The North-South Expressway
Vietnam has experienced incredible economic growth since its reforms in 1986. Over three decades, these new economic policies have resulted in an explosion of economic activity and a slash in the rate of poverty. However, Vietnam’s transportation infrastructure is woefully behind many other developed economies. The government responded to this need by creating a nationwide connectivity project, the North-South Expressway.

The Infrastructure Issue

Vietnam has inadequate transportation networks and requires development and investment. Empirically, Vietnam’s 2020 target goal of $27 billion for public investment, mainly dedicated to transportation infrastructure, shows this. The country’s transportation needs have steadily risen since the economic reforms. Road usage in Vietnam has been on an incline with congested streets and car accidents constituting Vietnam’s hidden epidemic. However, transportation investments have lagged behind. An increase in funding is necessary for the country to reap the benefits of efficient transportation.

The North-South Expressway

The North-South Expressway is the solution to this transportation problem. The $17.9 billion project looks to connect all of Vietnam from Lang Son to Ca Mau. The road system will be an expanse of 1,811 kilometers with a toll collection system and a smart traffic system. Travel to important tourism sites, economic zones and other transportation areas will now be feasible with the new expressway. This high-speed travel throughout diverse geographical regions will revitalize the country’s transportation infrastructure. For the first time in Vietnam’s history, the country will be well connected.

Unfortunately, the central government has run into issues with financing the project. Originally, the government split the project into 11 sub-projects, with five being a public-private partnership (PPP). However, only three of the five received financial backing; the remaining two had no investor bids. The government then changed the two unfunded projects to public projects. However, the government’s ability to finance the project on its own is uncertain. The much-needed outside investments have proven hard to obtain. The project itself is attractive but legal ambiguity within the country causes caution and concern in investors. As such, Vietnam’s government has been spurred into implementing new legislation.

Public-Private Partnership Law

The Public-Private Partnership Law (PPPL) aims to fix the legal barriers preventing the execution of The North-South Expressway. The PPPL will be in effect as of January 2021. The law will clarify the process of investing in Vietnam by creating standard form contracts and government guarantees of project fulfillment. The law will also enforce proper foreign currency payment from foreign investors and the use of a risk-sharing mechanism. Essentially, the PPPL elevates and integrates the previously passed laws, decrees and circulars that regulated PPPs into one authoritative law. It will make private and foreign investment in government-sponsored infrastructure projects simpler, less risky and more appealing.

The Light at the End of the Road

Improving transportation networks will have a profound impact on Vietnam. It will increase economic activity through improved connections between consumers and producers and decrease transportation costs. The World Economic Forum estimates a 5% to 25% economic return on every dollar that goes toward infrastructure, such as transportation. More succinctly, developed roads lubricate the flow of goods and people across regions, which increases economic activity.

Additionally, developing transportation networks directly affects society’s most impoverished members. Areas with little economic opportunity would become connected to vital economic centers. As a result, connectivity to social services, such as health care and education, would increase along with economic and social mobility. The economic rewards are well worth the financial investment into transportation infrastructure. The North-South Expressway — with the help of the PPPL — indicates significant poverty reduction for Vietnam in the near future.

Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

Building a Diverse Economy With Infrastructure in MozambiqueInfrastructure in Mozambique is significantly underdeveloped compared to all other countries of the world. Of its approximate 30,400 kilometers of highway roads, only 18 percent are paved, the rest remaining dangerous and even impassable in certain weather conditions. The entire length of Mozambique spans 2,000 kilometers and varies between 50 and 600 kilometers in width.

The Estrada Nacional One, or National Highway One (EN1) remains the only road connected to the country’s capital, Maputo, to the north and south. The rest of the country remains largely disconnected, with little to no mode of transport available to the outer regions. There are no rail lines going beyond Maputo to the north, with many of the existing ones in the south being unserviceable and in complete disrepair. Domestic and freight transport mainly serves the center and south of the country through the largest transport company, Transportes Lalgy, which also connects to South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The rising demand for the country’s vast natural resources is its best chance for boosting the economy and spurring the development of infrastructure in Mozambique forward. The main challenge to this development is diversifying the economy, expanding and tapping into the resources centered in Mozambique’s food products, ports, airlines and railways.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) created the Competir com Qualidade, or private sector quality promotion program, in 2012, aiming toward enhancing the country’s development through increasing product competition. According to UNIDO project manager Dominika Dor, this is the first step toward creating a productive and stable economy, saying, “A well-functioning quality infrastructure can have a positive impact on multiple aspects of life, reaching from industrial development to environmental sustainability.” She goes on to explain that this impact is especially essential when it comes to water and other food products, as they are meant to be consumed by humans.

Development of infrastructure in Mozambique is particularly crucial when it comes to the railroads and ports. Malawi and Zimbabwe are entirely dependent on the rail lines that connect them to Mozambique, as they are completely landlocked and cannot reach the ports for their imports and exports any other way.

The Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) plans to invest $750 million in the development of the Port of Maputo, Mozambique’s largest port, so it can transport 48 million tons of goods each year by 2033. This includes the transport of iron-chromium, coal, vehicles and fruit, among other goods. The second and third largest ports, Beira and Nacala respectively, are currently undergoing enhancements to expand their accommodations for larger cargos and ensure Zimbabwe’s entry into the world market.

The rail network, on the other hand, requires private investments to improve railroad safety and ensure the safe passage of cargo and goods. The Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) is currently working on obtaining these investments and bring Mozambique’s railways up to the national standard.

Further development on Mozambique’s roads and transportation services will only serve to increase movement through the nation’s economy. With continued work on the infrastructure in Mozambique, the quality of life will inevitably improve for the African nation’s citizens.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr

Israel, a small country wedged between Africa and Asia, is one that has faced many challenges. The country was created as a Jewish state in 1948, but ever since, it has worked towards developing a strong and stable economy. With this economy, Israel is a country that isn’t the cheapest to live in. Despite the high price tags for things such as housing, transportation and groceries, Israel has easy access and relatively low costs for things such as healthcare and education. Here is a brief rundown on the cost of living in Israel:

What’s Expensive?

The cost of living in Israel can be high, especially in a nice area. For the Israelis, that means living in the center of the country, Jerusalem, which comes at a high price. In order to purchase a two-bedroom apartment in Jerusalem, one must pay a little less than half a million dollars. Additionally, the down payment required in Israel is normally 40 percent. Due to this high price tag, many people in the country find it difficult to afford their ideal home.

After securing the perfect home, Israelis are faced with the challenge of transportation. While the country does have public transit, it is known for being unreliable. The next option is purchasing a car, but this is unrealistic for many people who are living on a budget. The price of cars in Israel are drastically more expensive than other places in the world. For example, in order to buy a Volkswagen Golf, one must be able to pay about $38,000 plus about $7 per gallon of gas. In contrast, the same car would cost about $20,000 in the U.S.

The cost of living in Israel continues to be a challenge when faced with the everyday task of going to the grocery store. Monthly expenses for food and other grocery items cost the average person about $540 in Israel. In comparison, Europeans pay about $427 a month for their groceries. While this amount is a lot in itself, what makes it even more challenging is the low monthly income for most people. The average salary for an Israeli is less than $3,000 per month, making it hard to afford the steep costs of other necessities within the country.

What’s Cheap?

While many commodities within the country come with a hefty cost, the people of Israel are fortunate to have some basic things such as healthcare and education that come at a reasonable price. Israel’s healthcare system is praised by many around the world. The people of Israel have approximately 3-6 percent of their paycheck removed for healthcare, allowing for most of their medical needs to be covered by taxes. Additionally, all citizens receive the same healthcare for the same price, with extra costs for things such as going to the emergency room, remaining low.

Another positive toward the cost of living in Israel is the low expense for education. Parents who send their children to public school only end up paying a couple hundred dollars a year and those who send their kids to private schools, less than a couple thousand. When students then go to college, the annual cost of tuition is less than $3,000, making education accessible to many people throughout the country.

While the cost of living in Israel isn’t cheap all together, the country strives towards making things that are the most vital to their people affordable. When it comes to things such as living in the best part of the city or being able to purchase your own car, many people in Israel find the price to be too high. That being said, the price tag on healthcare and education is made easy for anyone, even those who struggle with finances.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

In early February, Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a plan to apply the use of solar power to the 7,000 railway stations located across the country. The plan will be implemented as a part of the country’s federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Solar power in India is now the main focus of industry and infrastructure in the country.

India’s Desire for Solar Growth

During his speech regarding the budget, Jaitley informed the public that 300 stations across the country had begun to use solar energy. Indian Railways, the state-run organization that operates India’s trains, has been working for several years to set up a successful solar energy program. In 2016, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) partnered with Indian Railways to generate five gigawatts of solar power capacity into the system. To put this into perspective, global solar installations are expected to reach close to 70 gigawatts in 2017.

Now, with the joint commitment of the government, Indian Railways will be able to cohesively move forward in its mission to normalize solar power in India. By the end of 2017, India hopes to harbor at least nine gigawatts of solar energy. The plan to implement solar panels and production into rail stations is part of a larger goal to increase solar capacity to 100 gigawatts by 2022.

Plans for Funding Solar Energy Expansion

The Union Railway Master in Indian, Suresh Prabhu, has also publicly discussed the intentions of the proposal. The union government is funding research that looks into producing solar power in India from waste materials. In doing so, the cost of electricity and other expenditures will be reduced, leaving extra funding for expanding infrastructure and railway facilities.

In order to finance the technology it will take to harness solar energy for the railways, India has collected close to $8 billion in coal taxes. Approximately $1.8 billion of the funds will go into solar energy for Indian Railways. The money from this tax is focused on producing cleaner energy, forest conservation and sanitation efforts. Solar power in India is just one facet of the nation’s larger campaign to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. The nation has also produced the first airport in the world that runs solely on solar power. As Indian corporations and its government work together in the fight to create a greener world, solar power remains at the forefront of their mission.

Solar power holds endless untapped potential. The sun produces approximately 170,000 terawatts of energy per day. This is about 2,850 times the energy currently required by the Earth’s population.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in JordanRecent implementation of government programs and grants of foreign aid seek to address infrastructure inefficiency and improve conditions for those still living in poverty in Jordan.

Jordan is a chronically arid country, with less than five percent of land available for farming. For citizens in rural areas, prospects of self-sustainability through farming are limited by the little or no rainfall. Not only do poor farmers have fewer products to sell, they also have less to eat.

Approximately 20 percent of Jordanians live in rural areas where poverty is more prevalent than in urban areas. Approximately 19 percent of the rural population is considered “poor.”

These trends are also compounded by gender inequalities in Jordan. Families headed by women tend to have fewer economic assets than households headed by men. For example, 43 percent of male heads of households receive loans for agricultural development and 14 percent for income-generating activities, while 21 and nine percent of female heads of households receive loans.

According to the 2011-2020 National Employment Strategy, Jordan must overcome several barriers to youth and female employment, including transportation, in order to improve economic conditions for all. Inefficient transport creates disparities between economic city centers like Amman and more rural regions.

These issues reflect some of the obstacles the government’s development program, referred to as Jordan 2025, seeks to address. This initiative began in early 2016 with the Executive Development Plan dedicating nearly $2.5 billion to developmental programs, with almost $300 million devoted to road and transportation development. This focus on improving transportation infrastructure ultimately provides rural citizens with more employment options in major cities.

Beyond rural poverty, one-third of Jordan’s population lives in poverty during at least a quarter of the year. While a 2010 World Bank study found that 14.4 percent of the population lived in poverty, the same study indicated that 18.6 percent of the country’s population experienced transient poverty, including some typically lower-middle and middle-income households.

To help mitigate these issues and boost the slowing economy, the Jordanian government has accepted two loans from the World Bank within the past year. The first, introduced in September 2016, comprised a $300 million package to improve economic opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

The second, approved in December 2016, consists of a $25 million contribution from the Global Concessional Financing Facility combined with a $225 million loan to improve energy and water spending as well as improve public service delivery.

“Improving the efficiency of the water and energy sectors, and the consequent savings, will provide the government with the fiscal space needed to invest more in economic development projects and improve the living conditions of citizens,” Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said in an interview with the World Bank.

While these initiatives and international loans have yet to be fully implemented and their impact analyzed, these investments could potentially help diminish poverty in Jordan.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Improve education

Many students living in poverty realize that education is important. Some living in the remote communities of Zimbabwe are even willing to walk several dangerous miles to get to school. These young students often face a difficult choice: leave home before dawn and risk being assaulted on the way to school or live in poor conditions and be closer to school. To improve education in Zimbabwe, the World Bicycle Relief has started distributing bikes to young students to help them reach school safely.

Transportation can be a huge issue that keeps children out of school or puts them at risk in transit. Girls are often the victims of sexual assault; on the way to school they run the risk of falling victim to sexual abuse and prostitution.

Getting to school by bicycle can help alleviate this danger, as a girl named Blessing states that her 7-mile walk becomes a bike ride of under an hour. Similarly, a girl named Ethel has said that her bicycle saved her enough time to keep up with her studies. With this new mode of transportation, she can even give rides to other students. In contrast, girls who cannot bike to school are forced to spend many nights in dangerous areas in order to get to school on time.

The World Bicycle Relief’s model of the organization is simple: bicycles are used as a method of empowerment. Moreover, the organization’s education efforts have not only been set up in Zimbabwe, but also in Zambia and in South Africa. At present, the World Bicycle Relief has distributed over 24,212 bikes. Students selected by their schools receive safety training and a bicycle. In exchange, young students sign a contract agreeing to attend school regularly.

The World Bicycle Relief also distributes bikes to entrepreneurs, healthcare providers, field mechanics and even ‘tree-preneurs’ (students who plant and nurture 150 saplings in exchange for a bike). Bicycles can therefore help the whole communities in ways beyond education in Zimbabwe, as they make it easier to get to necessary hospital services or to run other critical errands. Field mechanics are trained and given the tools to start their own bicycle businesses in order to multiply this effort.

The World Bicycle Relief has been providing transportation to many people throughout southern Africa. Their efforts to improve education in Zimbabwe as well as other countries are empowering children to take control of their education. By reducing the commute time and the risk involved in getting to school, the overall quality of life of youth living in remote regions improves.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

Mozambique entrepreneurs have created the award-winning social enterprise Mozambikes builds low-cost bicycles to improve the livelihoods of thousands of people in Mozambique. Affordable and efficient bicycle transportation can greatly impact the pace of development in a country with 54 percent of citizens living below the poverty line, especially in rural areas.

In addition to bringing economic opportunities, Mozambikes is committed to improving the lives of 50,000 Mozambicans by 2018. The company and affiliated non-profit Mozambikes Social Development intends to reach this goal through the sale and donation of affordable branded bicycles.

Mozambikes’ unique branding strategy has created three avenues of distribution. The first allows customers to brand and purchase bicycles for their own business needs, such as employee incentive programs. Other customers choose to brand bicycles sold to low-income markets.

Branding customers allow Mozambikes to sell the bicycles at a subsidized rate. For advertisers, it is an opportunity to tap into remote rural markets. Bicycles can also be donated through Mozambikes Social Development for about $100.

These bicycles are purchased at cost from Mozambikes and donated to those who still cannot afford a bicycle. Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Lauren Thomas said in an article published on The Guardian, “A bicycle may seem like such a small item to many, but it is quite literally life-changing in rural Africa.” Mozambique_entrepreneurs

The bicycles are specifically designed for use on the bumpy roads in Mozambique with large luggage racks for transporting goods. The design also accommodates traditional skirts with a diagonal crossbar. Local technicians assemble the bicycles and after-market maintenance has created a demand for more bicycle technicians.

In comparison with regional competitors, Mozambikes’ product is better quality and more affordable. The company hopes to improve the bicycle industry of Mozambique through these innovations.

Bicycles can have a significant impact in low-income communities and aid development. In Mozambique, two-thirds of people walk more than an hour to the closest health center. Bicycles provide increased access to education, health care and are a clean energy solution.

In five years, Mozambikes has sold or donated over 7,000 bicycles and plans to increase that number to 125,000 by 2020. In rural Africa, a bicycle is generally considered a household items aiding not only individuals but also entire families.

It is estimated that 70 percent of Mozambicans rely on income from what they can produce, largely through subsistence farming. Transportation is essential in this informal economy. Fetching water, maintaining crops and getting products to market are all made easier with access to bicycles.

As a Mozambique business, Mozambikes employs about 12 workers and pay salaries above minimum wage. The company also strives to empower women, provide training for bike technicians, and educate cyclists about safety.

Mozambikes hopes to benefit a million Mozambicans through low-cost, efficient transportation. Each bicycle improves another Mozambican’s livelihood.

Thomas affirms the company’s long-term vision: “Some people come and go, but we are really committed to making this an ongoing, sustainable business, and there is still so much more we can do.”

Cara Kuhlman

Sources: The Guardian, How We Made It In Africa, Mail & Guardian, Mozambikes, Mozambikes YouTube Channel
Photo: Wikimedia, Flickr

MozambikesWhile traveling through rural Mozambique, founders of Mozambikes Lauren Thomas and Rui Mesquita were disturbed by the region’s lack of transportation. Locals had to walk miles in harsh heat to reach basic necessities like water, food, healthcare, education and jobs.

50 percent of people in Mozambique live below the poverty line and mortality rates are highly exacerbated by lack of transportation.

Lauren Thomas and Rui Mesquita set out to solve this issue with Mozambikes, a for-profit social interest company that sells bicycles to locals at highly subsidized prices.

“It began as an idea, though we knew it had the potential to have a tremendous impact on the lives of rural Mozambicans. However, the first step was to import a container of bicycles and test the market. Given the risk implicit at such an early stage, Mozambikes started entirely with shareholder funding,” explains founder Lauren Thomas, a former New York City investment banker, to How We Made it In Africa.

It is a sustainable business model. Advertisers buy ad space on the bicycles, exposing a relatively secluded consumer base to brands or ideas that these rural Mozambicans would not otherwise see. The advertisements highly subsidize the price of the bicycles for the rural residents of Mozambique.

Companies can also purchase the bicycles directly, paint on their advertisements and logos, then sell them to local residents at lower prices as “promotional marketing” or “corporate social responsibility” explains How We Made it In Africa.

“Our most successful marketing has been our 7,000 bicycles on the roads in the country. When a company sees Mozambikes branded with another organisation, they want to know – who made those? Therefore, word of mouth has been very effective in getting sales over the last few years, now that we have a presence in the market. Mozambique is still a traditional market and we have also been successful with aggressive direct marketing – emails and phone calls to arrange meetings with target clients,” says Thomas.

Mozambikes has the potential to stimulate the local economy in a variety of ways. Bikes do not only open the door to health-related treatment options, education and more, but bicycles also enable Mozambicans to reach their jobs, and perhaps even obtain better jobs.

And the bikes are assembled by local Mozambiquians, generating jobs and income for residents. Locals also assemble bike accessories like accompanying trailers and bike ambulances.

“Our first donation event gave bicycles to 20 rural women in southern Mozambique. When we arrived, they began to clap and sing, and when they received the bicycles they were crying and singing. A bicycle may seem like such a small item to many, but it is quite literally life-changing in rural Africa. It means access to clean water. It means mothers can bring their babies to the clinic when they are sick. It means that they can return home from their farming plots in time to make their children dinner at night,” explains Thomas.

Aaron Andree

Sources: Mozambikes, How We Made It In Africa, Inclusive Business Hub
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

New modes of electric transport are being implemented in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. These new vehicles will cut down the length of citizens’ commutes, save the city from losing money and — most importantly — drastically reduce the air pollution that currently encompasses the city.

On workdays in a city like Manila, the population rises from 12 million to 15 million people. The majority of these people drive their own vehicles into the city, creating immense amounts of traffic. And what should be a 30-minute commute can take up to three hours.

Currently, the most popular mode of public transportation in this major city is the Jeepney, a large diesel-powered vehicle that contributes significantly to air and noise pollution. A new innovation, called the eJeepney, will instead run on electricity, reducing annual carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The eJeepney can travel up to 100 kilometers a day, going up to 60 kilometers per hour, and will only require a four-hour electric charge. The Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) has calculated that with the current diesel Jeepneys, greenhouse gas emissions would increase to 5.72 million tons a year by 2030, compared with 4.7 million tons in 2012. eJeepneys will prevent this problem from getting worse.

Sigfrido Tinga, president of Global Electric Transportation, says, “Eighty-five percent of this Metro Manila pollution is vehicular… Just taking out the major part that’s causing that pollution, which is the jeep, is going to be amazing.”

The eJeepney is just the beginning of a revolution in the Philippines. Other modes of transportation are being evaluated to discover ways to reduce pollution in all areas, including reopening the use of a ferry system.

Executive Director of Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities Renato Constantino said, “We don’t see it, we inhale it. We definitely feel the effects of it in terms of local air pollution, pollution on the streets, and we also contribute in a big way to global climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of warming temperatures worldwide.”

By introducing these new vehicles, the electric transport revolution in the Philippines could change the way countries around the world provide public transportation.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: Channel News Asia, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

world bank
The World Bank Group has lauded Nepal for the nation’s incredible feat of nearly halving the number of people living below the poverty line in only seven years.

In 2003-2004, nearly 53 percent of Nepal’s population was living in poverty. By 2010-2011, that number had been lowered to a mere 25 percent. This advantageous situation allows the country to attain potential stability, giving Nepal the opportunity to create domestic and foreign investments.

Taking advantage of the economic status, the country now must aim for more sustained growth. With the help of the World Bank, which recently launched a two-pillar Country Partnership Strategy for Nepal, the country will focus on growth in hydroelectricity generation, improving connectivity in transportation, enhancing the business environment, increasing productivity of the agriculture segment and giving equal access to health care. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat says that this excellent strategy should primarily focus on increasing economic growth, “To boost economic growth, we must increase investment as well as efficiency of investment,” Mahat stated.

The World Bank also acknowledges economic growth as an essential requirement for Nepal, so to further reduce poverty and increase shared wealth, Mahat stated that it is a necessary requirement to focus on economic growth as well as an improved political status.

The hope is to graduate Nepal from the current least-developed country status into a developing country by 2022. According to the National Planning Commission, Nepal’s economy has the potential to grow 8 percent annually to achieve this goal by 2012.

The World Bank will also provide long- and short-term support to reduce barriers in the business sector of the country, specifically in industries such as tourism and agriculture. The World Bank will attempt to address all economic risks that arise from the rapid expansion the country plans to see among the coming years.

— Elizabeth Malfaro

Sources: República, Ekantipur, The Himalayan Times
Photo: Wikipedia