By Sam Stewart Mutabazi

Africa is a continent that is lagging behind on many fronts especially on the economic, political and governance sides. The continent has a very long way for her to catch up with other continents like Asia, Europe and America. We know that infrastructure in all its form plays an important role in the welfare of a nation. Without infrastructure, countries grapple with the challenge of dealing with poverty. Yet many countries especially in Sub Saharan Africa do not have even the basic infrastructure. There are fundamental reasons why Africa doesn’t have the infrastructure it so badly needs. This is because of the following reasons;

  1. Lack of skills and technical know how
  2. Lack of democratic and better governance systems
  3. Lack of adequate capital investments
  4. Poor education system
  5. Lack of prioritization in terms of budget allocation
  6. Poor advice from multilateral agencies and development partners
  7. Poor project handling and delivery
  8. Weak Government leadership


The factors above are the main reason why Africa has not achieved the simple minimum infrastructure targets which keeps most parts of the continent recessive. Though all of them are relatable, perhaps the most unrelenting is lack of capacity and technical skills. It’s true that a country can rely on foreigners to build her infrastructure like what Saudi Arabia did. Saudi Arabia colossally invested in infrastructure by bank on on expatriates. They used the Petro dollars to pay off the expatriates who came from all around the world. However we need to not forget that Said Arabia has been using resources it gets from Oil. Almost all its infrastructure is funded by Oil revenues. Now, for a country that doesn’t have such financial muscle, it becomes essential that they need home grown capacity which entails training her own people after which they would be the ones to do the job. This is a longer route but it becomes more sustainable in the long run.

Every African country that needs to invest in infrastructure must first invest in its human capital. To invest in personnel is a very long term venture. It has to be very deliberate. Young people have to be identified and the places where the training should take place have to also be chosen carefully. The identified trainees need to be judiciously selected and bonded and tracked by governments such that they may not branch off into other careers or compromised once they have been trained. It would be the duty of government to warrant that they are well facilitated and they must sign and commit that when they complete their training they shall be required to work as per signed agreement with government and for a specified period of time.

Their training can happen from within the country or abroad depending on the resources and facilities available. However, it is preferred that they should travel out of their country in order to access the best facilities and better learning ambiance. The training ought not to be determined by the country or the experts but by the nation that is in need of the infrastructure. The African country in this case should rightly identify their training needs and this should be well communicated to the country offering the training. They need to ensure that the trainees get exactly what is needed in the practical sense of the word. Once the African country has got the first batch of trainees, it becomes easier to train more as they keep gaining added experience.

The training may take some time to bring in tangible results but once it’s has been well established, it should set in motion a reliable method where, in the long run, the country will no longer be relying on foreigners to build infrastructure let alone maintain it.   Currently, the Chinese are the best placed choice when it comes to offering specialized technical assistance to African countries. It should however be noted that unless the African country knows exactly what it wants, China may end up providing shallow content in terms of training which may not help the African country in getting the real well trained personnel.

China is aware of African inefficiencies and it would want to keep the status quo. A poor continent of Africa is good for China. Some African countries have taken their people to China to be trained in certain aspects only to return when they are half-baked. Unless the country sending her people for training knows exactly what it wants, China could offer second class training so as to keep the African country going back for both maintenance of the infrastructure and building of new ones. The Chinese and indeed other Western countries are not enthusiastic in liberally transferring genuine skills to Africans.

Africa has been the hunting ground for other continents because of the resources the continent possesses. Africa is a sleeping giant and other continents would love to keep it in that state. They are fully aware that once they wake it up, it will not only stop the flow of resources, it will upstage the other countries especially in the West thus tilting the economic balance of power against the western clouts including China. Skills transfer is one of the easiest thing the West could do to Africa. But they cannot do it since it’s not in their interest to do so.

The other most important reason why Africa has not been fairing well in terms of infrastructure investment has been due to lack of well-established governance systems. Without well known structures, it becomes easy the western powers to manipulate those available to their own advantage hence giving a raw deal to African governments. There is need for greater negotiation capacity by African countries in order for them to get the best deals possible.

One of the bizarre things that often happen in Africa when negotiating with Western countries is that most African countries have to again hire technical person’s from the same countries to negotiate on their behalf. In such a scenario, it’s as if one is pleading their case in court presided over by the murderer himself. There would never be fairer hearing. Likewise, the people whom Africa hires to negotiate on her behalf will always sympathize with their own countries first. They are already biased in favor of their own republics before they consider the African country which hired them. This means that the African country will loose twice. It pays for the services to hire consultants from the West. It also ends up getting the poor representation by the person that is hired because they do not have the interest of the African country in the first place.

In conclusion, most if not all African countries are ware of the role played by good infrastructure in their economies. However, they are entangled in a maze where they do not know how to get out. Some have resigned their fate to Western powers who offer small projects once in a while more over at very exorbitant rates. The leaders are not strategic enough to look beyond their short term interests in favor of the continents long term dividends and this is where the West keeps Africans chained to her manacles of poverty. The chains need to be broken and Africa needs to look forward to build her own infrastructure using her own resources, her own skills and her own capital. It’s doable!

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