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