Developing Africa’s infrastructure, one school at a time

By Nick Prior, Global Infrastructure & Capital Projects Leader

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I recently came back from a series of meetings in Kenya focused on the work Deloitte is doing in the Infrastructure and Capital projects space. Despite the African continent being the world’s fastest growing economic zone, it still has an infrastructure deficit of $50 billion per annum. This is against a backdrop of a young population with ever-rising expectations as to what their standard of living could – and should ‒ be. This includes transport, energy, housing, healthcare and education infrastructure. The benefits of infrastructure investment are well known; however, many governments and the private sector are struggling to maintain their spending on infrastructure and capital projects. Factors such as population growth, drought, security concerns and rapid urbanization coupled with falling government revenues is making it difficult to maintain the spending in infrastructure required by almost all African countries.

With the natural demographic shift of people moving from rural locations into Africa’s cities for work, and a growing population, infrastructure development is at a critical time, especially in East Africa. It’s why donor agencies like the World Bank and Irish Aid are involved in projects across the East Africa region to build capability for countries to help themselves.

Despite the recent downturn in the number of African infrastructure projects in 2016, there is reason for optimism. The people of Africa will not allow their governments not to invest in infrastructure that is so badly needed to make their lives better. They believe they have the right to a home, to clean water, access to schooling for their children and healthcare for their families, access to the internet and other mobile communications.

I strongly believe that basic infrastructure is a basic human right, and there is a need for increased productivity within Africa’s infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure and capital projects is an important aspect for enabling GDP growth, more diversified economic and private sector activity, and providing the platform for such growth to be sustainable and inclusive. There remains huge challenges around political instability and lack of transparency in government procurement and in particular, in infrastructure procurement that continues to hold back progress. But don’t count out the pressure of the donor agencies and the determination of Africa’s people to ensure this will improve.

For organizations like Deloitte with the skills to assist in those projects, we’re now really seeing the impact we can make.

I’ve often thought that people get into infrastructure and capital projects because they have a desire to see a tangible improvement in the world they inhabit. For me personally, one such example is the Karamoja Primary Education Programme (KPEP) – a bold new program to build a better future through the infrastructure of education. In the northeastern region of Karamoja, it’s reported that three quarters of the population live below the poverty line, and the literacy rate stands at little more than 10%.

The KPEP seeks to provide greater access to basic education, improve and rehabilitate existing facilities, and put increasing focus on the education of girls. It’s a far-reaching initiative, fully supported by the Ugandan Government, and has already begun to pay dividends and make a positive difference. It also won the Gold Award for ‘Best Education Project’ at the Partnership Awards 2017.

In each of the seven districts of Karamajo, three schools have been constructed or renovated, making a total of 21 new centres for learning. More than 15,000 pupils have been enrolled in school in the region, with some schools registering a growth in learnership of more than 50 per cent. The provision of fencing around schools has improved safety and security and encouraged farming in the region. Although Deloitte played a significant role in KPEP, we were delighted to see a big sign on a newly opened school for boys and girls that said the program was managed by Deloitte.

It’s hard to not to feel like you’re at least a small part of building a legacy, and I know our team members don’t take the opportunities to work on these kinds of projects for granted. With this project, we are enabling people to go to school for the first time in their lives – and I challenge anyone to have a bigger impact than that! This is the reason why so many of us choose to devote our careers to this sector.

I don’t get to Africa often, but when I do, I’m able to meet with a number of local organizations whose mission is to see Africa reach its potential through infrastructure. Every time I go back I see the results of organizations like these – in the roads and bridges and the schools. It’s a powerful reminder of the impact made in this region and the work we have yet to do.

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