汉娜·赖德（Hannah Ryder）是总部设在北京的国际发展咨询公司Development Reimagined的首席执行官，曾任联合国开发计划署
"Hype or Hope?"
Editor's note: 汉娜·赖德（Hannah Ryder）是总部设在北京的国际发展咨询公司Development Reimagined的首席执行官，曾任联合国开发计划署中国地区政策和伙伴关系负责人。
When I was growing up, my parents warned me about two things: Boys, and Debt. I grew up strongly aware that I was to avoid both, and to approach them with a lot of skepticism.
My husband, on the other hand, was told the opposite: search hard for a great partner, and - if you're investing in your home and future, stretch and raise as much debt as you can possibly manage.
Now, happily married for 11 years, still working hard, having paid off our student loans, but still paying off our mortgage every month, I guess we found a healthy and happy balance to both partnerships and debt.
But what is a healthy and happy balance to partnerships and debt for the government of an entire country like Kenya, where I was born? Should countries be cautious or should they be proactive, and stretch themselves?
Well, here is the challenge. Africa NEEDS a great deal of new infrastructure – from trains to power stations. But African governments are not large or rich enough to pay for this by themselves – they need external help as loans from either the private sector or other international partners to at least 63bn U.S. dollars per year, according to an estimate by the African Development Bank. The continent will also face additional costs due to climate change of 20–30 billion U.S. dollars per year. Asian and Pacific countries also need more debt, their "infrastructure gap" is estimated at around 250bn U.S. dollars per year.
Just like my family, in order to grow, they HAVE to take on more debt.
As an economist, I should know this. It's been shown in many studies that the more that countries spend on infrastructure, the more their economies grow.
The Chinese-built Maputo Bridge in Maputo, Mozambique, May 10, 2018. /Xinhua Photo
As a result, it's not the AMOUNT of debt that matters, it's the TYPE of debt that matters…In particular, is the debt going into projects that will be productive in the future?
That's why the Kenyan president, in a recent interview with CNN said "What would worry me is if the debt was going into… paying salaries, or electricity bills, and so on. But what we have used our debt for is to close the infrastructure gap".
The good news is there is no shortage of productive infrastructure projects for China or others to invest in. In African countries, where over 600 million people don't have access to energy, renewable energy projects will enable young people to read and do their homework with light, enable factories to run better, without creating air pollution and climate change effects.