Light bulb in a tent or safe roof overhead?

Chicken or Egg – $48 billion per year for electricity or solid homes

The glow of a bulb is a wonderful experience for a family living in the poorest of conditions. In our comfortable environments it is hard to relate to what life is like without the blessings of electricity.

But we wonder what would be the highest priority to a those who live in a tent city or a slum of cardboard and tin? Would they want $48 billion for light or $48 billion for houses? If the commitment is $48 billion per year, then what would come first in this chicken or egg priority question?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is suggesting that $48 billion dollars a year be applied to bring electricity to some of the poorest regions of the world. This “Energy for All” concept was first presented at the Energy For All Conference in Oslo, Norway in October 2011.

Providing electricity to about 1 billion of the poor would cost about $48bn a year, and would have huge advantages in terms of health, education and economic growth according to studies by the IEA. But what would the same investment in solidly constructed structures do for sustaining better health, education and economic growth?

When an earthquake hits in a poorly constructed home a broken reading light is the last of the families worries. They must first worry about the concrete blocks and cement pillars that are crumbling and falling down around them. Then, once the shaking has stopped and the home lies in rubble, they begin to think of how to protect themselves from the elements, not if the electric range will be able to cook dinner tonight.

We spend billions a year rebuilding structures that have failed during a disaster. Families live in tent cities for years following these events as we continue to debate how to spend our development dollars wisely. If the poor had the choice, what would come first and what would they wait for? We suggest that improving the quality of the blocks and pillars is a wise investment in resource sustainability. Adding the electricity to a solid structure increases the value of the investment and adds greater health, education and economic growth in the long run.

With a worldwide investment of $48 billion a year the concrete supply chain we would lower the risks in our investment and build economic opportunity among developing nation. Then with solid structures in place, we could invest in providing electricity to yield a predictable increase in health, education and economic growth.

What do you think should come first?

Bruce Christensen is the author at CementTrust


About cementtrust

I am a director with Cement Trust and passionate about improving cement-based production in the poorest nations of the world.
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