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Increasing access to infrastructure for Africa's rural poor



Increasing access to infrastructure for Africa's rural poor A F R I C A INTERNATIONAL FOOD POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty I n c reasing Access to Infrastructure for A f r i c a ’s Rural Po o r Maximo Torero and Shyamal Chowdhury The development community is increasingly in agreement t h at providing adequate hardi n f ra s t ru c t u re (i.e., c a p i t a l - i n t e n s i ve infra s t ru c t u re such as ru ra l t e l e c o m m u n i c at i o n s , e l e c t r i f i c at i o n , a n d ru ral roads) is an important step in the p rocess of allev i ating pove rty and p roviding a more equitable set of oppor- tunities for citizens in deve l o p i n g c o u n t r i e s . In infra s t ru c t u re deve l o p m e n t , Africa has lagged behind the We s t e r n H e m i s p h e re for centuries, even tra i l i n g L atin America in recent decades.This has normally been attributed to geog ra p hy and the initial condition of A f r i c a ’s infra- s t ru c t u re . D i s e a s e , internal distances, a n d sparse population have been import a n t factors as we l l . 2020 Africa Conference Brief 16 FIGURE 1 Gross Domestic Product per Capita and Access to Hard Infrastructure in Africa, 1976 and 2001 Unlike Asia or Latin America, Africa inherited a highly dispersed and unevenly distrib-uted infrastructure from its colonial past. During the colonial era, little was done toimprove Africa’s infrastructure; in fact, according to Jean-Philippe Platteau, “insome important respects, it can even be said that colonial policy reinforced the handicaps of SSA [Sub-Saharan Africa]” (p. 200). The limited infrastructure built during that era was driven by the objective of connecting natural resources to export markets. For example, Platteau notes that “two-thirds of the African railways built in the colonial period connected mines to a coastal harbor” (p. 200). The rest of the continent was virtually ignored; accordi

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