Ethiopia: A Centralized Infrastructural Building System or Cost Efficiency and Economic Growth

There are many challenges that Ethiopia's economy faces, but one of the greatest hinderances is the lack of reliable infrastructure. As the dictionary definition indicates, Infra- means "below;" so the infrastructure is the "underlying structure" of a country and its economy, the fixed installations that it needs in order to function.

These include roads, bridges, dams, the water and sewer systems, railways and subways, airports, and harbors. These are generally government-built and publicly owned.

In the current time, steel, concrete and communication lines are the building blocks of the economy. Infrastructure by itself isn't development rather it is a necessity for development.The economy needs reliable infrastructure for development and to connect supply chains and efficiently move goods and services across borders.

Infrastructure connects households across the country leading to higher quality opportunities for employment, healthcare and education. Clean energy and public transit can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and pollution.

And the same economic logic applies to broadband networks, water systems and energy production and distribution. Infrastructure paves the way for trade and businesses creating job opportunities and building the economy block by block.

This is why Ethiopia currently devotes 10 percent of its GDP to infrastructure spending, because investment in infrastructure has a central role in the development agenda and is critical for supporting economic growth and poverty reduction.

However, the lack of a centralized and harmonious infrastructure management organization has led to the damage and sometimes destruction of many of these infrastructures; nullifying the efforts made to develop infrastructure in the country.

In one of his famous fables, Aesop describes the advantages of harmony and working together. The fable goes like this; A father had a family of sons who were perpetually quarreling among themselves. One day, he told them to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they had done so, he placed the bundle into the hands of each of them in succession, and ordered his sons to break the bundle in pieces.

They tried with all their strength, but were not able to do it. He next opened the bundle, took the sticks separately, one by one, and again put them into his sons' hands, upon which they broke the sticks easily.

He then said, "My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as this bundle, uninjured by all the attempts of your challenges. But if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.

First of all, harmony in this sense is the ability to work together with a better flow of information resulting in efficient communication and productive work.

In regards to infrastructure the lack of harmony and coordination between organizations like the telecommunications organization, electric and power organization, transport organizations etc.... is clearly visible.

It is common to see one of these organizations damage and destroy infrastructure built by and for the other organization. For example, we have the transportation sector building roads for transportation and then having workers from the water resource development sector dig up the roads to construct water resource development related infrastructure.

This is a clear sign for the lack of communication, and because there is no centralized organization that facilitates the communication of these companies and organizations decisions made by each sector are uncoordinated and without a general direction.

They are lone sticks trying to overcome challenges the country faces while tripping over each other, therefore as the fable mentioned above teaches; they are stick that are alone weak and unable to grow and develop; they are hindered by whatever obstacles come their way.

A much better analogy would be to takeschools that have many branches in different cities all over the country as an example. In such types of schools each branch won't be acting alone.

In such schools the cost is done under a central administrative unit or organization and this would then reduce cost and create a more coordinated system for the schools to work in. If each branch acted on its own accord, there would be more costs needed to facilitate its actions.

Additionally, there would be a lack of coordination and many of the decisions made by the different branches will override decisions made by other branches; adding confusion to the pre-existent lack of coordination.

The solution to this confusion is a centralized infrastructure management organization that will help facilitate the communication between different companies from different sectors responsible for infrastructure development.

This organization will centrally plan the construction of infrastructure from different sectors resulting in a harmonious flow of information and work. If such an organization was to be established it would be able to create a focused and clear blue print for infrastructure development in the country.

It would unite organizations from sectors like the education sector, transportation sector, health sector etc.... in regards to infrastructure development.

The benefits of a centralized infrastructure management organization are tremendous. By establishing such an institution, there would be a clear chain of command because every person within the organization knows who to report to.

This would in turn reduce or completely get rid of the overriding decisions made by different organizations from different sectors. Additionally, the centralized infrastructure organization can create a focused vison.

It can focus on the fulfillment of its vision with ease, because there are clear lines of communication and the senior executive can communicate the organization's vision to employees and guide them toward the achievement of the vision.

This would mean the country's infrastructure will be headed towards one focused vision, which is development. Furthermore, there will be a united blueprint reducing the costs incurred by the often differing and overlapping actions and decisions of different sectors.

In a centralized infrastructure management organization, decisions are made by a small group of people and then communicated to the lower-level managers.

The involvement of only a few people makes the decision-making process more efficient since they can discuss the details of each decision in one meeting.

The decisions are then communicated to the lower levels of the organization for implementation. This in turn, speeds up the decision-making process and the implementation of that decision; meaning more could be decided upon and implemented in a shorter period of time.

Last but not least the standardized procedures and better supervision in a centralized infrastructure organization result in improved quality of work. There are supervisors in each department who ensure that the outputs are uniform and of high quality.

Standardization of work also reduces the replication of tasks that may result in high labor costs. If there was such an organization the infrastructure needed by the water resource development sector would be in place before the completion of roads meaning there would be no need to damage the roads once they are completed.

If we take development as the steady construction of a building, we can take infrastructures as the necessary bases for that building to build upon. Without infrastructure it is clear that there will be no development. It would be like trying to construct a building without a base, and the facts state that a baseless building can't stand strong.

To erect the building of development strong and sturdy, Ethiopia needs to focus on establishing a centralized infrastructure management organization responsible for the construction of the bases of the building or in other words infrastructures.

More From: Ethiopian Herald

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