From ending poverty and hunger; ensuring healthy lives; inclusive and quality education; achieving gender equality and women empowerment; to ensuring water and sanitation for all, the first six (6) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which we examined in the last edition reveal that infrastructural development is indispensable to attaining Sustainable Development. Good roads, effective transportation systems, equipped health centres, and access to water and sanitation expose healthy children to education. Similarly, good roads, efficient transportation, functional telecommunications services, and stable electricity, ensure better work productivity, more jobs and ultimately, economy growth. With all these in place, every citizen gets access to basic services as poverty is eradicated, whilst the nation sets for a sustained development.
The other eleven (11) goals further capture the essence of all forms of infrastructure, to the development of a developing nation as Nigeria, especially in this vulnerable economic period.
GOAL 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
In Nigeria, as in other African countries, over 70% of the population do not have access to energy although the nation has energy resources in crude oil, coal, gas, and renewables. In spite of being the 9th in the ranking of proven natural gas reserves in the world, the country currently generates less than 6000MW of electricity. Recently, the Vice President and the Minister of Petroleum both disclosed that despite the nation’s natural gas reserves of over 185trillion cubic feet, it currently has the potential to generate only 12,000MW for its over 170million population. Giving reasons of inadequate investments in gas facilities, flaring, inadequate infrastructure, and vandalism, the Nigerian government agrees that infrastructure is key to ensuring energy for all. Moreover, the undeveloped gas reserves are capable of generating over 40,000MW daily if only more power plants are built, old ones upgraded and well maintained, and local power facilities upgraded. Besides, the US Energy Information Administration opines that gas flaring continues in Nigeria because some of the oil fields lack the essential infrastructure for capturing the natural gas.
The second part of SDG 7 further poses another challenge of transforming energy systems to provide clean, modern and sustainable energy at affordable prices. These can also be achieved only if infrastructural capacities are built in the renewables sectors. Nigeria has the capacity for generating more energy from renewable sources of wind, solar, biomass, and hydro dams if solar thermals are built, wind turbines/hills are provided, biomass capturing power plants are built, and infrastructures for the proper functioning of available dams are put in place.
The development of renewable energy, the phasing out of fossil fuels, and the provision of sufficient and clean energy for all can only come to place with significant investments in power infrastructure.
GOAL 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Despite that this goal is a necessary foundation for achieving many of the other goals, it still relies on the provision of infrastructure for it to be attained. In the midst of the current economic crises in Nigeria, two of the means identified for economic boost are the development of the Agricultural sector and the revitalization of the collective industrial capacity. More so, some of the largest economies in the world – Unites States and China thrive through well-serviced industrial and Agricultural sectors. For Nigeria, to grow its economy and eradicate poverty in all forms/attain inclusion the Industrial and Agricultural sectors must be serviced and the tool for this is infrastructural development, just like the two largest economies. Mechanized farming, irrigation systems, bridges, agro-processing plants, are some of the needed Agricultural infrastructures. Also, extinct industries should be rebuilt and furnished (with facilities), to provide employment and boost locally made goods that can serve as economy boosters.
GOAL 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
The United Nations recognizes the importance of infrastructure to the sustainable development of any community and thus placed it a stand-alone goal on its own. Since sustainable development is dependent on the three pillars of economic, social, and environmental sustainability, which all hang on sustaining consumption and production; eradicating poverty and hunger; reducing inequalities; fighting climate change; and forming better governance, putting in place disaster-resilient infrastructures in all these areas is expedient to ending poverty, ensuring inclusion, sustaining industries, driving innovation and attaining sustainable development, especially in a developing country as Nigeria. These emphasize the importance of infrastructure to all the other goals and the overall aim of the SDGs.
GOAL 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
More than half of the countries in the world fall under the rating of developing and low/middle income countries while very few (about 15% only) are developed and in the high-income category. This goal therefore aims to narrow all forms of developmental gaps between developing and developed nations as well as reduce the wealth gap between the rich and the poor within a country. The poor and very poor are often found in poorly developed areas with limited or no access to basic facilities and services. Reducing these two dimensions of inequality thus requires a target of advancing developing regions both globally and within countries. Hence, Nigeria, a developing country is highly concerned with this goal. Furthermore, with Gini Co-efficient of over 40, Nigeria ranks as a very unequal nation.
Whether the goal will be achieved or not depends greatly on the extent of exposure to modern infrastructures. What separates the rural from the urban and the poor from the rich is the access to basic services such as technology, telecommunications, and good roads, which are all forms of infrastructure. Essentially, infrastructure moves the poor closer to economic opportunities, through accessible roads, flow of information, and enhanced productivity. Likewise, it raises the value of assets of the poor thus moving them to a higher rank of the equality ladder. Obviously, if Nigeria will converge with developed nations as well as converge internally, infrastructural development is expedient; there must be an inclusive access to all forms of infrastructure at all levels.
GOAL 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
According to the International Federation of Red Cross, one of the characteristics of a safe and resilient community is the availability of infrastructure and services in the form of housing, transport, power, water, and sanitation. Moreover, United Nations classifies a safe, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable city as one with access to adequate, safe, affordable housing, and basic services, with resource efficiency, adaptation to climate change and resilience to disasters. This goal clearly points infrastructure as a must-have for sustainable development.
Examining Nigeria, flooding, which is a major recursive disaster in the nation for example, is mostly re-current in areas that lack flood control infrastructures such as bridges, sewages and drainages. More so, malaria and diarrheal which are top causes of death in the nation are caused by poor sanitation and deficient waste management systems.
GOAL 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Target 12.2 of this goal stresses the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources while 12.a advocates the strengthening of scientific and technological capacities to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production. Nigeria is blessed with natural resources such as Gold, Iron Ore, Oil, Gas, Bitumen, and precious stones, to mention a few. In fact, all states in the nation are enriched with at least one resource, many of which have not been exploited. Tapping natural resources often requires huge investments in infrastructures such as ports, railways, water systems, power, pipelines, treatments plants, and telecoms, for them to yield economic returns however, Nigeria and most of its regions suffer from infrastructural gaps making it difficult to transform these resources to wealth. If all the 36 states and FCT are structurally empowered to sustainably produce and market these resources in large quantities, the economy can be transformed, poverty reduced, and sustainable development achieved.
GOAL 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Since the industrial revolution, with the introduction of the steam engine, technology, transport, and industrial machines, the world became prone to dangerous carbon emissions. As much as infrastructural constructions such as in transportation, rails, ports, mineral extractions, and housing contribute to carbon emissions, the irony is that infrastructure, particularly green/smart infrastructure is still the answer to combating/managing the impacts of climate change.
For Nigeria to join the action against climate change, a good transport system, particularly rail and low carbon buses will reduce the number of private vehicles on the road thus reducing the amount of carbon emitted into the air. Flood sewers and water storage systems can resist flood and building hydro-dams can reduce the dependence on gas and the threat of emissions that come with it. In addition, urban planning, solar infrastructures, and other renewable infrastructures will reduce the threat of climate change.
On the other hand, in adapting to some of the effects of already changing climate, notably flooding and erosion, infrastructure can be utilized in mitigating the impacts of climate change through building of bridges.
GOAL 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
Although oil and gas are the majorly tapped resources in Nigeria, marine fisheries contribute to food security and employment and as such are important to national income. The targets of this goal concern the reduction of marine pollution, regulation of marine harvesting and fishing, as well as increase of the economic benefits from marine resources.
The benefits of ocean, seas, and marine resources cannot be maximized without certain facilities like ports and vessels. Marine resources have huge economic potential for Nigeria especially in oil, gas, and mineral reserves, in trade and commerce, tourism, and transport. However, apart from oil and gas, the nation has not fully tapped opportunities in the marine industry partly because the lack of adequate structures. To enjoy the benefits of marine resources for sustainable development, upgrade of marine structures is essential; fishing ports, breakwater and pier facilities as well as transport.
Editor’s Note: In next week’s article, we will conclude the examination of how infrastructure is indispensable to the achievement of Sustainable Development and consider how to achieve infrastructural development in Nigeria.