My first real moment of dissonance occurred in the middle of my flight to Zimbabwe. I left Pittsburgh early in the morning and by nighttime I was approaching the coast of France. Towns up and down the coast lit up the European coastline and welcomed the plane from its journey over the Atlantic. After refueling in Rome, the plane headed South for Ethiopia. Like France, the lights of towns on the Italian coast clearly defined the boundary between land and the Mediterranean Sea. I was playing particularly close attention to the land below me as we entered Egypt, but to my dismay, there were no signs that we had entered Africa. Not a single light on the Egyptian coast. Or anywhere in Egypt for that matter. Or even most of Africa. The African coast just meshed with the darkness of the Mediterranean Sea.
While at the time it seemed like a strange introduction from the continent, I now see it as the perfect introduction. The lack of suffiecient infrastructure proves to be amazingly restrictive for Zimbabwe and even Africa as a whole. Roads are inadequate in quantity and quality. Electricity cannot be relied on and therefore never really expected. If the power is out for more than a day, water stops running and may not start again until a couple days after the power comes back. Zimbabwe is currently producing a little over 1000 megawatts even though, according to the paper, the need is around 2000 megawatts. Zimbabwe's questionable political and economic future has throughly discouraged foreign investors, which has made it essentially impossible for Zimbabwe to acquire the money needed to upgrade its infrastructure (and most importantly its electricity production capabilities). US-driven sanctions have further restrict Zimbabwe's access to cash. The sanctions exist to punish Zimbabwe for its controversial land reforms in 1990s. However, they hurt the lives of individuals who are already struggling to survive. The newest imposition on Zimbabwean well-being is the ongoing debate with the international watchdog, the Kimberly Process. The KP was created to protect human rights, and particularly prevent the sale of blood diamonds. At the urging of the US and many European nations, the KP has restricted the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds (and industry that Zimbabweans are only starting to realize its massive potential). While Zimbabwe does not sell blood diamonds, there are reported human rights abuses of mine workers. While these abuses certainly need to stop, the scope of the KPs authority is in question. But regardless of your personal beliefs of the legitimacy of these sanctions and restrictions, it is sure that they have held Zimbabwe back and prevented them from gaining basic amenities, like constant electricity and water. Is that really fair?
Amusingly, in the time that it took to write this, the power cut out half a dozen times and we are now getting enough electricity to half-light a lightbulb (yet a mac works, they are incredibly power-efficient).
Zimbabwe, and Africa will not be able to modernize any further unless the developed world drops its sanctions and investors start, well, investing.