24 November, 2007

Infrastructure Diplomacy

I was talking to a guy at a conference yesterday. He was telling me that the EU is slashing the amount of money it spends on health and education in Africa; instead, the money is going to be focussed on infrastructure projects. There might be sound reasoning behind this, with some sort of calculations leading to the conclusion that spending on infrastructure is a more effective way of moving African countries towards sustainable development and self-reliance. However, it is widely believed that the real reason for the change in spending priorities is political. China has over the last couple of years earned itself a lot of kudos with African regimes by building roads and bridges for them. The EU now feels the need to compete – it is important that when an African looks at a bridge, they know it was built by the EU and not by China.

1 comment:

scattyme said...

I bet there'd be more money for European companies in infrastructure too. I mean, I imagine the bridges would be build by European firms, not African ones. So a lot of the aid money would just head straight back to Europe (just as "tied-aid" money from the US to Africa heads straight back into the coffers of US firms). Whereas with health care and education, maybe there's less profit at the European end.

I don't mean to sound condemnatory of Europe or the US in particular - the whole world economy is set up so as to encourage this kind of absurdity. Also, from what I gather, the Chinese firms completely ignore environmental considerations in their big infrastructure projects, and maybe the European ones would be better at that. Maybe...