Where Electric Power is in Short Supply

In sub Saharan Africa, across MENA, and in large parts of Asia, many millions of people must live without reliable access to electric power. For most of these countries the problem is that the humans who live in these countries cannot provide sufficient expertise to build, maintain, and operate large systems for power generation, transmission, and distribution.

Large electric power systems form the foundation for most of the critical infrastructures of advanced civilisations. For lack of the human infrastructure, these countries lack reliable electric power — which leads directly to severe weaknesses in their other critical infrastructures.

For Advanced Civilisations, Nuclear is the Safest Form of Energy

If a country has the human infrastructure to support large power systems, then nuclear power is the safest and most sustainable form of electric power. As advanced nuclear power becomes more scalable, more capable of load-following, and makes more efficient use of nuclear fuel, no other form of power generation will even come close for societies that need large scale power generation over a significant time scale.

Unfortunately for the energy-poor nations designated in the upper graphic, the lack of human infrastructure eliminates the possibility that nuclear power will serve them well in any time frame. Consider Africa and its perennial infrastructure problem:

Africa continues to suffer from low levels of agricultural productivity and is constantly bedeviled by famines. A large part of the continent’s inability to feed itself and stimulate rural entrepreneurship can be explained by poor infrastructure (transportation, energy, irrigation, and telecommunication).

… According to the World Bank, the continent’s infrastructure deficit is considered one of the most significant barriers to sustaining Africa’s growth. It is estimated that the continent will need to invest nearly $93 billion per year over the next decade to bridge the deficit. Some estimates put the budget for Nigeria alone at $15 billion per year.South Africa’s plan is part of a long-term infrastructure strategy to be implemented over the next 15 years at the cost of $462 billion. __ Forbes

Europe has tried to fix the problem. The Americans have given it a try. China is currently working as many angles as it can, and even shrinking Russia is trying to extend its reach to Africa in an attempt to maintain global relevance. But every time someone tries to help Africa with its infrastructure, things fall apart.

“As soon as we have problems, we ask someone else to take care of them for us,” Isaac continued. “We ask the Europeans. We ask the Americans. We ask the Chinese. We will run this train into the ground, and then we will tell the Chinese we need another one. This is not development.” I thought of the wreckage by the tracks. In China, there is no such thing as metallic waste. Armies of migrant workers scour the countryside with hammers and chisels, collecting and selling every scrap to the insatiable smelters that feed the country’s industries. Here, by contrast, was a land without industry. __ Atlantic

There is something quite child-like about the African tendency to ask others to continue to build new infrastructure for them. But in the case of nuclear energy, the lack of qualified personnel to build, maintain, operate, and safeguard the advanced components of nuclear power generation allows no margin of error whatsoever. It is a risk too far.

In the topmost graphic on this page, South Africa is shown as a country with largely reliable electric power. But are the publishers of the graphic being completely honest?

White rule in South Africa ended in 1994. It was about ten years later that power outages began, which eventually reached crisis proportions. The principle reason for this is simply lack of maintenance on the generating equipment. Maintenance is future-oriented, and the Zulu entry in the dictionary for it is ondla, which means: “1. Nourish, rear; bring up; 2. Keep an eye on; watch (your crop).” In short, there is no such thing as maintenance in Zulu thought, and it would be hard to argue that this is wholly unrelated to the fact that when people throughout Africa say “nothing works,” it is only [a slight] exaggeration. __ Liveleak

South Africa is the most advanced nation of sub Saharan Africa, in terms of industrial infrastructure. Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was once another nation of sub Saharan Africa with advanced infrastructure. But Zimbabwe’s infrastructure declined rapidly after its market dominant minority was overthrown, and South Africa seems to be on the same path of decline.

Human Infrastructure is Critical

Although human infrastructure is not often mentioned along with the other critical infrastructures, in reality all of the other critical infrastructures rely upon a minimally competent human infrastructure.

Evaluating the quality of a nation’s human infrastructure is not easy or convenient, but it must be done in order to understand the strengths and weaknesses of any realistic development plan that one may try to implement to help the people of that country.

Here is a graphic attempt to match human cognitive competence (IQ) with occupational levels of competence:

Occupations and IQ Requirements
Average Sub Saharan IQ is 70 to 75

In South Africa and other parts of sub Saharan Africa, the problem is made progressively worse by the outward emigration of the most competent persons, in search of a “better future”:

In particular, engineers, doctors, lawyers are moving to the US, Europe and Australasia, and agencies claim to handle almost 40% more applications than a year ago. __ Source

We are not supposed to understand the problems with the human infrastructure of sub Saharan Africa and much of MENA and tribal Asia. Such an understanding is not politically correct and thus is not fashionable. And yet the underlying substrate of these places will clearly not support 99% of the well-intentioned plans that outsiders try to set for them. Not only are large scale advanced infrastructure projects there a waste of money over the long run, but in the case of nuclear power they can leave deep and deadly scars for hundreds of years.

If one truly wanted to help the people of these long-deprived countries, they would try to help raise their average levels of human competence. But such a winning plan would not be acceptable politically. And so the misery must be perpetuated out of a “progressive” sense of decorum. It is a terribly sad perversion of noblesse oblige.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood © .

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