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Traditional economic development thinking has emphasized sectoral advances in such areas as agriculture, resources and industry. Just as technological innovation has transformed the dynamics of North American and Asian economies, however, technological change is now bringing remarkable advances to some African countries. Kenya has been a particular example of this process.
Technology hubs have grown, especially in Nairobi, such innovations as internet banking have spread across the country and technological education has grown for young women as well as men.
The following video from PBS provides powerful testimony of how these changes can improve the conditions and opportunities of the poor in Kenya. High tech mapping of the Kibera area in Nairobi, the video shows, provides insight into where services are located — and most needed. Education is also shown as a pathway to new skills and options for poorer Kenyans, including young women.
by Steven Langdon
Mineral developments in many African countries used to give minimal attention to environmental effects. But this has been changing in recent years. Our recent book, “African Economic Development” (published in 2018 by Routledge,) outlines examples from Nigeria, Liberia, Niger and Mozambique; local communities and environmental groups in these cases have worked to counter pollution damage to people and wildlife, drawing support from such foreign institutions as the European Investment Bank and from domestic university scholars.
Now a major Chinese-financed initiative to mine bauxite in Ghana has spurred similar objections from local environmental and community groups. The Ghana government has stressed high economic benefits from the mining project, but protestors point to considerable potential damage to the rainforest ecology in Ghana. Ghana’s famous Kakum National Park, with its tree-top canopy walk amidst huge old-growth trees, is an example of this ecology in the country.
Environmental and community groups have seen success in enforcing punitive payments from petroleum multinational corporations in Nigeria, and have established improved pollution policies in the case of the aluminum smelter operated by BHP Billiton in Mozambique.
What will be the outcome of this new struggle in Ghana? This will be a case to track carefully. See the attached link for more information.
by Steven Langdon
When I was working with the World Bank in Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was one of the most impressive people with whom I dealt. On leave from the World Bank, she was trying to shape more disciplined budgets for the country, so that Nigeria could better develop a more inclusive economy built on its massive oil resources.
It was a difficult task, she told me. But at that point (before she became the country’s Finance Minister) she was hopeful.
Now, after years in that job, Ngozi has written a book revealing just how challenging her task was. Quartz Africa’s Fewi Fawehinmi outlines what Ngozi has written, and draws out the main difficulties she faced in the structure of Nigerian budget-making. Not only did legislators change rapidly in Parliament (leaving few with budget experience,) but the budget depended on assumptions about the world prices at which Nigeria could sell its oil, and these shifted continually while the budget was being considered. Add to that external pressures (Ngozi’s mother was kidnapped to try to get the Minister to change her approach to fuel subsidies in 2012.)
“Nigeria, says Fawehinmi, “remains very dysfunctional in the way it carries out the normal business of government.” Ngozi’s book may help in at least a small way to change that.
[For more, see the following link: https://qz.com/1290954/fighting-nigerian-corruption-might-be-dangerous-but-preparing-a-nigerian-budget-is-hell/ ]
Original Article: Electricity in Africa
If you have read an article about electricity in Africa before, this number is not new to you. It has become a familiar, almost totemic refrain in every op-ed, panel discussion and program launch addressing electrification on the continent. The statistic is so frequently cited that it can sometimes wash over its audience like a repeated cliché.
Several days ago, the World Bank quietly updated the statistic based on 2016 data. This update provides us with a space to appreciate, again, the heavy and urgent burden of human consequence this statistic represents. It should imbue us all with a renewed sense of urgency.
But some 600 million people still lack access to electricity in Africa, according to World Bank 2016 data. In other words, no absolute progress has been made since 2014.
Over the two years from 2014 to 2016, the off-grid population has gone down slightly. In fact, electricity has reached an impressive additional 76 million people and the electrification rate increased by 5 percentage points to 43%%. But, these 76 million new connections only slightly outpaced population growth of 54.5 million people. So the absolute number of people living without electricity has fallen by only 21 million and the headline statistic remains basically steady at a rounded 600 million people.
There are some encouraging signs. 60% of the newly connected population were in rural areas, where people are more difficult to connect. The urban electrification rate moved slightly from 72% to 74% while rural electrification increased from 16% to 23% in the same time frame. So, progress is being made in the more difficult task of rural electrification. But it’s not enough.
What does this all mean?
The electrification sector has not been standing still. Pay-as-you-go solar has attracted $750 million in investment over the past five years, mini-grids are gaining traction with hefty donor funding allocated across the continent (our estimate is over $600 million) and public sector electrification efforts by national governments are intensifying.
But, this update confirms again that universal electrification is hard and expensive. Grid connections cost anywhere between $250 and $2500+ depending on proximity to the grid. Mini-grids that offer a grid-like service still cost between $500 and $1500 to connect each household. Electrification in a continent where over 60% of the population still live in rural areas is even harder.
So our message isn’t one of discouragement. Instead, we’d propose that we use this update to look with fresh eyes at this staggering statistic; 600m people in Africa lack electricity. We must renew our appreciation for the scale of the challenge and the human consequences of failure.
Universal electrification is the seventh of the Sustainable Development Goals that the global community has committed to achieve by 2030. Even on very optimistic assumptions about the current connection trajectory, 240 million people in Africa will still lack electricity in 2030. To reach our goal, governments, donors and investors need to rally anew behind both government electrification efforts and private sector players in the utility, mini-grid and solar home system sectors