Providing Access To Energy, Water Is Key To African Development

One of the unfortunate realities of today’s media is the tendency to overlook stories that merit attention. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, however, did take notice of an initiative proposed by the Obama administration that could have enormous impact on Africa. In a speech to students in Cape Town, South Africa, Obama outlined a program called Power Africa, which hopes to increase access to electricity across the continent.

Establishing a stable energy infrastructure would reap economic and social benefits, but it is one of the main obstacles to Africa realizing its full potential – and independence from the yoke of foreign aid.

Another are in dire need of improvement is access to clean water. As Blamà Ekoue writes in AllAfricathe nation of Togo has sufficient water resources, but only 59 percent of its citizens had access to safe drinking water in 2011, according to the World Health Organization and UN children’s fund.

The tragedy, however, is that one of the biggest impediments to providing citizens with clean water is government mismanagement and corruption and the inefficient manner in which donors conduct oversight of the projects they finance.

““One problem with the donors is that they do not really monitor the effectiveness of the projects they finance. Some companies managed by some barons of the ruling party made away with huge amounts without any accountability. But now that the authorities have set up the needed apparatus, every company must be vetted,” Ametepe Ablam, a Togolese lawyer tells the paper.

The impact of a lack of access to water is hard to understate.

Access To Water Is Key To The Education Of Women
An interesting May 2013 World Bank report authored by two Bank researchers – Jon Strand and Celine Nauges – did not simply examine what factors that enhance or inhibit women’s access to education, but specifically the correlation between water hauling and a girl’s school attendance in Ghana.

“As far as we know our paper is the first to find evidence of a statistically significant relationship between time to the water source and girls’ school attendance for an African country. Our results indicate that a 50% reduction in the time to haul water would increase the proportion of girls 5 to 15 attending school by 2.4 percentage points on the average, with stronger effects for rural communities,” they report.

The World Bank estimates that 35 million women worldwide remain out of school.

A recent United Nations report found plenty of evidence that underscores the importance of educating women to growth prospects in Africa. In its 2013t Human Development Report researchers concluded that education is one of the most powerful tools a nation possesses as it improves an individual’s self-confidence and enables them to find better jobs and positively engage in public debate.

“Education also has striking impacts on health and mortality. Research for this Report shows that a mother’s education level is more important to child survival than is household income. Projections also show that policy interventions have a greater impact in countries and regions where education outcomes are initially weaker,” the researchers found.

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