Ibra drives its original taxi from Blaise Diani International Airport, on its way to the lights of Dakar. The row of lampposts flanking the first section of the road after two kilometers turns into the dust of the Senegalese night. Here and there, on both sides of the road, there are blue signs with French lines indicating different directions to choose from, while shortly after the airport (and again in the middle of the road, and again before entering the metropolitan area of Dakar) like a brief flash of street lights and French posters that warn of a Pay (two three Pages more) at two hundred meters (and then thirty-ten kilometers). Ibra doesn’t want to complain about the fees because, he says, scratching the coins in the glove compartment, he knows the Senegalese are obligated to pay for this wonderful road that France’s Eiffage has built in the last decade. In the same way that Blaise Diani International Airport was financed by the Saudi Bin Laden Group (affiliated to the well-known Osama Bin Laden family) And later by the Turkish group Summa-Limak, the A1 leading to Dakar was funded by various international organizations and private European companies that required the recoup of their investment, and soon, if not acceptable depreciation.
At every Ibra taxi ride, Dakar lights another candle. The bright new football stadium in the capital, financed with Turkish money, lit up. The Senegalese religion represented by the new road is lit.
The Paradox of Colonial Infrastructures
To understand the complex network of infrastructures in Africa, we must first review some notes from the colonial period. Understand that Africans who maintained a subsistence economy for thousands of years were quickly forced to adapt to the capitalist systems of the city, in order to meet their demands at the time desired by London, Paris or Lisbon. Then the introduction of capitalist systems on the continent created a series of infrastructures that would facilitate the extraction, production and transportation of raw materials, such as the famous railways in Kenya or the endless highways that cross Angola like dents. It should be noted that the first modern infrastructures that were built in Africa had no social use; That is, it was used not so much for the transportation or welfare of citizens as for the manufacture of raw materials and to ensure quick access to the forests and mines from which they were extracted.
From the beginning of independence, until the present day, one of the greatest challenges facing African countries has been to obtain adequate infrastructure at the frantic pace of the routine of the twenty-first century. This means that it is necessary to build commuter trains for urban transport, highways that run through the abyssal expanses of desert, hospitals that do not experience blackouts every week, power plants that avoid blackouts, and dams that collect water and irrigate the local population. that grows very fast. They start from scratch, and they hardly have any money in their coffers. Then colonial armies left Africa and trains from Kenya, To make room for whole battalions of financiers, construction companies, consultants, energy companies, the whole network of multinational companies and subsidies that make up the construction of infrastructures.
The Chinese model versus the Western model
Not all governments follow the same policy, at this point. China provides a clear example as a power that invested $20,000 million in African infrastructure between 2000 and 2014 alone, implementing the well-known policy of the Five Nos announced by President Xi Jinping at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2018: “No interference in African countries’ search for A development path compatible with their national conditions. Non-interference in the internal affairs of African countries. Not imposing our will on African states. Not linking aid to Africa to any kind of political conditions; and not seeking selfish political benefits in investment and financial cooperation with Africa.” Among the most recent instances of dragon intervention on the African continent, we find the “Friendship City” in the Athi River, Kenya. The €1.5 billion mega project, which has been paid by China, will cover an area of 485 hectares and will be able to accommodate up to 150,000 Kenyans once completed. Small change for Beijing.
In exchange for its help, knowing that African countries will never be able to pay for huge investments, Beijing usually asks for the support of the international community, minerals and cheap labor to develop a new industrial model to operate on African soil. It is worth looking into the matter documentary Dust EmpireAvailable on YouTube It brazenly and a little romanticized the difficult relations between the Chinese and local contractors from the Congo.
And business is going on from the other side: With a lot of effort, the World Bank and similar organizations raise a few million dollars and deliver it on behalf of the West to the Asian, North American, or European construction company on duty to build a hydraulic dam, or whatever it touches And so we have the transport corridor between Cameroon and Chad that the World Bank committed to financing with $538 million in February 2022.$100 million is earmarked for housing development in Madagascar in 2021 or the $50 million earmarked for improving access to electricity in Guinea Conakry.
This data won’t surprise anyone because it seems clear that the countries most in need of infrastructure are getting help from the World Bank, but different voices are being raised on the continent against some practices when awarding projects to foreign companies. Voices are heard even by these companies. According to an employee of NGE Contracting who did not wish to reveal his name to this newspaper, “The waste contracts imposed by the buildings preclude the presence of permanent staff in every building,” so that no crews are aware of the entire construction process (and, consequently, maintenance) of complex power systems and engineering marvels designed by foreign specialists. He says he’s upset because he wants to think he’s not killing himself with work “until his projects are unusable before the next World Cup”. Added to this lack of adequate training is the difficulties that governments face if an invention goes awry and they have to pay a more expensive part than what is allowed. Others involved say that the same will not happen if projects are handed over to African companies, stressing that in the case of foreign companies doing business, the end goal is not really achieved: improving the quality of life for the people of the continent. Magnificent dams are being built while foreign companies are taking their share, yes…but eventually the dams are collapsing and the foreigners are coming back with bulldozers and the debts of African nations are growing again. It almost seems that Africa is some kind of metaverse where people build for the sake of building.
The Chinese solution is to adhere to maintenance for 20 years, while European contractors usually offer a one-year guarantee, before the project is deposited into the hands of local authorities. The result of Western policies are muddy and unusable sewage treatment plants in Senegal, power generators in Nigeria without proper wires to power homes, abandoned wells in Ghana, and roads in Ethiopia with more potholes than intact asphalt. Thus Africa has been able to build and collapse and build and collapse in record time, unable to sustain an astonishing growth that would put the continent at the height of its brethren.
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