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Infrastructure is a bedrock for development. As an essential part of a supportive environment for investment and livelihood, adequate infrastructure promotes economic growth, reduces poverty, and improves delivery of health and other services (World Bank, 2014; Wantchekon, 2014). The African Development Bank (AfDB), whose Strategy for 2013-2022 makes infrastructure development one of its five operational priorities, notes that “Africa still has massive infrastructure needs” yet invests only 4% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in infrastructure, compared to China’s 14% investment. The AfDB estimates that “bridging the infrastructure gap could increase GDP growth by an estimated 2 percentage points a year” (African Development Bank, 2013).

Both political leaders and ordinary citizens emphasize the importance of infrastructure development in Africa. Under the leadership of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and the AfDB, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa is designed to address an “infrastructure deficit in Africa [that] penalises growth and development of the continent.” As South African President Jacob Zuma said during the program’s launch in 2010, “Africa's time has come, and without infrastructure, our dreams will never be realised” (New Partnership for Africa’s Development, 2010).

Like their leaders, African citizens call for greater investment in infrastructure. Asked what they consider the most important problems facing their country, 22% of Afrobarometer survey respondents in 32 countries cited infrastructure and transport among the top three problems that government should address – only unemployment, health, and education ranked higher. (See previous dispatch on citizen priorities.) When asked about their priorities for increased government spending across six key sectors, about one in four respondents said they would prioritize infrastructure.

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