Infrastructure must create opportunities for all — Prof. Appiah-Adu
The Special Advisor to the Vice-President, Professor Kwaku Appiah-Adu, says there is a lot to be gained when women and girls are given equal access to infrastructure services.
He said infrastructure development in Africa must, therefore, foster gender inclusiveness to create equal opportunities for all.
"Not only will it improve and protect the lives and livelihoods of women and girls, but it will benefit the entire global economy as well," Prof. Appiah-Adu said at a dissemination of research findings on the impact of infrastructure on nutritious diets, women's economic empowerment and gender equality in Accra last Thursday.
The project, initiated by the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED), with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, sought to address a critical gap in understanding the impact of infrastructure on the well-being of low-income consumers in low and middle-income countries, with a focus on South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The project was to improve the understanding of the impacts and pathways connecting infrastructure to affordable, safe and nutritious diets, markets, women's empowerment and gender equality considered crucial for the judicious and efficient use of scarce resources in developing countries.
The evaluations focused on the impact of road infrastructure, information infrastructure, post-production infrastructure, and small-scale irrigation on nutritious diets and women's economic empowerment.
Prof. Appiah-Adu said lack of infrastructure had emerged as a major challenge for agricultural development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and that it posed a great risk to livelihoods and threatened food and nutrition security, depriving people of access to healthy, affordable food, quality nutrition and care.
The benefits of infrastructure investments, he said were not distributed equally between women and men.
Infrastructure development and service delivery are critical public policy and investment areas in many developing countries.
"It is estimated that $97 trillion in global infrastructure investment is required by 2040 to support sustainable development; two-thirds of which is required in developing countries," Prof. Appiah-Adu said.
He stressed that it was a moral and financial imperative to ensure that such massive investment included a gender mainstreaming approach to infrastructure planning, delivery and management to achieve sustainability, equality and economic and social benefits for all.
Numerous studies, he noted, had demonstrated the social and financial advantages of improving gender equality and empowering women.
"When infrastructure is well planned, delivered and managed following a gender-inclusive and responsive approach, it can help to address gender-based barriers that impede access to services and reinforce structural inequities for women and girls at the household and market levels".
Gender equality, women's empowerment and the nutritional needs of low-income consumers (LICs), especially women and children, in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) were often compromised by their low access to safe, affordable and nutritious foods, partially due to poor infrastructure had emerged as critical global goals.
That, he said, had necessitated a comprehensive examination of the role of inclusive infrastructure in facilitating women's progress.
He, therefore, commended ICED for the project which would ensure that policy decisions on infrastructure were based on evidence and not in a vacuum.
The team leader of the project, Dr David Sarfo Ameyaw, stated that there was a scarcity of empirical evidence regarding the direct impact of infrastructure on improved diets, women's economic empowerment and gender equality outcomes among low-income consumers.
“This is why the report has recommended support for research institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian countries to build their research capacities in the areas of nutritious diets, women's economic empowerment and gender equality.
“This could include funding opportunities and training programmes,” he stated.
Another member of the team, Prof. Takyiwaa Manuh, indicated that the significance of the project extended beyond academic enquiry as it was a crucial step towards informed decision-making, paving the way for inclusive, sustainable development.