Investing in infrastructure is beyond providing physically attractive structures or making groundbreaking returns. It can be likened to the spread of pebbles when a single pebble is thrown in the water; it impacts on every aspect of a nation’s economy and on citizen’s livelihoods. Infrastructure consists of facilities, structures, and equipment that make an economy function and is a key driver of both social and economic growth. Bridges, roads, transport, energy, water supply and sanitation, telecommunications, and housing are all constituents of infrastructure, which any society needs to function properly.
When the United Nations set out the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty and hunger; reduce inequality both within and between countries; inform better governance and peaceful societies; take action against climate change; ecosystem restoration; and ensure a big shift towards sustainable consumption and production, infrastructural development was identified as the enabling environment for the actualization of the goals. Beyond ‘building resilient infrastructure’ as a stand-alone goal of its own – Goal 9, infrastructure stands as the nucleus of the entire SDGs. If this goal is not attained perhaps, it may be difficult to achieve any of the other goals even by 2030.
Taking a deeper look at each goal reveals the alignment of each with infrastructural necessity:
Goal 1: End Poverty in all its Forms Everywhere
This goal and its targets focus primarily on the eradication of the most extreme forms of poverty everywhere in the world and these severe forms of poverty are found mostly in the developing countries. Nigeria for example is recorded to have over 60% of its population living in absolute poverty, which means over half of the population fall in the category of people SDGs 1 should address. Eradicating poverty is about creating access to jobs, empowerment, access to basic services, and making a decent and peaceful living. The deficit in physical infrastructure, especially good road networks, power, and transport system is a major stumbling block to ending poverty in the country. The most infrastructure-deprived areas are the rural communities, which unfortunately constitute about 52% of the population. With bad road networks, it remains extremely difficult for these rural dwellers who constitute the larger percentage of the poor to get produce across to urban areas where they can make a living out of Agricultural sales yet, they are responsible for Agricultural productions.
In the same vein, lack of good transportation limits accessibility to jobs, which in turn affects productivity; with bad productivity, it is difficult to make revenues or create more jobs. Besides, good roads and transport are needed for both local and international trade, which the lack of these keeps reducing national revenue while increasing poverty rates. Furthermore, with good infrastructure, illiteracy that is a primary cause of poverty in Nigeria, especially in the Northern parts, can be curbed when there is access to quality education. Jobs in infrastructural sectors; constructions can also be open to more people. In addition, infrastructure in form of good irrigation systems also increases Agricultural yield.
Most importantly, electricity, which is another crucial infrastructure, is a major determinant of poverty eradication in Nigeria. A nation-wide access to uninterrupted power will set more local businesses in motion, resuscitate extinct firms, attract more investors, and boost the economy of the nation. Resources can therefore go round, directly ending poverty, especially its extreme form.
A nation that will fight poverty must first institute a working infrastructural development strategy to open its citizens to good employment, productivity, good education; stimulate inclusion, and most importantly, an economic boost that can transform the nation.
Goal 2: End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition, and Promote Sustainable Agriculture
The United Nation’s Children Fund recently revealed that over 2.5million children suffer malnutrition in Nigeria. Malnutrition has been linked to poverty, inadequate food production, poor sanitation, limited access to sound health facilities, and ignorance, is a primary cause of under age 5 deaths in Nigeria. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has also revealed that over 90million Nigerians are hungry and without access to food. The United Nations in its targets towards achieving this goal proposed efforts to end hunger to include making agriculture more sustainable, improving land and soil quality and becoming more resilient to changing climate patterns. Likewise, FAO postulates that poverty; conflict, irregular rainfall, and high unemployment are the major contributors to food insecurity and hunger in Nigeria.
Going by these revelations of the UN and the FAO, it is clear that it is through provisions for good infrastructures that poverty can be eliminated and employment created. Also, the poor can have better access to basic services and be more included in development, thereby reducing conflicts. Moreover, climate change effects and irregular rainfall can be managed with active irrigation systems which are an important part of infrastructure while Agriculture can be sustained through adequate provisions of Agricultural infrastructures in form of roads and technology.
Goal 3: Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for all at all Ages
This goal aims to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases at all ages. In Nigeria, about 117 out of 1000 children die under age five, almost 129 per 100,000 die due to HIV/AIDs, almost 107 per 100,000 die due to malaria, while maternal mortality ratio per 1000 live births is 560 (WHO). WHO recommends 1 doctor per 600 persons as ideal for proper health service in a country. However, according to the Association of College of Medicines of Nigeria (2015), Nigeria has just about 35,000 working Doctors that indicate thousands of patients are at the mercy of only one doctor yet, worse statistics have been recorded in some parts of the country. Just a little over 3,000 – 3,500 Doctors are produced annually, only 20 Federal Teaching Hospitals are available and very few rural dwellers have access to proper medical care because of long distance and poor transport access, several hospitals lack quality medical facilities. Infrastructure provision is clearly a direct strategy to achieving this goal; with good roads, transportation, housing, water and sanitation there will be access to medical services and improved wellbeing for all Nigerians.
Goal 4: Ensure Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Life-Long Learning Opportunities for all
The SDGs represent the first attempt by the global community to focus on the quality of education and the role of education in achieving a more humane world yet; quality education can only be achieved through good teaching and a conducive learning environment, amongst other things. Illiteracy rate in Nigeria is above 50% with about 10Million children still out of school and about 35Million adult illiterates in Northern Nigeria accounting for about 60% of illiteracy in the nation. Major causes of illiteracy include: poverty, unemployment, ignorance, costs, lack of teachers, unfavourable distance, and poor/inadequate facilities with complete absence of infrastructure in some areas. To completely overhaul this in Nigeria will thus require adequate infrastructure funding and development.
Moreover, unrestricted access to Internet and communication (telephone) can improve education, initiate profitable connections, initiate exposures, and wipe out illiteracy even in the nation’s most deplorable areas. This goal is particularly crucial to the proper functioning of the nation as education impacts on every other goal and determines overall Sustainable Development. Implementing the goal will also give Africans (Nigerians) especially the teeming youth population, equal opportunities with their peers all over the world.
Goal 5: Achieve Gender Equality and empower all Women and Girls
At a first glance, the importance of infrastructure to promoting and achieving gender equality may not be visible however, we need to consider the fact that about 57Million Nigerians do not have access to safe and clean water (WaterAid Nigeria) causing many women and girls to walk for hours in search of water as several communities do not have close source of clean water nor good roads. The direct effects of these wasted hours on the female gender are withdrawal from school, danger, and labour segregation/non-inclusion, which are all the forms of inequality that this goal sets to address. For gender equality to be achieved there has to be convenient access to clean and safe water so that girls can remain in schools and women can save more man-hour and be opportune to join the labour force and also participate in government. Furthermore, good road networks can both encourage women’s participation in government, labour, and businesses, as well as keep them from danger. Adequate electricity supply will also increase the tendency of women to work outside the home. Gender equality cannot be achieved if women are not aided with necessary infrastructures to participate.
Goal 6: Ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for all
Water and Sanitation themselves are component parts of infrastructure. Targets 6.3 focuses on improving water quality, 6.4 on water-use efficiency and 6.6 on protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems. These targets can only be met when water infrastructures are put in place. To ensure availability of clean water for the about 57Million water stressed Nigerians, more bore holes/water facilities need to be provided in stressed areas, structures must be put in place to protect water quality, improve sewage systems, and guide water from all forms of pollution. There is also the need for flood reduction and mechanized but safe means of Agriculture. In addition, provision of water treatment plants is essential while rain-capturing technologies can be explored for water retention during rain shortage.
Editor’s Note: In next week’s article, we will continue the examination of how infrastructure is indispensable to the achievement of Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).