While it is beset by serious challenges in power and water supply, Botswana is still clinging to the last spot among the top ten performers in the composite Africa Infrastructure Development Index.
The Index, which is compiled by the African Development Bank (AfDB), includes transport, power, ICT, and water and sanitation. In order of magnitude, the top performers are ranked as follows: Seychelles, Egypt, Libya, South Africa, Mauritius, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Cabo Verde and Botswana. Seychelles scores 96.732 points while Botswana scores 37.500 points – an improvement from last year’s 36.956 points. Botswana and Cabo Verde (48.882 points) are the only top performers who scored less than 50 points.
While the component indices of electricity places Botswana at position 9 (which it has held for the past three years), its score continues to decline. The score was 23.28 points in 2018, dropped to 20.702 points in 2019 and is 20.557 points this year. Conversely, the top performer, Libya, scored 97.407 points, 93.542 points and 94.774 points in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively. Botswana’s sluggish performance would be attributable to the power supply challenges that have bedevilled it for more than a decade now. The country plunked billions of pula into two ill-fated power generation projects in Palapye, being Morupule B and Morupule A. Resultantly, it continues to rely on South Africa to meet national supply demand – which is hugely problematic for purposes of national security.
Oddly, Botswana’s score for Water Supply and Sanitation is at 90.460 points, the highest it has been in three years – it was 89.276 points in 2018 and 89.853 points in 2019. The oddity of this score is that where they are not facing severe supply challenges some villages in the country are supplied with impure water that the Water Utilities Corporation, the national water authority, insists is safe to both drink and use for cooking.
While ICT has recorded the strongest growth over the past 10 years (the highest-ranked countries on the Index are those with the greatest growth in this subsector), Botswana is lagging behind. It scored 31.488 points last year but its score dropped to 30.905 points for this year. The decline in Botswana’s score is mystifying against the background of what AfDB says: that the 2015–2020 period was characterized by an upgrade and modernization of mobile networks to support the transition to smartphones, with broadband and fibre access emerging as the major trends. The Bank says that this period also saw the installation of new regional submarine and terrestrial cables which have considerably increased the transmission capacities around the coast of Africa. In that same period, Botswana upgraded and modernised its mobile networks and invested in regional submarine and terrestrial cables.
On the whole, the ranking of the five African sub-regions remains unchanged, with North Africa still leading, followed by Southern Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and Central Africa. North Africa emerged as the best-performing sub-region with an average index improvement of 2.23 points.