Poor infrastructure is key obstacle to development in Africa
Africa's poor infrastructure is slowing its economic development. Foreign investment, however, is helping fill in some of the gaps.
African countries need to promote industrial development to spur economic progress and reduce poverty.
That is largely due to poor transport, communications and energy infrastructures.
The main infrastructure problems
The poor state of Africa's infrastructure becomes obvious when traveling 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) by train from Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. Disused wagons are a common sight and the train makes several unexplained
Less than two percent of the rail line's cargo capacity is being used, according to a Tazara regional director who spoke to the Zambian daily Lusaka Times. Heavy goods have to be transported by other, more expensive means.
Still, transport infrastructure is not even the region's biggest problem, keeping the lights on is.
Power is Africa's biggest infrastructure weak point, with as many as 30 countries facing regular power outages, according to a 2010 report by the World Bank and France's development agency.
Companies operating in most African countries where power supply is unreliable have resorted to purchasing diesel-operated power generators, which increases operating costs drastically,
Experts estimate electricity produced by diesel can cost twice as much as energy from coal or hydropower-based power systems.
High energy costs combined with other infrastructure deficits, such as rail and road problems, have lowered productivity rates at African companies by as much as 40 percent.
Despite the rather disappointing figures, there are some positive signs, such as the first toll road in sub-Saharan Africa, funded by the African Development Bank and Standard Bank.
South Sudan's first power plant, which was funded by the United States Aid for International Development (USAID) was inaugurated in February. Meanwhile, the German Development Cooperation has focused on renewable energy projects.
It has helped install solar energy systems at 70 remote public health centers in Ethiopia and supported the distribution of renewable energy technologies in Uganda.
However, China is the biggest financer of infrastructure projects in Africa, according to the World Bank.
"China is adding infrastructure capacity to link resources in countries as diverse as Mauretania, Sudan, Nigeria, DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Gabon, Angola and Zambia.
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