Here in Mozambique, the rainy season has brought disaster for as many as 110,000 people living in the Limpopo Valley, as surging water over recent days has flooded their crops, capsized their towns and villages, and forced their evacuation to higher ground. Forty people are believed to have died in the floods so far. It’s expected that as many as 150,000 people may ultimately be affected.
A UN reconnaissance plane that flew over the Valley on Monday took photos of mile after square mile of crops and farm land under brown muddy water, a result of the Limpopo River and others nearby bursting their banks. It's at times like this that you really appreciate the powerful humanitarian role of the UN.
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza quickly went to the scene to see for himself how the flooding had turned communities upside down.
Talking with people from the town of Chokwé and surrounding areas at an emergency shelter, the President said, "we are with you, we weep with you, because we know that you have lost many of your goods including your houses, your goats, your cattle and much that is of great value."
The Ouagadougou-Accra-Tema corridor, a road stretching from Ouagadougou in West Africa’s Burkina Faso through Ghana’s bustling capital city Accra and onto the country’s port city Tema, is one of Africa’s most well-known corridors. In October, we joined Albert, a 50-year-old driver from Burkina Faso, on a 750 kilometer journey to highlight the high economic costs faced by landlocked countries and the cumbersome border crossings that impede trade.
The journey, which should have taken seven hours by car, took us 17 hours, 1 border crossing and 20 checkpoints.
Well before sunrise in the small village of Msangani, Tanzania, Tunu ali Matekenya begins work at five, baking fresh bread. Formerly an agricultural laborer, Tunu’s life has improved thanks to entrepreneurship training she received in using advanced cookstoves.
“The oven I am using is very efficient, it is easy to use and consumes less charcoal, which reduces the cost of baking...all this means more profit” Tunu exclaims proudly.
In many areas of the developing world, women and children spend hours foraging for wood and other fuel sources then prepare meals around open fires or primitive cookstoves in poorly ventilated homes. Not only does this present an obvious fire hazard, but it also means they are inhaling toxic fumes from incomplete combustion of toxins that are responsible for nearly 500,000 premature and preventable deaths annually in Sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is particularly acute because 82 percent of the population depends on charcoal, dung, fuel wood, and forms of biomass for cooking purposes.
In country after country in Sub-Saharan Africa, new discoveries of oil, natural gas and mineral deposits have been making headlines every other week it seems. When Ghana’s Jubilee oil field hits peak production in 2013, it will produce 120,000 barrels a day. Uganda’s Lake Albert Rift Basin fields could potentially produce even greater quantities. Billions of dollars a year could flow into Mozambique and Tanzania thanks to natural gas findings. And in Sierra Leone, mining iron ore in Tonkolili could boost GDP by a remarkable 25 percent in 2012.
My strong hope is that all the people living in these resource-rich African countries also get to share in this new oil and mineral wealth. So far, with one of few exceptions being Botswana, natural resources haven’t always improved the lives of people and their families. From what I see on my constant travels to the continent, economic growth in most resource-rich countries is not automatically translating into better health, education, and other key services for poor people.
Many resource-rich countries tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the global Human Development Index, which is a composite measure of life expectancy, education and income.
One strikingly effective way to make sure that all people, especially the poorest, share in the new minerals prosperity is through safety nets and social protection programs. These are designed to protect vulnerable families and promote job opportunities among poor people who are able to work. This in turn makes communities stronger and more secure, while reducing painful inequalities between people.
Social protection programs are already central to poverty-fighting, higher growth national strategies across Africa, and have played a significant role reducing chronic poverty and helping families become more resilient in the face of setbacks such as unemployment, sudden illness, or natural disasters such as droughts or floods. These programs have also allowed families to invest in more livestock or grow more food, and increase their earnings.
- Labor and Social Protection
- Social Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- social safety nets
- social protection
- Human Development Index
- cash transfers
In the Kenyan village of Naro Moro in the foothills of Mount Kenya near lush forests, I recently met Josephine Wanjiru and other members of a women’s group she leads. The transformation in their lives in the past two years has been remarkable. By planting trees and collecting previously discarded tree seeds during their vegetable crop low season, they have been able to use the seeds to make commercial products like bio-pesticides, soil conditioners, and moisturizers like the Cape Chestnut oil I brought home from my trip.
Josephine’s village is the home of Kenya’s growing biodiesel business run by the Help Self Help Centre (HSHC), a non-governmental organization supported by the Africa Energy Unit at the World Bank since 2010 as part of their Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA). Through this initiative, we hope to demonstrate the feasibility of “social biofuels” – meaning small in scale, and both produced and consumed locally.
At the recent Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Legislative week held in Washington DC, African Diaspora was the focus. Economic development—supporting Africa’s priorities in the areas of jobs, education, gender, health, youth—was one of the main threads that ran through the week-long discussions.
At the session “Africa Rising: A Continent of Opportunity”, Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, was one of three panelists discussing “Africa’s Growing Economies.” Africa’s average growth has exceeded five percent per year and accelerated to six percent before the global economic crisis. Performance of the 22 non-oil exporting countries averaged higher than four percent annual growth for the decade between 1998 and 2008, all of which he attributed mainly to better macroeconomic policies.
As our sturdy Land Cruiser inched its way down a precipitous dirt track, trying to descend from a high ridge into the Rift Valley, I wondered what might happen if we had an accident here in the heart of Kenya’s remote Samburu County. Mobile signals had faded soon after we left the town of Maralal several hours before. We could have tried to walk back, but would have been very unlikely to make it before nightfall. Luckily, after a few mishaps and some serious jolting, we arrived at our destination in the valley—lonely Suyan manyata, whose distant circular outline we had seen from the ridge.
Talking to some of the women in the manyata, I realized that the ground that we had covered to get to them was nothing. We had done it in good health in a vehicle built for difficult terrain. As they told us what life was like in their village, my heart quailed at the thought of enduring a bumpy ride in a run-down van if one were pregnant or in labor with complications—if at all transport could be obtained. Just a few days ago, a child had died here of malaria, the women said. How did they usually get help, I asked. “We send our fastest runner 18 kilometers to the nearest dispensary,” said Ma Toraeli, a grandmother in the village. “From there someone comes to help us”. Health workers also visited the village from time to time, she said, to immunize babies and perform other routine checks.
Immunization seemed high on people’s minds in Samburu. Later that day, we visited Barsaloi, a larger village with its own government dispensary and another run by Catholic nuns. The two stood side by side, with a well-worn path between them. There I met another grandmother, Agnes, who had brought an infant girl, Salini, to be immunized, although her record showed that she was early and didn’t need this service yet. But while Stephen, the clinical officer at the government dispensary, was examining the baby and we were on the subject of immunization, the district head nurse showed us how vaccines were stored at the required temperature in the two-room government dispensary without power supply.
Consider this stunning fact―only 1 in 3 Africans has access to electricity on the continent.
And that is why too little electricity is one of the biggest challenges I see standing in the way of Africa achieving steadily higher growth rates, better education for its children and teenagers, good quality health services that work, farms and agribusinesses that can grow enough cheap nutritious food for Africans to eat, just to name some of the transformational priorities which can happen when we turn the lights on across Africa.
I confess I am passionate about lighting up homes, schools, businesses, clinics, libraries, and parliaments across the continent. As a child growing up in Senegal, I knew first-hand about power shortages. More power for Africans will allow them to transform their living standards and turn the continent’s growth into tangible benefits for all.
Energy security is a key priority for my work as World Bank Vice President for Africa, and my team is moving ahead relentlessly to put power infrastructure in place to plug regional communities into cross-border power pools, more irrigated land to grow food and create jobs, galvanize more trade and commerce within the region, and to unlock all the other development potential that electrical power makes possible.
In Sendai, Japan, on Tuesday at the Sendai Dialogue, a high-level forum focused on mainstreaming disaster risk management into international development assistance, the Africa angle quickly dominated what already was a lively debate.
What can Africa learn from Japan in terms of disaster risk management? What can Japan and the rest of the world learn from Africa? Are disaster prevention and fast development at odds with each other? Are Africa’s disasters more difficult to tackle?