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.
I always say, environmental management is woven into something bigger, much bigger than simply saying “Let’s do some good, let’s not pollute.” For me, it’s a question of how we encourage the development boom underway in Africa today, while still keeping our eyes focused on environmental management.
In the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that we can find a way to support sustainable development that combines the least amount of environmental damage with the best desirable outcome possible. Put simply, we can “green” growth and make it more inclusive.
The way to do this is to weave environment into all development programs. We believe that development is key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Africa.
For example, let’s say that you are planning to build a really big road going through a national park. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders, government officials, community members, donors, NGOs, and others to gather and ask themselves not just how this road will improve economic growth, but what is the future of this national park? Will this road provide poachers with new access to pristine woodlands and endangered wildlife?
In a new report, "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa", we lay out a new approach to environmental management that makes it the core of everything we do. This means that when we think about a project or program in any sector, we also think about how it will impact the environment.
Food prices are spiking globally and in Africa one way to ensure food security is to rethink the role of irrigation in agriculture and food production.
Achieving food security in Africa is a critical issue, even as efforts are stymied by drought, floods, pestilence and more. To these natural disasters, we can add the challenge of a changing climate that is predicted to hit Africa disproportionately hard.
So, what can we do? World Water Week kicked off on Sunday in Stockholm and how water impacts food security will be the focus.
In the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that a proven way to expand agriculture and food production in Africa is to focus on scaling up irrigation programs, bringing water to parched lands, and strengthening the hands of farmers who produce food against climatic odds.
It was gratifying this morning to sit in a room filled with disaster risk reduction and management experts from around the world to open the 2012 Understanding Risk Forum. The Forum focuses on how countries and their development partners can work together to protect people and communities against the impacts of climate-related natural disasters.
In Sub Saharan Africa, these disasters range from floods caused by cyclones and rising sea levels in coastal countries like Mozambique and Madagascar, to droughts caused by too little rainfall in places like Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger in the Sahel and Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan in the Horn. As the World Bank's Jonathan Kamkwalala said, many disasters are hydro-meteorological in nature, meaning too little water resulting in droughts or too much water resulting in floods. Volcanoes also are a concern in Africa, although many wouldn't know it. The Democratic Republic of Congo's Mount Nyiragongo is an active volcano, one that could erupt in the very near future.
Stevan Lee, Senior World Bank Economist, is co-author of this post.
Attracted by the prospects of large unexploited natural gas reserves in the south of Tanzania, big players are in town. The British Gas Group has publicly announced that it may invest over US$35 billion in the next 25 years – 1.5 times Tanzania’s current GDP. Policymakers and donors are jockeying to position themselves and understand what is at stake.
The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, is in full swing now, aiming to reach consensus and agreements on addressing the climate challenge by its close on December 9. While there are high expectations, people also realize that this is not an easy issue to tackle. Uncontrolled, man-made carbon emissions, which climbed to a new record of 30 billion tons worldwide in 2010, are at the core of the climate change dilemma. Curbing this trend is not only a daunting multisectoral task that demands sophisticated technical solutions, but its complexity is intensified by disagreements among countries on the size of the problem and what to do about it.
Climate change should matter to all of us, since changing weather patterns, including more frequent extreme climate events (e.g., the 13 warmest years on record have been in the last 15 years) and natural disasters (e.g. in some regions the number of particularly large hurricanes has increased), negatively impact the lives and well being of ALL people—the raison d’être of development. In this context, climate change should be seen as a critical health challenge that demands increased attention and management. Why?
A landmark 2009 report by The Lancet Commission documented how climate change over the coming decades could have a disastrous effect on health conditions across the world. There are both direct and indirect health threats through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population growth and migration.
In 2007, for the first time in human history, 50 percent of the global population lived in urban areas. The United Nations predicts that this figure will rise to 69 percent by 2050. A significant part of this urbanization is taking place in developing countries as a result of natural growth within cities and large numbers of rural–urban migrants in search of jobs and opportunities. Rapid urban growth tends to overwhelm developing cities, where there is already a struggle to develop infrastructure.
I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria all my life. Lagos city is the economic capital of Nigeria with the country's higest population density at 4,193 people per square kilometer. The U.N. estimates that the population of my city will hit 16 million by 2015 making it the worlds 11th largest urban system.
A combination of official neglect, corruption, extreme poverty coupled with rapid, largely uncontrolled, population growth has led to the decay of Lagos’ existing city infrastructure, which determines how livable a city is. Specifically, the human waste (sewage), water and sanitaion systems are largely inadequate. The infrastructure is poorly organized and not controlled. It is common to see drinking water pipes pass through open drainage systems. At times, these systems receive human waste as a result of locals opening their septic tanks into them or the tanks leaking. The city does not treat all of the human waste generated by millions of individuals every day. This waste is emptied directly into the Lagos lagoon. The urban poor are affected the most. Because the drinkable water infrastructure is so poor, many Lagosians depend on satchet water, local water vendors, private boreholes or expensive water filtaration units for their the daily domestic and sanitation needs.
My colleagues and I at the World Bank are saddened by the death of Professor Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement.
Professor Maathai dedicated most of her adult life to nature conservancy and was world-renowned for her deep conviction for environmental protection and climate-change mitigation.
We are proud to have interacted extensively with Professor Maathai. We pay tribute to her for her selfless and tireless efforts to protect the natural environment, both to ensure sustainable development and to promote world peace.
Professor Maathai was actively engaged in working with the World Bank Group, both in Kenya and around the world. Besides engaging World Bank leaders in important conversations on forest conservation, water resource management, and adaption to climate change, she actively participated in the preparation and dissemination of the seminal World Development Report for 2010, on climate change. We remember how passionately she campaigned for a better understanding of the multiple ways that we can and should protect our fragile natural environment, as well as for the preservation of Uhuru Park and the Karura Forest, two of the most important green spaces in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.
The sight of farmers around Narok drying wheat on the ground with agents haggling over price and quality is a reminder of how Kenya’s farmers take advantage of the plentiful sunshine to cut post-harvest costs. Makeshift canvas driers line both sides of the Maai Mahiu-Narok-Bomet highway, a section of the Northern Corridor transport system that creates a shorter link to western Kenya.
Narok is Kenya’s undisputed wheat basket, producing half of the national wheat output in any given year. Its lush wheat and maize (corn) farms, as well as livestock ranches dotted with thousands of cattle, sheep and goats, tell you why the over 2,000 farmers in this fertile region of the Rift Valley are so powerful. Moreover, it is gateway to the world famous Masai Mara game reserve, where wildlife riches and revenue, especially bountiful during this period of the famous wildebeest migration, are shared by the Narok and Trans-Mara county councils.