Africa has made incredible progress over the past decade with cell phone services approaching universal coverage. However, the development of infrastructure for electricity, water, sewerage, and roads remains an enormous challenge, especially in rural areas, a recent Afrobarometer survey reveals .
Less than 30 per cent of people on the African continent have access to sewerage services while only 63 per cent have access to piped water, Afrobarometer’s survey highlights.
What is Afrobarometer?
Afrobarometer is a public opinion, attitude survey focusing on over 30 African countries.
According to Professor Winnie Mitullah, a Director at the Institute for Development Studies and a member of Afrobarometer’s executive committee, the research group gets the opinions of people about topics like governance, democracy and economics because it believes that knowing how people think should inform what development ensues.
“Development is all about people, and getting that opinion and responding to people’s thinking and needs is a critical thing in development,” said Mitullah.
She is encouraged by the fact that data based research is “beginning” to be more included in decision making by institutes and governments.
“I think it is continually getting better, I remember when we began in the early 2000s but in recent years we do see policy makers come to our forums and sometimes they call on us.
Recently the council of governors in Kenya contacted the institute and requested it make a presentation on devolution.
“We think that there is still need to really sensitise African leaders to get to use data, so that they can have targeted decision-making,”
“Generally the sewage system seems to be problematic but if we look at the trend and what is coming out from the data, like road infrastructure, the paved, tarred roads there is some progress – so we see curves going up but of course not at the pace that we need to see them go up – there is still much to be done.
There are many hurdles Africa still has to overcome with regards to infrastructure.
“One thing is that infrastructure is a very expensive venture, it is not cheap – when you look at what goes into a kilometre or tarred roads is millions and millions – that’s why I think a lot of infrastructure is funded through loans, so it’s not easy to do it from direct moneys we generate but we need to give it priority.
Mitullah suggests that the information provided by Afrobarometer can be used by private sectors.
“I think the private sector can use this information – the cell phone is a very good example, where the average for Africa is 93 per cent, it’s amazing, with no country lugging below 68 per cent – all are up,” said Mitullah.
Mitullah says that is because the private sector has really been active in that process, this highlights the importance of their involvement, she hopes with more synergy between all parties then Africa can see issues like infrastructure begin to be resolved.
“Private sector basically means we are not relying on the state alone – We need joint effort, you basically need government, you need private sector, you need civil society, you need scholars – this synergy, link between government and policy makers have been weak.