Poor infrastructure has myriad implications for developing countries, ultimately hampering their chances of thriving in a global marketplace. This in turn increases the likelihood of poverty. Not only does poor infrastructure have negative economic ramifications for a country – there is a strong correlation between poor infrastructure and poor social care systems, among those education and healthcare. As we know, poor education has a direct impact on a country’s workforce. Thus, a trend begins to emerge and we find developing countries trapped in a somewhat cyclical pattern, from which it becomes increasingly difficult to extricate themselves.
When pared down to its essentials, infrastructure consists of the most basic support systems needed to keep a country’s economy ticking over. Such support systems include those things many of us give little or no thought to on a daily basis including roads, water-supply, waste management, communications and the like. Simply put, the stronger a country’s support system is, the better developed that country will be.
It does not do to forget the impact of war on the infrastructure of countries such as Iraq which saw the destruction of countless medical facilities and schools over the years. Nor should we forget the devastating effect natural disasters can have on a country’s infrastructure. One need only look to Haiti to see the damage done to their infrastructure in the wake of the 2010 earthquake which saw the destruction of an estimated 30,000 commercial buildings.
The following list outlines the world’s poorest countries in terms of infrastructure. If any of these countries are to thrive and prosper in the global marketplace, the inefficiency of their respective infrastructure systems needs to be tackled.
One of the strictest junta governments in the world is in power in Myanmar. Its isolation from the outside world has left the country in a dire situation, the Southeast Asian nation ranking among the 30 poorest nations in the world.
The country’s power supply is extremely poor and basic services like Wi-Fi are limited to the 5-star hotels. The government’s monopolisation of Myanmar’s financial capital and resources has resulted in extremely poor construction, with the promised ‘320-kilometre bus ride from the commercial centre of Yangon to Naypyidaw, the new capital carved out of the jungle by the junta in the past decade’ taking up to 6 and a half hours! The government’s poor urban planning is causing a huge drain on the country’s economic growth, currently ranking as the 10th least competitive nation in the world.
Despite possessing large amounts of natural resources, Libya is also subject to a high poverty rate. Despite the promises of state funded projects during the 1970s and 1980s regarding the improvement of the country’s infrastructure, Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) noted ‘even before the 2011 revolution, neglect had left the country with very poor infrastructure.’ It has been estimated that it would take ten years at the very least to rebuild areas damaged by the war. While plans for improved railways and ports have been put forth, it remains to be seen whether or not this work will be carried through. The damaged infrastructure could take years to rebuild and will require quite an overhaul.
Lebanon is yet another country that is rich in resources but due to inadequate infrastructure, the country is unable to meet the needs of its citizens. Its water system, which is ‘particularly bad during the summer months’, is in need of rehabilitation. These issues arise due to a lack of storage facilities coupled with the fact that much of the country’s potentially drinkable water flows out to the Mediterranean. That the current supply is transmitted via an old and deficient network of pipes and reservoirs only serves to worsen matters. Serious water shortages are predicted by 2020 if the infrastructure isn’t improved. Problems here are not limited to water supply but extend to transport and communications among other things, each of which have an impact on the country’s economy.
Burundi’s economic development is at a significant disadvantage due to its poor infrastructure, particularly the inadequacy of its transport system. It ranks as the world’s second poorest nation in terms of GDP per capita. As the country is landlocked and without railroads, it depends on surrounding countries Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its imports. In order to tackle the negative effect on the economy, Burundi plans to increase spending by 2.5% in 2014 which will be poured into agriculture, energy and infrastructure projects.
6. Burkina Faso
Located in West Africa, Burkina Faso has one of the worst health care systems in the world. The education system isn’t much better with the nation’s enrollment rate of primary school students being among the lowest in the world. This, coupled with the country’s inadequate infrastructure contribute to the nation’s weak economy.
The transport system is very poorly developed with just over one ninth of the country’s roads paved. Burkina Faso is predominantly dependent on thermally generated energy and transmission of electricity and telecommunications is relatively poor. Its citizens rely heavily on wood fuel for domestic energy resulting in low petrol and oil consumption which hampers both the economy and the environment.
Prior to the 2010 earthquake, Haiti was ranked 145th out of 169 countries in the UN Human Development Index, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. The earthquake is estimated to have killed over 200,000 people, displaced 3 million victims and caused over $7 billion in damage. Shoddy construction is attributed as the main reason for the devastation caused. Four years on, Haiti is still struggling to rebuild.
A cholera epidemic has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Haitians over the past few years. As cholera spreads via contaminated drinking water, an outbreak on this scale can only be attributed to the country’s poor infrastructure. Haiti had never built a sanitary infrastructure to protect its citizens from such diseases.
Haiti ranks at the bottom of the Americas in terms of quality for ports, air transport and roads. In terms of logistics, Dominican Today claim that ‘Haiti has Latin America’s worst timeliness, tracking, customs, competence and ease of finding prices.’
After more than 50 years of independence and bad governance Guinea is ranked 178th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Infrastructure and services are ‘inadequate, administration is weak and the private sector embryonic.’
Guinea’s recovery strategy which began in 2011 focuses heavily on the reform of the country’s infrastructure. While many developments have been made – the road network has quadrupled in size – there are still many problems with the country’s transport links. For instance, Guinea’s sole functioning railway links the ports to the mines but carries no passengers and the country has only one International airport. A minority of Guinea’s citizens receive grid electricity, and this population is restricted mainly to the capital.
3. Sierra Leone
The severe economic decline that resulted from the civil war had a catastrophic effect on this country’s infrastructure. A summary report by the African Development Bank states that ‘even though the country has now preserved stability for almost a decade, the nation’s stock of infrastructure remains inadequate and poorly maintained.’ Electricity supply is particularly with distribution estimated to be under 10 percent, most of that limited to Freetown, the country’s capital. The water supply only reaches one third of rural citizens and even at that, these systems are ‘wrought by numerous problems and deteriorating infrastructure.’ Less than a mere 1 percent of Sierra Leone’s population have internet access, which serves to lessen any chance they have in becoming players in the global economy.
Chad’s infrastructure is one of the world’s very poorest. Its citizens have limited access to power, electricity and water, with many such resources confined to the capital of N’Djamena. Much of Chad’s population lives in rural areas where they rely on traditional wells for water which offer little protection against surface water contamination. Chad has the worst water supply system in the world: A lack of human waste disposal systems in these areas means that Chad’s citizens run the risk of contracting water-borne diseases.
Transport costs are extremely high and most roads are unpaved which makes travelling during the rainy season particularly difficult. It’s predicted that if road infrastructure is not addressed effectively, transport costs will not decrease and so the commercialization of agricultural products from enclaved regions will not improve.
In 2013, the World Economic Forum ranked 148 countries by the quality of their infrastructure based on roads, railroads, ports, airports and more. Angola made the 148th spot making in the country with the worst infrastructure overall.
Much of the country’s infrastructure was damaged and neglected during Angola’s long civil war. The post-conflict country’s inability to deal with its burgeoning urbanisation has meant that over 40% of the urban population relies on an untreated water supply. Shockingly, vendors charge between $4 – $20 for untreated water supplies. This poses serious health risks for the citizens of Angola, not to mention the financial burden. Inadequate transmission and distribution infrastructure has meant that electricity does not flow to customers effectively, leaving many without.
Tiago Dionisio has highlighted how over the last decade, ‘the Angolan authorities have undertaken huge investments in the rehabilitation of the road, railway, port and air infrastructure.’ Continued investment could see Angola creep its way up the list and become a more relevant player in the South African economy.