Nigeria’s deplorable infrastructure situation came into the fore recently at an unlikely event. A day before the national football team was to clash with Tunisia for a 2010 FIFA World Cup spot on September 6, the visiting team was left in darkness for a full quarter of an hour during practice sessions at the Abuja National Stadium.
While power outages are an everyday happening across the country, this high_profile blackout under international arc lights proved particularly embarrassing for local officials. That the visitors went on to draw Nigeria 2_2 the next day and deny it a much_needed victory couldn’t have been much comforting either.
The general state of infrastructure across the African continent and especially Sub_Saharan Africa is acutely discomfiting. With the exception of South Africa, the continent’s largest economy, the entire region is bogged down by severe infrastructure deficits that have frustrated development programmes and marred growth prospects.
The Southern African development Community (SADC) countries have been relatively better off in this regard with their efforts to drive area_wide development through the agreements, resource pooling and multi_nation collaborations. Western Africa, on the other hand, has been bereft of similar benefits due to complex past and present exigencies. As a result, the economic potential of this region has hardly been scratched.
In June 2009, the World Bank approved a $1 billion loan for Nigeria to fund multiple development programmes including expansion and enhancement of the country’s massively deficient power sector. An amount of $200 million was earmarked for investment in networking and technical upgrades to improve electric supply. While this concessionary, interest_free funding comes as an undoubtedly welcome development, it amounts but to a tiny fraction of Nigeria’s overall investment requirement in infrastructure.
In August 2008, the Nigerian Debt Management Office (DMO) revealed that the country needed at least $100 billion in investment to develop four key infrastructure areas _ power, rail, roads and oil & gas. The figure was calculated to align with the ambitious national goal of taking Nigeria to the top_20 world economies by 2020. Of the four sectors mentioned, power alone would require an estimated investment of between $18 and $20 billion over the next 10 years. With a current installed capacity of 6,000MW against the total requirement of 10,000 units, only 40% of Nigerians currently have access to electricity.
The collapse of basic infrastructure and social services was off in the 1980’s, after Abuja’s unhealthy dependence on oil exports decimated its agriculture and light manufacturing sectors.
The static oil economy wiped out traditional and emerging livelihoods, creating rampant unemployment, poverty and degraded living standards. By 2002, per capita income was below the level for 1960’s, when Nigeria gained independence from British rule. In terms of infrastructure decline, power happens to be the most hardly hit, but the government readily admits severe shortfalls in a many other areas as well.
For instance, the rail network is in shambles and today only account for only 1% of national transportation. The port service likewise suffers severe bottlenecks and inadequate capacity optimisation. The over 100,000km long road network is in despair at best and barely usable at worst.