.

Megan Maxwell
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in Cambodia
Infrastructure relies on quality, sustainability and cost to determine project investment and execution. Infrastructure in Cambodia, a nation geographically located in Southeast Asia, has drastically advanced over the last few decades, but its overall success and development still lag behind its neighbors. Not without reason, Cambodia infrastructure falls below standard as a result of its nasty civil war, consequently coinciding with the conflict in Vietnam.

A Civil War Disruption

In the 1960s and 1970s, Cambodia was rife with disturbance and disorder. Not only had civil war erupted, but the nation also lurched into the conflict in Vietnam. A small country, the wrath of the communist organization Khmer Rouge effortlessly spread like wildfire. Additionally, civil war wreaked havoc at all ends of Cambodia.

Neighbors to the Vietnam War, Cambodia experienced upwards of 700,000 Cambodian deaths in the American effort to protect themselves from Vietnam.

By 1975, Khmer Rouge took reign in Cambodia, which was headed by a communist by the name of Pol Pot. Believing intellectuals would threaten the communist nation he envisioned, all hospitals, colleges and factories were shut down, and all lawyers, doctors and teachers were either killed or forcibly evacuated from their country.

The freedoms and rights of remaining laborers were rendered nonexistent for the mere fact that the individual intellectual’s aptitude to question authority and create rebellion could pose threat. A paranoid Pol Pot used genocide and exodus to abolish any and all uncertainty.

Existing Infrastructure in Cambodia

There is a limited train network in modern day Cambodia. Railways connecting the rural to the urban, as well as Cambodia to its neighbors, are absent. The country boasts 22,227 miles of highways, of which only 11.6 percent are paved. Moreover, much of the population, especially in rural areas, have no access to electricity, and Internet access in Cambodia is extremely expensive relative to local income levels.

On a brighter note, the network of roads in Cambodia is improving as the country is in the midst of hyper-focusing on road construction. The goal remains to connect the outside with the in, the rural with the urban.

Currently, stretches of road outside the capital city of Phnom Penh are being financed by both the national government and foreign aid. Yet, the quality and sustainability of projects get called into question when external aid is involved. For instance, maintenance of such infrastructure is challenging with limited resources, ultimately leading to deterioration after just a couple of years.

Japan and China Chime In

In efforts to uplift Asian neighbors, Japan and China seem to be some of Cambodia’s largest and most involved foreign aid donors and contributors. Leaders amongst these nations seemingly agree on an advanced push for “quality infrastructure” investment in Asia.

Recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a $110 billion injection into Asian infrastructure funding over five years. However, according to VOA News, “in order for Cambodia to retain its growth momentum, which over the past decade has seen the economy grow at an average of 7 percent annually, infrastructure investment will need to be somewhere between $12 billion and $16 billion between 2013 and 2022.”

Even if infrastructure development simply begins at road construction, representatives at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Cambodia state that such an improvement will link Cambodia to its neighboring countries, ultimately advancing trade and boosting foreign investment.

In terms of China, they provide an even more immediate fix for infrastructure than can Japan, but the quality is often called into question.

According to VOA News, director of the Center for Policy Studies in Cambodia, Chan Sophal, states that some donors “require a long procedure before we can get a loan and develop the infrastructure, so maybe there is a time/cost [decision] in there. But for other donors, like China, we get the funds quickly and can do it quickly, but there could be an issue with cost and quality.”

Australia, too?

Yes, Australia’s investments in infrastructure in Cambodia are committed to constructing, improving and maintaining rural roads as well as infrastructure damaged in recent natural disasters.

Australia has set precedent to infrastructure projects. Its vision for 2015-2020 includes $45.4 million and collaboration with companies to help connect households and families to resources, services, amenities and utilities.

Its vision for 2014-2020 includes $22.6 million and the Rural Roads Improvement Project Phase II. Co-financed by the Asian Development Bank, the Cambodian government, Korea, France, the Nordic Development Fund and the Strategic Climate Fund, this lofty project will guarantee rehabilitated roads to be climate-resilient and provide 365-day access to schools, hospitals and markets.

Nationwide Improvements

Not only will improved roads increase commuter mobility, but the enhanced quality is predicted to reduce the crash rate by 20 percent. Moreover, labor for improving such infrastructure in Cambodia promises to allocate at least 20 percent of unskilled jobs to women.

According to The Cambodia Daily, secretary-general for the Council for the Development of Cambodia, Sok Chenda, believes that Cambodia does not simply “want growth around Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville…We need to improve rural infrastructure too to create balanced development.”

Such a perspective is both necessary and promising, and the world waits with bated breath to see how Cambodia continues to improve.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Unsplash

Global Infrastructure
One of the key challenges facing developing nations is the lack of available infrastructure. Proper infrastructure can help a country build itself up by improving health, transportation, energy, education and a myriad of other vital institutions. Global infrastructure initiatives are a vital form of potential aid that can improve the quality of life for developing nations.

How Energy Infrastructure Helps Emerging Countries

USAID currently works around the world to improve the infrastructure of developing nations. In Afghanistan, the organization helped develop a national electric company that reduced energy loss in the country from 60 percent to 35 percent. Likewise, in the Philippines, USAID was integral in providing energy to 13,000 rural households via solar and hydroelectric plants. Similar projects are taking place in countries such as Jordan, Vietnam and the Ukraine.

Infrastructure is important to a country’s development because without it growth becomes difficult. Without the energy to power development projects of their own, foreign aid ends up catalyzing a nation to empower itself. By providing clean water, countries can save on healthcare costs and invest in other issues. This makes infrastructure one of the most cost-effective ways to invest in the future of a country.

How It Can Be Improved

Unfortunately, there’s a gap between infrastructure development funding needs and its availability. Erecting fundamental structures and corruption are both costly and difficult projects for governments to overcome.

In order to combat these issues, some experts have suggested acquiring funding from the private sector so as to help aid some of USAID’s massive energy project proposals. The theory is that by selling projects to private contractors, governments can cut costs and prevent corruption. However, others such as W. Gyude Moore suggest that actions like these do not resolve the core issues. In either case, it will take a combination of private investors and foreign aid to solve the problem for good.

According to Moore, there are a few key things to keep in mind while thinking about global infrastructure.

Global Infrastructure

  1. Not Every Country is the Same: It seems obvious, and yet current global infrastructure planning could do a better job of differentiating between countries. The G20 Global Infrastructure Hub Pipeline aims to help alleviate this problem by providing investors with comprehensive data on each project. With unique and accurate information, investors will be able to better match their skills and resources with each project.
  2. Private Investment is too Risky in its Current Form: With imperfect information and little standardization, many investors stay away from global infrastructure initiatives unless they can be guaranteed a profit from governments; this issue is then also combated by the G20 Global Infrastructure Initiative. By providing comprehensive information, investors can better prepare for their jobs, thereby reducing costs for themselves and the governments they work with.
  3. Different Types of Infrastructure are More Profitable than Others: While energy infrastructure attracts a large number of investors, more fragile sectors like water and transportation do not. Part of USAID’s infrastructure initiative is to help build these important systems. In Jordan, these efforts supported a water treatment plant that now provides clean water to two million citizens.

While tough challenges do exist for foreign infrastructure in the future, progress can be made via a combination of foreign aid and private sector investment. USAID is currently working to help foreign governments establish infrastructure, and the G20 Global Infrastructure Hub Pipeline helps investors make informed decisions. While there is always more that can be done in regard to global infrastructure, this is a promising start.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

development projects in Mauritius
Mauritius is a southern African island country in the Indian Ocean that is famous as a tourist destination. The country is known for its peaceful people comprised of mixed races and multiple languages. Mauritius initially had an agriculture-based economy which the nation diversified into various sectors, including sugar, tourism, textiles and apparel and financial services, transforming it from a lower- to an upper-middle-income economy.

At present, the country is trying to achieve the status of a high-income economy by 2020. In order to reach this goal, various development projects in Mauritius are aiming to create job opportunities, update primary education, generate sustainable energy and improve the infrastructure of the country.

Indian Government Development Projects in Mauritius

In March 2017, India allocated ₨ 12.7 billion for various priority development projects in Mauritius, including the following:

  1. Metro Express Project
    In August 2017, ₨ 9.9 billion was earmarked for the construction of an express metro, which will facilitate transportation between Curepipe and Port Louis, covering a distance of 26 km. The project aims to decrease traffic congestion and save ₨ 4 billion each year. It consists of 19 stations, 6 urban terminals and four interchanges with 18 air-conditioned trains in operation. It is expected to be completed by September 2019.
  2. Early Digital Learning Program
    The project started in 2017 with the aim of supplying digital tablets to students in grades one and two containing digitized study materials. ₨ 500 million has been spent on this program, which includes the cost of hardware, software and training assistance.
  3. Trident Project
    India is providing a fund of $4 million with an additional $52.3 million line of credit for this project. Its aim is to upgrade the maritime and surveillance operations of the Mauritius National Coast Guard to fight against drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean.
  4. Building Projects
    The remainder of the ₨ 12.7 billion is going towards the construction of several new buildings, including ₨ 1.1 billion for a new Supreme Court building in the capital city of Port Louis, ₨ 700 million for construction of social housing units and ₨ 500 million for an up-to-date ENT hospital.

Projects with the African Development Bank

In 2013, the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa granted $1 million for the development of a Deep Ocean Water Application Project in Mauritius. The aim of the project was to install an innovative low carbon seawater air conditioning system.

Mauritius has no oil or natural gas reserves, and so to reduce its energy imports, it has employed this seawater air conditioning system. The system extracts and pumps cold water from the Indian Ocean, which is used to air condition the business district of Saint Louis and its adjacent regions.

This innovative technique has helped to lower the cost of air conditioning systems and reduced carbon emissions by 40,000 tons. It has provided jobs to local engineers and technicians and also created job opportunities in other sectors like aquaculture, pharmaceuticals and bottling.

Mauritius is also looking forward to other development projects in cooperation with India as well as the World Bank, which will help it achieve the status of a high-income developed country.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

What Comes After Poverty
Poverty is on the decline. Since 1990, total people affected by poverty fell more than ever before — as many as 137,000 people per day. This dramatic decrease is often due to increasing economic activity, but yet, as developing countries reap the benefits of increasing GDP, new challenges arise. The very industries that built a country up can create new issues. Management of these issues often decides a country’s future success.

For this reason, developing countries need to think about what comes after poverty.

An Emphasis on Education

With new industries available to its citizens, many countries turn towards education. An example of this push towards education is present in Thailand — as the country has developed, education among children increased to record levels. At the same time, Thailand has seen rapid improvement in its economy.

Countries with less rapid improvement also benefit as a result of increased education. In Nicaragua, trade schools play a fundamental part in the country’s future. Internships with resorts and agricultural training help young people develop in-demand skills. Since both tourism and agriculture are booming industries, this training makes sense and education acts as an important tool to help countries wondering what comes after poverty.

Advancements in Healthcare

Perfecting healthcare is an issue that several countries struggle with, regardless of income. For low-income countries, though, shortcomings in healthcare systems can be disastrous. These shortcomings are especially prevalent in countries that lack surgical workers. A low density of surgical works often brings a lack of available care and a lower life expectancy as a result.

In Cambodia, a low-middle classified income country, offering healthcare services is essential. Nonprofit-provided services like healthcare training and midwife education have helped care for thousands. These services, aimed to train healthcare professionals for the long-term, are vital. With a properly-trained healthcare workforce, both infant deaths and disease incidence decline.

A Need for Infrastructure

Infrastructure supports the increasing economic activity common of countries emerging from poverty. Everything from water access to adequate transportation helps a country increase its productivity. Countries without extensive infrastructure then, in fact, possess a barrier to overcoming poverty.

Rural populations that depend on extensive road systems are common in developing countries. Lack of infrastructure for conducting agricultural business leaves farmers without an income and for agriculturally-dependent countries, this could be dangerous.

In Indonesia, infrastructure is a key part of the country’s development. Development plans for the country outline specific actions for improvement; besides creating construction jobs, Indonesia’s infrastructure developments boost productivity. Yet, Indonesia also has faced obstacles in implementing infrastructure plans.

One obstacle — in this case, the government — can have a large influence on what comes after poverty for a country.

Improvements in Government

Being able to pass effective legislation is necessary for any country, and governmental issues affect many developing countries. In Indonesia, the issue is a problem of decentralization of control, while in other countries, government issues slow progress in a variety of ways.

Political instability in South Africa caused recent economic growth to slow, and some negative side effects of this decrease have been the rise of both unemployment and poverty rates. A government will never be perfect; but without basic protection for citizens, economic productivity is difficult. Due to this dependency, keeping government stability is vital to a country’s future.

What Comes After Poverty?

Having a plan for what comes after poverty is vital to the success of developing countries and although it can be difficult, it is worth the effort. Whether through education, healthcare, infrastructure or government, continued improvement is possible.

With planning, countries can do more than survive in the global economy: they can thrive in it.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Flickr

Africa’s water problemTo address Africa’s water problem, tech startups like HydroIQ are stepping in to digitize the water accessibility and billing system for consumers.

According to the U.N., two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in water-stressed conditions by 2025, and the majority of these people will be in sub-Saharan Africa. The African region already faces constant problems due to the scarcity of water that sometimes never reaches the consumers.

In Africa, as much as 50 percent of the water supplied by utilities is lost before actually reaching the consumer, all because of an inefficient and poorly managed distribution network. Additionally, the cost burden of water losses is borne by the consumers, making the whole experience expensive and troublesome.

To address Africa’s water problem, HydroIQ intends on making water more accessible to the people of Africa through technology. Powered by three major technologies, the Kenya-based water-monitoring startup relies on the internet of things, data analytics and payment automation.

Named the top African startup of 2018 by Startup.Info, HydroIQ is also the world’s first virtual water network operator. The company was founded by two entrepreneurs, Brian Bosire and Victor Shikoli, who are determined to revolutionize the access and distribution of water in Africa.

HydroIQ works by using a smart metering device that, when plugged into the existing water supply network, can turn the traditional water system into a smart water grid. It can be installed in households to track consumption in real-time. In this way, consumers only pay for what they use. The payment for the consumption is also digitized and made easy – its pay-as-you-go basis is powered using mobile money. Additional benefits allow consumers to receive notifications when the water is running low. The real-time leak detection also sends alerts for early detection and prompt action.

According to sources, as much as 45 percent of revenue is lost due to lack of infrastructure and poor bill payment systems. With HydroIQ, such barriers can be overcome and consumers can pay with the most preferred mode of payment, mobile money. The company has partnered with local water utilities to address the issue of water access across Africa.

Innovative tech startups can help Africa achieve sustainable development and efficient water management across cities. Globally, Africa is urbanizing at a very fast pace and fixing the water problem is becoming increasingly important. According to the World Health Organization, for every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return between $3 and $34.

The startup intends on solving Africa’s water problem by making its business model sustainable, scalable and adaptable through the use of digital technologies. By focusing on providing African consumers the ease and convenience to pay for what they use, the digitized process will further reduce the upfront costs for the consumers, delivering a high standard value to its customers.

In 2018, HydroIQ will install meters in 1,500 households and intends on expanding and developing market insights to cater to the consumers’ needs. With a goal of reaching 34,000 homes by 2019, it aims to grow over 300,000 in the next five years.

As more and more tech startups step forward to address crucial issues like Africa’s water problem and the region’s credit access problems, it is not surprising that a combination of innovation and investment may soon bring a positive change to the daily lives of consumers.

– Deena Zaidi

Photo: Flickr


infrastructure in CroatiaCroatia officially became part of the European Union on July 1, 2013. With membership in the European Union came an increase in access to funds and European Union-backed financing. These funds, along with outside funding from institutions such as The World Bank, are helping to make the much-needed expansion of infrastructure in Croatia possible. Below are five examples of ways that infrastructure in Croatia is expanding.

The Building of the Pelješac Bridge

One of the largest infrastructure projects in Croatia is the building of the Pelješac Bridge. This bridge will connect southern Croatia and Dubrovnik, as well as some access roads. On January 12, 2018, it was announced that the bridge will be constructed by a Chinese consortium led by the Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation. The building of this bridge has been long awaited in Croatia, and this decision signals the beginning of what will become one of Croatia’s largest infrastructure expansion projects in recent years.

The Opening of a New Terminal at Zagreb International Airport

A new terminal was opened at Zagreb International Airport on March 22, 2017. The terminal cost $450 million, and was built by a consortium supported by the International Finance Corporation. Up to this point, the construction of this terminal was the largest infrastructure project that had occurred in Croatia in the last 10 years. This terminal is 65,000 square meters, and more than doubled the airport’s capacity, increasing it from two million to five million passengers per year. The hope is that this new terminal will allow for increased tourism in Croatia, which will ultimately improve the nation’s economy.

Reconstruction of the Croatian Road Network

There is currently a Modernization and Restructuring of the Roads Sector Project underway in Croatia. On April 28, 2017, the World Bank’s board of directors approved a $23.32 million loan to aid Croatia in this project. The road network in Croatia carries more than 75 percent of transport demands in the country, so the reconstruction and expansion of the road network will strengthen the effectiveness of this vital sector of infrastructure in Croatia.

Railway Construction

The Croatian railway network has been largely ignored in recent years, but that is beginning to change. The reconstruction of the railway that connects Dugo Selo to Križevci is underway. The 38-kilometer line is undergoing extensive reconstruction, and a second track is being added to it as well. This project is being largely funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and is expected to be completed by 2020.

Clean Water Project

Clean water will be more readily available to thousands in northern Croatia thanks to a project directed at improving infrastructure for water management and treatment. This project will cost €64.3 million, and is being funded by the European Union. In a press release on November 29, 2017, commissioner for regional policy Corina Cretu said, “Croatian households now have access to clean water thanks to our investment – this is a practical example of the value added by the European Union which cares about the environment and health of its citizens.”

The above projects are just a handful of the infrastructure projects that Croatia has undertaken since becoming an official member of the United Nations in 2013. These, along with the numerous other improvements being made to infrastructure in Croatia, are helping to expand economic opportunities in the country and improve the overall quality of living for the citizens of Croatia.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

infrastructure in Suriname
Infrastructure in Suriname is on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to quality, with some facets being up to date and self-sufficient, while others have fallen into serious disrepair due to improper maintenance and oversight. Suriname is sparsely populated in most areas, with most of its people inhabiting the capital, Paramaribo, and the surrounding regions. Most of the country is heavily forested making habitation and transport impossible.

Paramaribo is the country’s main hub with a vast majority of infrastructure in Suriname focused in this one city. Roads, railways, bridges, imports, and exports are all centered in Paramaribo making it the main support for Suriname’s economy. This translated to economic instability with little to no possibility of growth. Unless infrastructure in Suriname is expanded to the outer regions of the country and thence to its neighbors, it will continue to deteriorate and threaten an economic collapse.

Water, railway, and flight are the main modes of travel and transporting goods across the forested areas of Suriname. Unfortunately, many of the roads and airport runways are unpaved, making the operational expenses a fiscal nightmare. According to the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, the quality of Suriname’s roads ranks 71st out of 148 countries, while the airports and railroads rank 104th and 108th, respectively.

Infrastructure in Suriname is constrained by several factors:

  • electricity tariffs
  • transportation costs, and
  • monopolization of telecommunications by Telesur, a state-owned company.

Despite this monopolization, however, service and access to telecommunication services are far more advanced than all other aspects of the country’s infrastructure, ranking 7th in the 2013 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report. These last few years have seen a rise in government plans for developing infrastructure in Suriname, all focused on increasing the country’s status as an economic competitor. Telecommunication networks are being opened to the private sector, allowing for more competitors and lower rates.

The government’s main concern is developing the Paramaribo port (as the country’s largest) to increase its capacity to handle more exports. This port currently handles from five to six hundred vessels. Exports include 40 percent of the country’s oil (taken from the Tambaradjo oil field), gold, bauxite, rice and tropical wood from its forests.

Investment from the public and private sectors have enabled the development of the physical structure of the ports in Suriname, along with modernization of cargo holds and storage. This not only allows for easier transport but ensures greater protection of goods.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Sanitation and MalnutritionWorldwide, about 844 million people live without access to clean water and about 2.3 billion people lack adequate sanitation, according to WaterAid. Along with the lack of clean water access, about 155 million people worldwide experience stunting caused by acute malnutrition.

WaterAid has recognized the importance of tackling water, sanitation and health (WASH) deprivation as a tool to end chronic malnutrition. It believes that by addressing the link between sanitation and malnutrition, malnutrition will decrease in proactive countries. According to WaterAid, nearly half of all malnutrition cases are caused by WASH conflicts.

WaterAid argues that an array of diseases contribute to malnutrition, all of which are associated with a lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), those diseases include diarrhea, intestinal nematodes, trachoma, schistosomiasis and others, all of which are preventable.

According to the WHO’s report, about 50 percent of all childhood malnutrition is caused by chronic diarrhea and infectious intestinal nematodes. This results in about 860,000 children under the age of five dying each year from malnutrition directly caused by clean water, sanitation and hygiene conflicts.

“The truth is that food alone will never be enough to tackle the problem, we have to target its underlying causes too,” said Megan Wilson-Jones, WaterAid’s policy analyst on health and hygiene. “Clean water, adequate sanitation and good hygiene are also vital ingredients for good health.”

WaterAid released a “Recipe for Success” that urges governments and organizations to:

  • Implement WASH and nutrition plans in local governments
  • Increase the amount of government funding for WASH-oriented programs
  • Focus first on mothers and babies, who are most affected by sanitation and malnutrition
  • Target areas within countries (such as rural areas) that show high numbers of malnutrition
  • Promote nutritious foods and daily hand hygiene
  • Create sustainable WASH programs by educating health workers, teachers and parents on proper hygiene and nutrition

One country that illustrates the link between sanitation and malnutrition is Paraguay. According to WaterAid, access to clean water in Paraguay’s rural areas increased by about 43 percent from 2000 to 2015, causing WaterAid to declare it the most improved country. According to The Guardian, the reason for Paraguay’s success was because of the government’s improved efficiency. The sanitation and water agency was placed within the department of health, making the issue a much higher priority. This, along with many more steps taken by the government toward becoming more sustainable and efficient, is what helped Paraguay achieve success.

The results in Paraguay can be seen in the World Bank’s DataBank statistics:

  • Percentage of population with access to sanitation
    1990: 87 percent
    2015: 96 percent
  • Percentage with access to clean water
    1990: 93 percent
    2015: 99 percent
  • Percentage affected by malnutrition
    1990: 18 percent
    2012: 11 percent

By looking at Paraguay’s statistics, WaterAid’s assertion of the link between sanitation and malnutrition can be confidently supported.

WaterAid continues to voice its concern for WASH to eliminate worldwide malnutrition, but success cannot be achieved without governments also recognizing the link between sanitation and malnutrition as well as providing efficient and sustainable programs.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr