World Bank failed

The infrastructure challenges most nations face are enormous, but developing regions can ‘leapfrog’ into a clean and sustainable future by utilizing the latest technologies..

Across the African continent today, the lack of modern infrastructure holds back agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Without roads and ports, farmers cannot sell goods to distant markets for higher prices. Factories can’t operate without reliable electricity supplies. Travel from city to city and country to country takes days instead of hours, making regional trade difficult.

high-tech distributed power
To provide power, potable water and telecommunications for people living in disadvantaged and remote regions across the vast archipelago, Indonesia is installing fuel cells rather than diesel generators in places such as Sabang in Aceh, Rokan Hulu in Riau, Bitung in North Sulawesi, Nabire in West Papua and Merauke in Papua. Will these names become familiar in the future? These power plants will produce sufficient funds to repay the capital cost in less than three years.

Has the World Bank once in its history considered practical installations that give us pride today?

Building infrastructure was a major focus of development efforts in the 1960s and ’70s, when the World Bank and other institutions lent large sums to developing nations for massive building projects, like the Akosombo Dam in Ghana, which flooded nearly 4 percent of the nation’s land area to create hydroelectric power. Many of these projects had adverse environmental impacts; others put nations deep into debt. And some of the funding was pilfered by corrupt contractors and government and bank officials.

Transport by road is virtually impossible in Congo. The nation, the size of Western Europe, has less than 2,000 kilometers of paved roads. But it has more than 200 airports, most of which are unpaved landing strips at the edge of dense forest. These strips allow hundreds of private airlines, some of which own a single plane, to connect far-flung corners of the nation.

The investment to run one of these incremental airlines is modest — a refurbished Antonov aircraft, two pilots, and a mechanic — and their safety record is abysmal. But this air infrastructure makes trips that would take weeks by water possible in a few hours, and opens up trade between regions of the country that would otherwise be impossible to reach.