More Africans have ac­cess to cell phone ser­vice than piped wa­ter − Study

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Opening Statement -

In Africa, less than one in three peo­ple have a proper drainage sys­tem, half of the pop­u­la­tion live in ar­eas with­out paved roads, and only 63pc have ac­cess to piped wa­ter. Yet, 93pc of Africans have cell phone ser­vice.

Th­ese are among the find­ings in a re­cently pub­lished re­port by Afro­barom­e­ter, which ex­plored ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture in 35 African coun­tries through about 50,000 face-to-face in­ter­views.

“In a lot of com­mu­ni­ties all over Africa, peo­ple can talk on their cell phones, but they can’t turn on a light or a wa­ter faucet. Never mind flush a toi­let. And they may be go­ing hun­gry,” says Win­nie Mi­t­ul­lah, lead au­thor of the re­port. An aw­ful lot of peo­ple might as well be liv­ing in the 19th cen­tury.”

The sur­vey found that in some ru­ral ar­eas less than half of res­i­dents have ba­sic ser­vices such as elec­tric­ity. The gap be­tween ser­vices in ru­ral and ur­banised ar­eas ranges up to 90pc in some cases, for ex­am­ple for piped wa­ter in Zim­babwe.

“The data re­flects the pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion that many Africans are in,” says Ro­maric Samson, co-au­thor of the re­port.

“This is more than an in­con­ve­nience – kids get sick and die when there’s not enough clean wa­ter to wash with and there’s no safe dis­posal of sewage.

“And with­out lights to study in the evening, or no way to con­nect to the out­side world – ex­cept your cell phone – your op­por­tu­ni­ties for education and suc­cess are lim­ited.”

There are also big dif­fer­ences be­tween pro­vi­sions from coun­try to coun­try. In Mau­ri­tius and Egypt, ac­cess to the elec­tric­ity grid and piped wa­ter are uni­ver­sal, whereas only 17pc of Bu­run­di­ans live in zones with an elec­tric grid, and only 17pc of Liberi­ans have ac­cess to piped wa­ter.

North Africa has the best avail­abil­ity of essentials ser­vices, while East Africa has the worst.

“Things have im­proved slightly over the past decade, but that progress has gen­er­ally been slow, and large parts of the pop­u­la­tion are still left out, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas… with the ex­cep­tion, once again, of cell phones,” says Mi­t­ul­lah.

Analysing data from 18 coun­tries, Afro­barom­e­ter plot­ted the progress of the avail­abil­ity of es­sen­tial ser­vices since 2005. The most sig­nif­i­cant in­crease was in cell phone ser­vices (23pc), but road in­fra­struc­ture (16pc) and ac­cess to wa­ter and elec­tric­ity also reg­is­tered a tan­gi­ble in­crease (14pc). Of all the ba­sic ser­vices, sew­er­age sys­tems pro­gressed the least – just 8pc in 10 years.

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