The role of infrastructure planning in the development of underprivileged communities

Different types of infrastructure play a collective role in a country’s economic development, growth and sustainability. All basic systems and services are key to the function of a country such as electricity and energy systems, water and sanitation, transportation systems, health care facilities, education facilities, financial institutions, technology systems and more. 

When adequate infrastructure is available, it can play a significant role in minimising poverty and improving the quality of life for citizens in underprivileged communities. The key to achieving success and producing the desired results is infrastructure planning. 

What is infrastructure planning?

Infrastructure planning is an ongoing preparation journey. It involves various processes, such as setting up infrastructure councils or committees. It also involves setting up the council or committee functions to ensure that the right infrastructure is built according to the infrastructure act or Bill of a country.

The South African Development Bill is designed to “provide for the facilitation and coordination of public infrastructure development, which is of significant economic or social importance to the Republic.” The Bill ensures that infrastructure in South Africa is planned in a manner that improves the management of such infrastructure during life-cycle phases: planning, approval, implementation and operations.

Infrastructure development is co-dependent on many other factors such as land, geography, architecture, costs, risk management and more. It is worth noting that rural planning and urban planning require different approaches. Therefore, successful infrastructure requires strategic and holistic partnerships between a number of service delivery entities. 

These entities will help to carry out all of the infrastructure tasks from the research stage to the preparation stage and management stage. The combined effort in infrastructure planning is important in identifying deficits and needs of all communities involved. It helps ensure that the right infrastructure is delivered efficiently and to the benefit of the said communities.

DBSA’s role in infrastructure planning

The Development Bank of Southern Africa has been procuring infrastructure support and funding for many underdeveloped municipalities across South Africa. This support has been possible and actionable because of the Bank’s non-lending Development Expenditure Subsidy in the form of grants. 

Through the non-lending Development Expenditure Subsidy, we’re able to offer project financing and help improve municipal infrastructure planning processes to ensure that project planning of high development impact are prioritised. 

The majority of the underprivileged municipalities are under-resourced and face the challenges of inadequate or the lack of feasible infrastructure plans. 

The absence or poor quality of the plans of this nature significantly affect the sustainability of municipal services provided by municipalities to communities in many ways. To draw an example, there have been many cases where infrastructure projects with less impact were identified and implemented over those deserving of priority. 

In other cases, the right infrastructure projects were identified and implemented, but that would later be dysfunctional due to poor planning or the lack of supporting infrastructure. 

It is, therefore, our role as DBSA, through the non-lending support, to assist the under-resourced municipalities with direct government funding to push forward high
priority projects. We do this by focusing on infrastructure planning strategies that are tailored according to the specific needs of these municipalities.

Our infrastructure planning approach helps municipalities identify critical projects and create a project pipeline for preparation and funding. We also facilitate the creation of a cost-effective and socio-economic infrastructure with the goal of enhancing the municipal revenues and improve the financial viability of the beneficiary municipalities. 

The notable success of the DBSA’s infrastructure planning

Through the non-lending Development Expenditure Subsidy, the Bank has, thus far, supported over 20 under-resourced municipalities. We have helped implement municipal infrastructure plans such as “Master Plans” in water, sanitation, electricity, roads and stormwater, and infrastructure investment plans for these municipalities. 

We have further assisted beneficiary municipalities with the improvements of project identification, prioritisation, alignment, integration and budgeting into the municipality’s plans.

Final thoughts

Infrastructure and poverty go hand-in-hand, and the lack of infrastructure can negatively impact a country’s socio-economic development, growth and sustainability. This makes it crucial for infrastructure planning to be treated with meticulous attention and processes. 

The DBSA’s infrastructure planning approach through the non-lending support plays a critical role in ensuring that sustainable projects are identified, prioritised and allocated budgets by the municipalities. This, in turn, ensures that funds for infrastructure development are unlocked to change the lives of underprivileged communities.