Plastic bags are not the problem, consumer behaviour is, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has said in response to its ban by the government on Wednesday.
According to the association, the biggest problem the country faces over the plastic bag ‘menace’ is waste management and users’ behaviour.
The challenge the country faces is in the disposal of the bags, as many of the bags are thrown in garbage heaps and do not break down like organic materials do.
“A ban that intends to enforce a sudden change in consumer behaviour will not succeed in the long run, as seen by countries that have had to reverse their decision on similar bans such as South Africa,” said the association.
The manufacturers’ association also said the directive was made without consulting them and will have an adverse effect on the economy.
They said companies in the plastic industry currently employ about three per cent of all Kenyan employees in the country directly and about another 60,000 indirectly.
The ban that was announced by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Prof Judi Wakhungu on Wednesday in a Kenya Gazette announcement dated February 28.
The ban will take effect in six months’ time.
On social media, however, the move was met with applause by Kenyans on social media with many saying that it was about time that action was taken.
Yvonne Munguti posted: “Good stuff Waziri, now we need to get together and get rid of all the plastic waste and find a proper way to dispose them. The environment will be cleaner and we preserve the environment for our children.”
“I can’t congratulate you at all what do you think all those Kenyans working on those companies will do? Think a lot Madam,” David Mutune was concerned.
Some were doubtful about the implementation of the directive.
“I kept singing about it on this page…at last you have it done it. Yet I doubt if it will be implemented…the Asian Kiambu and Rift valley mafia are more powerful,” said Clifton Karani.
Others were concerned about alternatives bags to be used once the plastic bags are phased out.
Kennedy Obiewa stated: “What alternatives are you providing? If there are none in the next six months then this is an exercise in futility.”
An agency monitoring drought has warned of a worsening food crisis in the country should the dry spell being experienced persists.
“If the (short) rains are below average, as currently forecast, or the onset of the season is late, then the situation will become significantly worse, with impacts on health and nutrition, household purchasing power and security,” the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) says in its latest bulletin.
The document further says: “The implications of a poor season are particularly worrying for marginal agricultural counties, which are short rains-dependent.”
The authority issued drought alerts for 10 counties and an alarm for one.
The authority said Narok, Kajiado, Taita-Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale, Tana River, Kitui, Makueni, Marsabit and Garissa counties were experiencing a decline in food and livestock production as well as water supply. The drought status of Lamu was moved up from alert to alarm.
In its October bulletin, the authority says only one county — Kilifi — was in the alarm drought phase, with the rest in the alert phase.
The authority’s chairperson, Ms Agnes Ndetei, said in parts of Kilifi, Garissa, Lamu, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Tana River, Makueni, Kajiado, Narok and Marsabit, there are now significant shortages of pasture and water.
“Areas in the south-east and the Coast are the most affected since they received below-average rainfall during the long rains season,” said Ms Ndetei.
According to the agency, the food shortage has been aggravated by conflict in some counties, the most serious case in the previous month being along the border of Isiolo and Garissa, where pastoralists’ convergence is common.
DROUGHT CONTINGENCY PLANS
“NDMA, in collaboration with county governments and other stakeholders, has activated drought contingency plans in seven counties and is supporting all devolved units to coordinate their response and plan for a possible La Niña event,” says the bulletin.
The authority says it has disbursed Sh53 million of drought contingency finance provided by the European Union in seven counties since the beginning of July.
The onset of the dry spell in the North Rift has sparked fears of conflicts in the scramble for scarce resources among pastoralists in the region.
A spot check by the Nation revealed that many water sources in the area had dried up and pastures depleted, prompting pastoralists to move with their livestock to neighbouring areas.
This has been witnessed in Mochongoi Forest, Baringo; and Laikipia Nature Conservancy, where Pokot herders have moved with hundreds of their livestock.
Baringo county commissioner Peter Okwanyo said they were in talks with elders in the region for pasture committees to be constituted to avoid conflicts.
A report released by the Kenya Food Security Steering Group and Early Warning Systems Network in January indicates that families in Samburu, Marsabit, Isiolo, Garissa, Mandera and Wajir faced food shortages and inadequate pasture and water for their animals due to the dry spell.
Thousands of families in parts of Baringo, West Pokot and Turkana counties in the North Rift region are also experiencing food shortages that are likely to be complicated by the drought.
By Mathias Ringa
The tourism industry in Kenya faces a glimmer of hope with increased international flight bookings for the summer season up by 27.7 per cent compared to last year, according to the latest data from ForwardKeys.
ForwardKeys, a global organization that monitors future travel patterns by analysing 14 million daily reservation transactions, indicates that bookings made for the beginning of May onwards show that nearly all the top African destinations are seeing a soar in international arrivals.
Namibia tops the list, up 31.2 per cent on the previous year, with Kenya in second place, up 27.7 per cent followed by South Africa with an increase of 21.6 per cent.
In a press statement, ForwardKeys Chief Executive Officer Olivier Jager said: “It’s clear that recent events have impacted travel to North African countries, especially Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia which are all showing a marked decline in tourist numbers.
“However, the picture in Sub-Saharan Africa has changed, with most countries showing very positive increases, such as Namibia, Kenya and South Africa.”
On Saturday, Kenya Tourism Board acting managing director, Jacinta Nzioka, confirmed that international flight bookings for the country had increased by more than 20 per cent.
She said bookings for summer July to October were on the rise due to improved security in the country and especially at the Coast.
Ms Nzioka explained that leading tour operators and travel agents from the traditional markets of Germany, UK, Italy, Switzerland and France were now selling Kenya in the wake of peace enjoyed in the country.
She also attributed the surge to the government’s reduction of park entry fees from Sh9,000 per international visitor to Sh6,000 and the waiving of visa fees for children below 16 years.
On the other hand, Ms Nzioka said the Sh1.2 billion charter incentive programme which was announced by the government last year had attracted some chartered airlines from Europe.
SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT
She noted that some charter airlines from Europe are expected to resume flights to Mombasa during the summer season thereby contributing to the rise.
Ms Nzioka said Tourism minister Najib Balala and the KTB team had been aggressively marketing the country in both traditional and emerging markets to help revive the sector.
She said the marketing campaigns were done in Germany, UK, Italy, France – among other source markets – to win back the confidence of leading sector players.
In an interview with the Nation on the sidelines of South African Travel Show, Indaba 2016 that began on Saturday in Durban, Ms Nzioka said KTB was also focusing on attracting tourists from Africa.
“We are participating in Indaba, which is the largest travel trade fair in Africa, so that we can woo more African holidaymakers to our country,” she said.
“We expect tourist arrivals from South Africa to increase by 20 per cent this year compared to 30,000 tourists last year.”
Karen Blixen Camp managing director Ronald Mutie, added that international tourist bookings for the summer season had jumped by over 20 per cent compared to last year.
He said the Camp had registered impressive bookings for the summer, mainly from Scandinavian countries: Denmark and Norway.
“We have also bookings from the US, UK and Australian markets, with the visitors coming to the country for safari,” he said.
Since March, several chartered airlines from Europe have entered deals with the government to resume flights to Mombasa during the Summer period and in return they will benefit from the charter incentives.
The Climate Investment Funds’ Clean Technology Fund (CTF) has approved a $29.65-million concessional loan to Kenya to cofinance up to two geothermal projects to increase the country’s power capacity, particularly drawing on untapped geothermal resources in the Rift Valley. The programme would be implemented with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB), with the geothermal projects to be structured as independent power producers (IPPs). The CTF for geothermal generation would build on the energy advancements already under way in the development of the country’s Menengai Geothermal Field.
To create a sustainable energy future, Kenya’s government recognised that it needed to sustain a stable investment climate for private sector participation in the energy sector, expanding transmission and distribution networks to deliver power to customers, maintain cost-reflective tariffs and reduce inefficiency in the sector to support more affordable end-user tariffs.
A key government measure in this regard was to promote IPP schemes selected through international competitive bidding processes to enhance investment flows from the private sector into the power sector. AfDB CTF coordinator Joao Duarte Cunha noted that the infusion of capital would serve to build investor confidence and improve bankability of these resources.
“The success of the IPPs developed in this programme can serve as a beacon for other countries looking to achieve similar green energy goals.” Transformation of the geothermal energy sector was a core part of Kenya’s economic growth plan for its expanding and increasingly urbanising population.
In its 2030 vision, the country identified energy and electricity as key elements of its economic transformation, with geothermal energy as the lead technology. It was estimated that by 2020, the country’s projected installed energy capacity would triple from 2 177 MW to 6 766 MW, with geothermal contributing around 2 000 MW.
At least thirty six airlines are gunning for a slice of Nairobi’s airport traffic, in a move that could support Kenya’s floundering tourism and ratchet up price competition.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority says 36 passenger and cargo airlines are seeking licences to operate local and international cargo and passenger flights, a move seen lifting Nairobi’s transport hub status ambitions.
Zimbabwe-based Global Africa Aviation (Put) Limited have sought licence to conduct cargo flights from Harare to Nairobi while West Wind Aviation Limited seeks approval to offer passengers and freight between Nairobi, East, West, Central and Southern Africa from its current base at Wilson Airport.
Italy’s Neos S.P.A and Meridiana Fly have sought approval to operate chartered flights on a bi-weekly basis from Malpensa, Italy to Mombasa and a weekly flight from Katowice-Hurghada to Mombasa respectively.
Other new entrants include Poland’s Small Planet Airlines that plans weekly flights to Kenya while Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation has sought licence to conduct cargo services from Nairobi to Jeddah and back.
On the East African front Auric Air Services Limited, Tanzanian Air Services and Air Excel Limited, all from Tanzania have sought to offer regional passenger services, thanks to the recently signed air traffic protocol that gives regional operators from East African Community automatic rights to use sister facilities at no extra cost.
Five Forty Aviation and Baracuda Airways Holdings Limited plan to launch weekly flights to Homa Bay while East African Safari Air Express Limited wants to be allowed to fly to Kabamet weekly.
DAC Aviation (E.A.) Limited wants to enjoy non-scheduled air services for passengers, cargo and mail within Kenya and to other points in Africa, Middle East and Asia.
Ocean Airlines Limited seeks to entrench its leadership in the Nairobi-Northern Kenya route and is seeking permission to fly people and cargo to from Nairobi to Kisumu, Garissa and Wajir.
Jetways Airlines Limited also wants to fly to South Sudan’s Juba capital via Entebbe, Mogadishu which will be integrated with its domestic route plying Eldoret, Lodwar, Kakuma, Mombasa, Malindi, La mu, Waji, and Mandera.
Treedo n Airlines Express Limited had also applied for inclusion of new routes to include Eastern and Central Africa while its domestic routes will be ferrying of passengers from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport to Ukunda, Wajir, and Eldoret.
Others are Kenya Homes Company Limited, Timbis Air Services, Aberdair Aviation Limited, Skymax Aviation Limited, Northwood Agencies Limited, Nairobi Mission Aviation Fellowship (K), GeoAir Limited, Transafrican Air Limited, Skyward Express Limited and Aeronav Limited.
The growth in renewable energy is fuelling new jobs in Asia and Africa. Meet three beneficiaries of the new green economy from Zambia, Pakistan and Kenya.
While the price of oil is plummeting, taking with it a significant number of jobs, the renewable energy job market is booming. It is estimated that it will grow to 24m jobs worldwide by 2030 – up from 9.2m reported in 2014 – according to analysis by the International Renewable Energy Industry (Irena), which predicts that doubling the proportion of renewables in the global energy mix would increase GDP by up to $1.3tn across the world.
The rise and rise of the solar industry has been the largest driver of growth. In 2014, it accounted for more than 2.5m jobs, largely in operations, maintenance and manufacturing – now increasingly dominated by a jobs boom in Asia.
The industry is providing hope and income to workers – present and future – across the global south.
Sheila Mbilishi, ‘solar-preneur’, Zambia
Although employment in renewable energy is comparatively low across Africa, the sunny continent is where the need and potential for employment is perhaps greatest. A fast-growing economy and population is driving demand for energy, but two-thirds of people in sub-Saharan Africa still lack access to electricity.
Now the renewables revolution is witnessing the rise of a generation of African “solar-preneurs” who are creating small-scale businesses by taking solar energy – in the form of lights, radios and mobile-phone charging facilities – into local communities.
In western Zambia, Sheila Mbilishi is self-employed and sells solar lights to local residents and businesses. The 67-year-old widow and mother of six buys the lights for $5 from the social enterprise SunnyMoney – part of the UK based charity SolarAid – and sells them on with a 50% profit margin.
“They sell like cupcakes,” says Mbilishi. “There is life in the lights – people got interested in them.” They are popular with pupils who want to study after dark, businesses during electricity blackouts or as a replacement for toxic kerosene lamps in homes.
Since starting the business three years ago, it has provided Mbilishi with a significant source of income, helping her to open a shop and build a two-bedroom flat. “The difference is huge,” she says. “Selling lights has helped me a lot. I have built a house out of the lights. Owning personal ones has helped me too with the current load shedding – electricity is usually off and I am not affected by no light.”
Shehak Sattar, renewable energy student, Moscow
For Shehak Sattar, choosing to study renewable energy was more a social than a personal decision. “I want to practise something different from the mainstream. It is related to the concept of believing in humanity and our survival on earth,” he says.
The 27-year-old Pakistani student is now four months into a masters degree in the science and materials of solar energy at the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow, funded by a scholarship. The course is in its first year and has mostly attracted international students – from Afghanistan and Iran to Nigeria and Namibia.
Before coming to Moscow, Sattar worked for NGOs and other agencies in Pakistan, installing and spreading the transmission of solar energy to remote communities and to slums in Islamabad and Lahore. Larger solar projects are now starting to come online in Pakistan, amid ambitions to construct the world’s largest solar farm.
“There has been a general electricity crisis in Pakistan. People are waiting for alternatives to rescue them from this suffering,” he says.
Once he has completed his course, Sattar wants to work at a university in Pakistan “to convert the attention of students to renewable energy sources” by lecturing and researching methods to make solar energy more efficient.
“We have to fight more,” he says. “We have to fight against the people who will be digging for petroleum in the coming 20 years because it will destroy our ecology’s balance.”
Mohamed Abdikadir, solar panel installer, Dadaab, Kenya
The promise of renewable energy in refugee camps could save humanitarian agencies hundreds of millions of dollars and provide job opportunities for thousands of young refugees.
Mohamed Abdikadir, 21, was born in the refugee camp complex at Dadaab in eastern Kenya, where the average family spends $17.20 per month – 24% of their income – on energy. The complex is home to more than 330,000 refugees.
Like most of his neighbours, Abdikadir’s family came to the camp after fleeing the civil war in Somalia more than two decades ago. Both his parents have since died, leaving Abdikadir to provide for his 10 younger siblings. He is now one of 5,000 young people trained to install solar panels as part of a programme in Kenya and Ethiopia organised by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which has recruited local teachers to deliver it.
“It was hard [to learn] at first but I tried my best and now it is easy,” says Abdikadir. After completing a six-month programme a year ago, he gets up at 5am every day to pray before preparing breakfast and collecting the tools for his job in Dadaab’s dry desert landscape. “There is a lot of sun here.Renewable energy is very good in this environment.”
Before he started the programme, Abdikadir earned money by selling water but he could only make enough to provide one meal a day for his family. Now, with the extra income from solar installations – $10 on an average day – his siblings are eating three meals daily, have new clothing and are able to attend a fee-paying school.
“I am the breadwinner of the family,” he says. “[The programme] has really helped me. Before I was idle. It helps with my daily bread, my daily income.”
Abdikadir now wants to expand his education to incorporate other forms of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the NRC recently announced plans to deliver a similar programme on a larger scale for Syrians at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
THE provision of water to entire citizens of the continent is a formidable task that can nonetheless be fulfilled.
This has the prevailing sentiment at the seventh Africities Summit ongoing in Johannesburg.
Chris Heymans, Senior Water and Sanitation Specialist at the World Bank, based in Nairobi, Kenya said although major challenges existed, World Bank research presently being undertaken found there were spots of encouragement on the continent.
It was these examples that could provide the impetus for effectively tackling water and sanitation problems across the continent by providing tangible examples of success to other local authorities and utilities.
The ideal delivery system for water was piping of the commodity into homes of users, said Heymans.
This had a profound impact on the quality of life of individuals, but -because of rapid urbanisation in Africa’s cities – this ideal was being hampered by growing slum settlements on the outskirts of cities where people still had to move long distances to find water.
Across the continent, the needs of settled, ‘richer’ communities and those of poorer consumers were tackled in various ways. Some authorities restricted themselves to piped delivery to more affluent areas, whilst other cities argued for not providing water at household levels.
“Whatever the arguments for and against, the fact was that it was the poor who suffered as they had to pay more for water than more privileged consumers. They also relied on ‘water merchants’ to supply what could be water of a poor standard. The impact on quality of life and health were obvious,” Heymans said.
He cited an example of Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, where a working compromise had been established and was working for the benefit of all parties.
Although city inhabitants received piped water, the city authorities had taken the decision to extend their water network by running pipes to the outskirts of areas dominated by informal settlements outside the city limits.
“Here, people who had been selling water, had been recruited as partners and were engaged in running the pipe network further into these areas and selling access to water piped closer to peoples’ homes,” Heymans said.
To ensure that these services could be supplied at a reasonable rate to the people, the delivery of water to the outskirts of these areas was subsidised by the utility.
“The result had been an increase in the quality of life for thousands of people,” said Heymans said.
Cape Town: Old Mutual Alternative Investments (OMAI), a boutique of Old Mutual Investment Group, has announced an agreement to acquire the 50% of African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) that it does not already own, making it the sole shareholder of the pan-African infrastructure investment manager.
AIIM was established in 2000 as a 50/50 joint venture between OMAI and Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets (MIRA). Over the last 15 years, AIIM has developed into one of Africa’s leading infrastructure investment managers with a pan-African remit.
Paul Boynton, CEO of OMAI, says that the transaction allows Old Mutual to secure a business with strategically significant growth opportunities. “The global alternative investment industry is estimated to be worth around $13 trillion by 2020, and is predicted to be the fastest growing segment of the asset management industry globally over the next 10 years. In addition, the African market is becoming increasingly attractive to global investors and as an established pan-African asset manager, AIIM is ideally positioned to capitalise on this key growth sector,” he explains.
“We are excited about the ownership of a business which has shown an excellent track record for investors over a 15-year period. AIIM is recognised as one of Africa’s market leaders in infrastructure transaction execution and asset management and is increasingly seen as a partner of choice by infrastructure investors and developers alike,” says Boynton. “We couldn’t have asked for better results from AIIM when we first established the joint venture with MIRA and we are excited about the investment pipeline AIIM faces and the opportunity we see to deploy investor capital for attractive returns.”
Boynton further explains that the transaction underlines Old Mutual’s overall African strategy, which focuses on expanding its presence in Africa where infrastructure plays a crucial role. “This acquisition facilitates the leveraging of AIIM’s resources and infrastructure across the broader Old Mutual Group, while also broadening Old Mutual’s geographic footprint, most notably in Africa, and introducing new client opportunities for the enhancement of cross-selling and distribution opportunities.”
Jurie Swart, CEO of AIIM, says that given their strong focus on Africa, Old Mutual is a natural fit for AIIM. “We have enjoyed a strong and fruitful relationship with MIRA for 15 years, and this transaction is a mutual decision by the shareholders to give AIIM the optimal structure to support its future growth. Africa is still climbing the agenda for investors worldwide and we are excited about the opportunities presented by the alignment of the Old Mutual and AIIM strategies to capitalise on this growth,” explains Swart.
“We remain an autonomous business, as we have been since inception in 2000,” Swart adds. “AIIM will continue to create value for investors, while making a tangible contribution to African economies and communities. AIIM has established local offices in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya and the depth of knowledge and experience within the AIIM team is exemplary,” he explains.
The latest trend in tourism is travel that is rapidly moving past the conventional means in response to a growing market; where in one way or the other, technology will be consumed. This has indeed called industry players to re-invent their business ideals, or risk growing redundant. While the place of soft skills and personalization cannot be entirely replaced by technology, its worth of note that these two aspects have become the inseparable components of the current market mix, for any success story.
A report by the World Travel Monitor® notes that traditional business trips are now highly rivaled by the MICE industry (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences& Exhibitions),forcing operators to step up their products models to meet the growing demand. Where a spacious room with horse-shoe set up of banqueting chairs and a white board sufficed just enough, the era is now replaced by a call for teleconferencing, robust WI-Fi,data and voice connection points, panel displays, and integrated sound system among other aspects. Undoubtedly the decline in traditional business trips is largely impacted by lack of implementation and adaption of technological solutions.
In the same breath, the report also observes a sharp decline in countryside tourism owing to the same (tech) challenges, with travelers seeming to have a renewed and rapidly growing interest in urban tourism.
This as Estelle Verdier, Managing Director for Jovago.com East and Southern Africa explains is very much influenced by new travel habits; “whether on WIFI, DSL, cable or on flight mode, travelers no longer plug out. The very basics of communication stems from technology, and experience sharing has seen another era through the various channels involved”
This may lead one to wonder what exactly the future holds for county tourism; a major product on display in the ongoing Magical Kenya Tourism Expo. The one week experience that has brought together over 100 global exhibitors with quite a number of Kenyan counties showcasing different products in bid to woo new regional and global arrivals their way. As Nafisa Fazal, a participator representing online travel firm, Jovago.com explains, ‘it’s not about being the biggest anymore, but giving the best in terms of both product and experience’ This, she cites is the primary factor in getting tourists to look your way; harness to the best what you have, and garnish it with memorable customer experience. “Do not focus on what you wish to offer, but on what the customer wishes for”
The role of ecotourism
Kenya is well recognized within and beyond the region for spear heading global campaign in support of ecotourism. Embedded on responsible travel and environmental conservation, ecotourism seeks to preserve the natural world while protecting the wellness of the people. In contrast to traditional times where visitors would feel encouraged to carry with them ‘souvenirs and keepsakes’ worth memories of their visits, this form of sustainable tourism only recommends photographs as the acceptable take-away for tourists, and footprints as the commendable leave-in. Other aspects of ecotourism include use of natural and locally available building materials, hiring local guides, charity and donation to local courses and strict adherence to nature’s holding capacity.
President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya and Ethiopia has focused on trade, investment and entrepreneurship.
One of the highlight of the visit occurred this past weekend when he hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, where thousands of top business leaders, entrepreneurs and politicians gathered to discuss opportunities and challenges in today’s Africa. Obama called on American investors to fund African entrepreneurs to support job creation, backing it up with a pledge of more than US$1 billion in new private and US government commitments for start-ups.
Less discussed, however, was infrastructure investment and the role it plays in driving employment, particularly as China and others pour billions into projects across Africa.
Africa has seen a surge in infrastructure investment in recent decades, most notably in the construction of roads, ports, bridges and airports, yet the continent still has a serious infrastructure gap. The World Bank estimates the continent must spend $93 billion a year through 2020 to close it.
More importantly, however, questions linger over how successful these investments have been in promoting long-term growth in employment.
In particular, concerns have been raised that many of the recent developments suffer from a short-term mindset and make only a small dent in employment beyond the life of the project. Others, such as some financed by the Chinese, bring in their own labor force for much of the work, which further limits the long-term impact on local employment.
So the question is: with hundreds of billions of cash in the pipeline, how can countries on the continent get the most out of all that investment?
An infrastructure surge
Africa has experienced a surge in major infrastructure development projects over the past two decades, which has created many employment opportunities for local communities. They’ve also boosted the marketability of local products.
For instance, due to lack of viable railway infrastructure and machinery, the food chain supply between rural communities (zone of production) and cities (place of consumption) has been disconnected, creating food insecurity for many people. To address this challenge, the Democratic Republic of the Congo invested $31 million in new locomotives and millions more restoring railways to make it easier to market and sell local products.
More broadly, the value of mega-projects under construction in Africa soared 46% last year to $326 billion, according to Deloitte. Almost half of that was in southern Africa, and 80% involved the transport or energy and power sectors.
Such developments have provided significant opportunities for both skilled and unskilled residents alike as the projects are usually quite labor-intensive.
Every $1 billion invested in infrastructure has the potential to generate, on average, about 110,000 related jobs in oil-importing countries and 49,000 jobs in oil-exporting countries, according to the World Bank.
In 2012, the African Development Bank raised $22 billion from a pan-African infrastructure bond to invest based on its Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) project. Another $368 billion is expected to be invested through 2040 on roads, ports, hospitals, schools and other key infrastructure, which is expected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Resource-rich Angola in the south and Kenya in the east are two countries that have been among the biggest beneficiaries of this growing investment and show how these projects can facilitate strong economic growth.
Angola, for instance, is a prime example of the success of state-led infrastructure spending, primarily through its partnership with China. The impact of these projects on job creation has been encouraging, helping reduce unemployment to 26% in 2014 from 35% eight years earlier. That’s still quite high, but it’s a start.
Kenya, where Obama spent most of his Africa trip, has invested mainly in its energy and railroad infrastructure. That investment is estimated to have boosted growth in the country to 6%–7% through 2017, compared with 5.4% in 2014, providing its citizens with additional employment.
These examples and many more demonstrate how promising infrastructure investment in Africa can be.
Costs versus benefits
But the promise isn’t always fulfilled. One of the main concerns about these projects is that they are contract-based, tied to the duration of the development.
While they generate useful economic opportunities during implementation, many of them often provide only short-term employment gains and fail to provide a long-term sustainable solution to Africa’s persistent underemployment problems. Because the initial jobs are tied to contracts, most people employed in these infrastructure development projects will not be able to secure long-term employment at the closure of their contracts.
Other complaints include the poor working conditions, which are often below international standards and provide limited safety, especially in labor-intensive infrastructure projects. And again, their contract-based nature mean they lack minimum wages, legal protections and security.
The question then becomes: are these projects worth it, despite the problems?
Anticipating what comes next
All in all, despite the shortfalls, infrastructure development in Africa has been positive. Whether in developed or developing countries, the economic benefits of such projects can generally be seen over the long run.
But these projects give a greater boost when they are linked with critical economic sectors such as agriculture, energy and farming. Or when officials anticipate what economic opportunities could be kickstarted by a project and ensure they translate into serious long-term employment.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance, roads, ports and other projects are serving as a means toward developing other economic sectors, notably agriculture, tourism, mining and trade. This serves as an anticipatory mechanism within government planning to help ensure sustainable economic growth and social development.
Policies along these lines will be of greater benefit to other African countries as well.
How to get the most out of a project
Governments can follow a few policy suggestions to help ensure they get the most out of infrastructure investment.
For example, governments and other stakeholders should emphasize skills transfer so that after a project is complete, locals can be employed in keeping up the road or bridge. The Democratic Republic of the Congo can be used again as example of how local governments are establishing maintenance and public recycling groups in major cities. This will not only help ensure sustainability of the infrastructure, it will also guarantee long-term jobs for a large number of people.
Anticipating what comes after a project ends is key so that during its development workers can be trained in other jobs that will result, thus offsetting the sudden drop in unemployment at completion.
Africa has complex economic and politic issues and huge infrastructure needs that will drive growth and employment for decades to come. The benefits are many. By taking a careful strategic approach, countries can ensure the short-term projects translate into long-term economic and employment gains.