The lights have gone out, literally. Over half a century of poor maintenance and neglect, the power grid of the Central African Republic has collapsed. The capital has gone dark. Two nearby hydroelectric power stations, which provide most of the nation’s electricity, have failed from years of neglect. The government is calling on foreign aid donors to fly in generators for hospitals and other essential services. Generators that have been brought in previously have not been maintained, and wear out quickly. This is not an exceptional event, for colonial era infrastructure, from roads to power plants, are collapsing from decades of post-independence neglect. This causes more unrest, as factions battle for a dwindling supply of resources.

In the West, people take the smooth functioning of infrastructure for granted. But it’s only through continuous hard work that things work well here. Slack on that, and they go down the tubes pretty fast. But politicians value shiny new things more than unglamorous maintenance here, too. Be warned.