Belt and Road Infrastructure Contributes to Africa’s Development: No ‘Debt-trap’

CGTN published my article below:  Belt and Road Infrastructure Contributes to Africa’s Development: No ‘Debt-trap’ on December 26 , 2020. In this article, I expose the fraud of the anti-China “debt-trap” slander being used to impede China’s and Africa’s collaboration to build vitally needed infrastructure across the African continent.

December 30, 2020

Belt and Road Initiative is not debt-trapping Africa

Editor’s note: Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. [He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com.] The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Over the last three years, a new type of groupthink has emerged among many Western media and policy think tanks in their geopolitically motivated efforts to malign China. They’ve claimed that China is practicing a new type of colonialism, which is coined “debt-trap diplomacy.” China is charged with deliberately luring developing nations into borrowing-lending arrangements, primarily for infrastructure projects, with the intention of entrapping them into unpayable loans. It is alleged that once the borrowing nation defaults on “excessive debt,” China seizes the project or collateral assets of valuable mineral resources.

There is only one problem with this supposition. None of it is true. There has been no takeover of any project and no seizure of assets of any kind in Africa by China. There is no evidence of an intentional effort to trap African nations into owing debt to China.

To give an example of how manipulation of words is used to disparage the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Africa, just look at Heather Zeiger’s article “China and Africa: Debt-Trap Diplomacy?” The article recognizes that Kenya is suffering from COVID-19 related financial stress and cannot fulfill the terms of the loan for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). However, she then attempts to make the case for debt-trap diplomacy by slyly using a conditional sentence: If Kenya defaults on payments, China might be able to receive revenue from the Port of Mombasa as collateral, although the Chinese government has said it does not intend to do this.”

The truth is, neither happened.

Johns Hopkins University’s China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) has extensive data on Chinese lending in Africa. After reviewing over 1,000 loans, it reports that “we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberately entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’.”

However, this has not prevented U.S. elected officials and representatives of Democratic and Republican parties from ignorantly reciting this debt-trap mantra. This propaganda is so pervasive that even some Africans have been repeating this disinformation.

Aerial photo shows trains at the Nairobi railway station in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. /Xinhua

African nations require infrastructure

China through the BRI is helping to finance and construct vitally needed infrastructure in Africa. Nothing is more critical or more urgently needed to industrialize Africa and end poverty and hunger than infrastructure. The United States, whose foreign policy is increasingly vectored at countering China’s rising political and economic power in the world, has no strategy or intention of making a similar commitment to the African continent.

W. Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and Liberia’s former Minister of Public Works, has said that China’s investment in infrastructure in Africa is unsurpassed. And given the West’s history and operations in Africa, it is “frustrating that in its complicated, enmeshed, centuries-long history in Africa, there has never been a Western proposal for continental-scale infrastructure building … It was the Chinese who sought to build a road, rail and maritime infrastructure network to link Africa’s economies with the rest of the world.”

China helped finance and construct Kenya’s SGR, the only new railroad in 100 years since the British empire occupied Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century. The first phase of this ambitious project, from the port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, is already completed. It is intended to connect to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. This has the potential to become the eastern leg of the long overdue East-West railroad across the girth of Africa, which would transform the continent.

China has contributed to the welfare of nations through the BRI. And for this, it should be supported, not pilloried.

Read: news.cgtn.com Belt-and-Road-Initiative-is-not-debt-trapping-Africa

 

US-Africa Strategy Should Focus on Long-Term Development for the Continent’s 2.4 Billion People

Lawrence Freeman giving a lecture on Africa. He teaches several courses on African history in Maryland.

December 25, 2020

Below is a lengthy year end interview with me by Pan African Visions, published on December 21, 2020, entitled: “Most US Administrations Have Not Had Good Policies On Africa.” In this interview, I discuss a number of issues facing the Africa continent, as well as the past and future of US-Africa policy.

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Pan African Visions: We end with the last word on how you see 2021 playing out for Africa, what are your hopes and fears?

Lawrence Freeman: If you look at the problems we have now if we do not implement certain measures today, we are going to have problems 10 or 20 years from now. If you have an approximate population of two and a half billion and approximately one billion may be young people; if those young people do not have jobs, see their nation as providing for them then you can have very nasty operations and demonstrations, regime changes on the continent. On the other hand, we have all these very bright people, if we implement policies today that will bring about the kind of economic growth that is needed then you will not have an increase in alienation, anarchy and protests.

I would like to see the United States join with China and probably Russia to help Africa. They have to unite and assist Africa and not tell them what  to do, and not seize anything. I estimate that Africa needs at least a thousand gigawatts of power to give people access to electricity. These things are primary. If we can begin in 2021 with a robust commitment to developing, then I think Africa will have a very interesting and beautiful future. If we do not, then we could be facing more serious challenges over the years ahead. I am approaching 70 years and I am going to put everything I have to make those things happen. If more people in the United States, Europe, and Africa will work with me on that then I think we can make some improvements that will benefit billions of people that are not only living today but those who will be born in the future. And that is my goal and commitments.

Read the entirety of my interview: Pan African Visions Interviews Lawrence Freeman on US-Africa Policy

Read the entire issue of Pan African Vision for December 2020: PAV-News-Magazine-Dec.-2020-Edition-27

As I am sending out this post on Christmas Day, I would like to wish everybody an enjoyable Holiday Season. At this time of the year, it is important for me to emphasize that ending poverty and hunger in Africa is not an idealistic dream. It is an accomplishable strategic vision for the African continent. All men and women are endowed by the Creator with the power of creative reason. This unites all peoples of all nations as part of one human culture. If we exercise this uniquely human power of creativity with the good will of governments, there is no limit to the qualitative and quantitative growth of civilization. The same brute-force commitment that utilized our creative scientific capabilities to develop vaccines for the COVID-19 virus in record time, can be applied to feeding the world.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

US-China Relations: Cooperation Not Geo-Politics. All Nations Share A Common Interest

December 21, 2020

In my discussion with PressTV, (watch video below), I elaborate the potential for a positive-collaborative relationship with China that would benefit humankind, rather than the dangerous belief in geo-politics. Every nation shares a common interest; the development of all human beings. That must include an improvement in their physical living conditions, and in the nurturing of their creative mental powers. The geo-political doctrine, which the US has come to embrace, falsely asserts that relations between nations is reduced to winners and losers in in a zero sum game. This is not what the real America represents. It is not what I represent. The exploration of space, the development of nuclear fusion energy, and the elimination of poverty, are just a few examples of what could be accomplished with US-China cooperation, which is in my country’s interest. 

Watch my discussion: US-China Relations

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Africa Needs Nuclear Power to Propel Economic Development and Eliminate Poverty-Will Ghana Take the Lead?

Africa’s only nuclear powerplant in Koeberg South Africa. (Courtesy cbn.co.za)

December 18, 2020

Ghana has correctly focused on obtaining energy from nuclear power to realize their ambition of becoming an industrialized economy. It is worth remembering that under President Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana had, I believe, the first test nuclear reactor on the continent. Seventeen African nations are in various stages of planning for nuclear energy stations in their countries. The energy-flux density of nuclear power is superior to all other forms of energy, plus it is not dependent on wind, water, or sunlight. I encourage all African nations to move rapidly to harness the power of the Sun on earth through nuclear energy. The most complete means for African nations to break free from the legacy of colonialism, is to design nuclear powered manufacturing-industrialized economies; ending poverty and hunger.  

Nuclear Energy in Africa – Lessons from Ghana

The Republic of Ghana has a long and complicated history with nuclear energy dating back to the country’s immediate post-independence period. Despite being derailed at multiple points on a long, uneven journey, recent developments around Ghana’s nuclear plans provide hope and lessons for the rest of Africa.

Ghana has experienced recurring periods of unstable electricity supply in 1983, 1997-1998; 2003; 2006-2007 and again from 2011-2017. Domestic natural gas and oil reserves provide some relief, but projections indicate that these will dry up by 2045. The National Electrification Scheme (NES) aimed for universal electricity access by 2020; however this is more realistically attainable by 2022.

Access to electricity in Ghana is fairly widespread with the electricity access rate at 85% in 2019. However, problems with the country’s conventional sources of electricity signal that the time is right for Ghana to pursue its nuclear aspirations alongside other renewable energy generation options to achieve the twin goals of economic development and consistent electricity supply.

By 2057, Ghana hopes to have a highly industrialised economy. It has singled out nuclear power as a key vehicle of development. Ghana’s nuclear ambitions started with the establishment of the Kwabenya Nuclear Reactor Project in 1961. Derailed by consecutive military coups d’état, the project remains uncompleted. Commitment to the establishment of a functioning, effective nuclear power programme from government has also been inconsistent.

Yet recent developments provide hope. The return of nuclear energy to the country’s development agenda is accelerated by the need for a stable electricity supply. In 2015 the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) called on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out a ‘Phase 1 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Mission (INIR)’ in the country.

INIR evaluations represent an important step in the establishment of a nuclear energy programme in any country and ensure that expert decisions guide these highly technical projects. INIR evaluations are based on the IAEA’s ‘Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power‘ document, which outlines three development phases of a nuclear power programme.

First phase reviews assess the readiness of a country to embark on the road to nuclear power and take place at the decision-making stage. Second phase reviews follow directly from the first and entail putting into place concrete actions after the decision to go nuclear has been taken. In the final phase, the nuclear power programme is implemented.

Not long after the GAEC initiated contact with the IAEA, the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organisation (GNPPO), (https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-reviews-progress-of-ghanas-nuclear-infrastructure-development), which is responsible for overseeing the programme, provided a self-evaluation report. Acting on both the initial communication as well as the report submitted by the GNPPO, the IAEA sent an expert team to Ghana in January 2017 in order to carry out the INIR Mission.

The team determined that Ghana had sufficiently progressed in order to begin preparation for the second phase of the project and another Review Mission. Before progressing to this next phase; however, the evaluation team suggested prioritising further research and bolstering of Ghana’s legal framework.

Establishing a nuclear power project seems logical for a country that is no stranger to the peaceful application of nuclear technology. Ghana has successfully operated a 30kW nuclear research reactor for more than two decades. The Ghana Research Reactor-1 (GHARR-1) is one of 12 research reactors on the African continent and plays a vital role in the education and training of personnel to oversee its emerging nuclear energy programme. GHARR-1 is also relied on for research , particularly the treatment of nuclear waste and environmental safety, and irradiation projects. Ghana also relies on nuclear technology for administering radiotherapy and other nuclear medicine applications.

The energy supply situation in the rest of Africa is not very different. Power outages are regular occurrences in much of Africa and according to the IAEA, more than half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa remains disconnected from the grid. Nuclear power represents an alternative and reliable source of electricity.

Excluding South Africa, where nuclear power is already established, the IAEA notes that nearly one third of the countries that have approached it for assistance in establishing a nuclear power programme are African. Apart from Ghana, these include Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Sudan. According to the IAEA, the nuclear option is also under consideration in Algeria and Tunisia as well as Uganda and Zambia.

If the road to nuclear energy in Ghana is anything to go by, it is a telling example to other African countries of the commitment necessary, as well as the importance of political stability and political will in implementing a project that holds vast potential for economic and human development.

This piece draws on research conducted by Hubert Foy and Isabel Bosman for an upcoming SAIIA Special Report on the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Ghana.

Read: Nuclear Energy in Africa-Lessons from Ghana 

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Biden Administration Must Break from Past Practices, to Collaborate with China in Fostering Economic Development in Africa

CGTN published an abridged version of my article under the title: Biden administration should work with China to boost growth in Africa. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-12-16/Biden-administration-should-work-with-China-to-boost-growth-in-Africa-WgaMXPhB0A/index.html

Read below my complete article entitled: 

Biden Administration Must Break from Past Practices to Collaborate with China in Fostering Economic Development in Africa

Lawrence Freeman

December 16, 2020

For the incoming Biden/Harris administration to make a real difference and have positive impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of African still living in poverty, they should work in partnership with China. This would require rejecting and reversing the anti-China mindset of the Trump and Obama administrations, echoed by the current chorus of voices spewing from officials of both the Democratic and Republican parties. A repeat of the defective policies of the last twelve years coupled by the shrill geo-political motivated propaganda against the nation of China, will not only do little for Africa, but it will also harm the United States, and endanger strategic relations. It should be obvious to qualified leaders, as it is to me, that the horrific conditions of life for a majority of Africans, reflects the scope of the continent’s deficit in vital infrastructure. Over 600 million are without access to electricity, over 400 million Africans live in poverty, and several nations are currently threatened with famine. If the two economic power houses, China, and the United States, worked in partnership with African nations, this impoverishment could be eliminated.

US President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping speak during a joint statement in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Failures of Trump and Obama

Presidents Trump and Obama similarly failed to understand the necessary requirements to create real-physical economic growth to improve the conditions of life, for America or Africans. Neither comprehend the principles of the American System of economics that built the foundation of the industrialized U.S. Their conception of economics remains dominated by a belief that the wealth of a nation is measured by Wall Street’s monetary values.

US President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping speak during a joint statement in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump began his presidency establishing an amiable relationship with Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Unfortunately, that quickly deteriorated as Trump propitiated the anti-China prejudices of his supporters.  Although President Trump’s road to the White House was achieved by his status as an outsider to the Washington establishment, it was evident by the second year of his administration that he had acquiesced to the same geo-political world view of his predecessors. Geo-political doctrine speciously asserts that nations are either winners or losers in a zero sum game with the world as a chessboard. That the only interest of a superpower is achieving hegemony, rejecting any conception of a shared common interest among nations. His choice of neocons, Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State, and John Bolton as National Security Advisor in April 2018, left no doubt the direction of President Trump’s foreign policy.

On December 18, 2018, speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, Bolton unveiled President Trump’s so called Africa Strategy. In his presentation Bolton defined the goal of U.S. policy in Africa, to wit: stopping China’s advances on the continent. In less than an hour, he attacked China and its Belt and Road seventeen times.  President Trump did not disavow Bolton’s assault on China, nor his demeaning treatment of Africa as a game board for geo-politics. Read President Trump’s Non-African Strategy: Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Prior to President Obama’s anti-China Asian Pivot in January 2012, his administration launched the most destructive military operation against an African nation by any U.S. President. In October 2011, President Obama, advised by UN Envoy Samantha Powers, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, toppled the government of Libya. This irresponsible military adventure resulted: in the death of Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi; the destruction of the nation of Libya, turning it into a failed state for the last nine years; and unleashing hordes of violent extremists across the Sahel into Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria, causing tens of thousands of deaths and displacing millions of Africans.

Courtesy CSIS China Power Project

China Delivers Infrastructure

Contrary to U.S. squealing and whining about China’s influence in Africa, Deborah Brautigam of the DC based China Africa Research Initiative, precisely presents the paradox: “China still addresses Africa’s hunger for structural transformation in a way the West does not.” (1)  China has increasingly been engaged with African nations over the last two decades to build vitally needed infrastructure in rail, energy, ports, airports, roads, etc., and the U.S (West) has not.

Courtesy CSIS China Power Project

Take rail for example. Examine China’s commitment to building railroad tracks in Africa, as reported by the Washington think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (2)

Between 2008 and 2019, China built an average of 5,464 kilometers (km) of railway track per year. Roughly half of the new track added was high-speed rail. At 35,388 km, China’s high-speed rail network is the largest in the world.” China has built an additional 100,000 km of non-high speed rail track.

According to the CSIS report,

“Chinese companies signed $61.6 billion worth of rail construction contracts from 2013 to 2019 – more than double the value of the previous seven-year period (2006-2012) coinciding with the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.”

“Africa received the second-highest amount of [China’s] rail contracts from 2013-2019. At $20.8 billion, this accounted for 33.8 percent of the total… About $7.5 billion worth of rail-related construction contracts (36.1 percent of the amount in Africa) were signed with Nigeria, where China is constructing a series of lines that comprise the 1,300 km-long Lagos-Kano Railway Modernization Project. This massive undertaking has made Nigeria the world’s top recipient of Chinese rail construction contracts during the 2013-2019 period.”

Courtesy of dica.logcluster.org

China’s construction of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway and the Addis Ababa to Djibouti railroad are exemplary of crucial infrastructure projects for Africa.

Michelle Gavin in her December 3 post, The United States and Europe Should Work Together to Promote a Prosperous Africa, expresses the dilemma for U.S.-Africa policy:

“There is no doubt that U.S. influence—and therefore U.S. capacity to achieve various foreign policy goals—suffers when China’s investments in the tangible, visible infrastructure of African prosperity appear (sic) to dwarf U.S. development efforts.” (emphasis added)

Speaking in China on December 8, Rahamtalla Osman, the Permanent Representative for the African Union in China, said, “The goals of the BRI coincide with the AfCFTA,” referring to the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The “Same Old” Will Not Do

As the inauguration of the new U.S. president nears, many words are written extolling how a Biden administration will bring a return to “normalcy, global alliances, international diplomacy.” We should think for a minute. Do we want to return to war, regime change, sanctions, and drone assassinations as the core of U.S. foreign policy? Early indications are that under a President Biden, the U.S. will pursue with our allies, a more belligerent policy with China. How will this realignment shift the world to a higher platform of development? How will it stimulate economic growth in Africa?

Presidents John F Kennedy and President Kwame, Washington DC, Head of State visit- March 1961.

The Biden-Harris agenda for Africa is vague with no specifics to address Africa’s urgent needs. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is President Elect Biden’s nominee to be envoy to the United Nations, has a deep background in Africa and is respected by many African leaders. Having played a prominent role in the Biden transition team, she may be an individual who can put a focus on Africa in the new administration. However, it is unclear what those policies will be.

The last U.S. president to fully engage in Africa’s development was John F Kennedy, who established a personal relationship with Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah, and gave crucial backing for the construction of the Akosombo Volta Dam complex.

For the incoming administration to genuinely support Africa, the new president should audaciously break from past boundaries of previous thinking and join with China in launching a great mission for mankind: the elimination of poverty in Africa within the next generation through massive infrastructure expansion. That is my mission.

(1) African countries will remain best friends with China, https://www.economist.com/the-world-ahead/2020/11/17/african-countries-will-remain-best-friends-with-china

(2) How Are Foreign Rail Construction Projects Advancing China’s Interests? https://chinapower.csis.org/rail-construction/

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

China Brings Good News for Humankind: Eliminating Poverty and Discovering Abundant Energy for the Future

Could mining helium-3 from the Moon solve Earth’s energy problems? (courtesy inhabitat.com)

December 6, 2020

Below are updates from EIR news on China’s progress in eliminating poverty and generating abundant energy for the future. Despite continued malicious geo-politically motivated attacks on China, China is making progress that benefits all of humankind. Africa’s relationship with Africa is positive, assisting African nations in building much needed infrastructure. Science and progress must override prejudice. and propaganda.   

China Looking Forward into Helium-3 Future

Related to the ongoing Chinese mission to collect lunar soil samples on the Moon, CGTN is pointing to the vast reserves of helium-3 there, writing on Nov. 26:

“Modern science has revealed that most of the energy we use today originated from sunlight—coal and oil are basically storage of ancient sunlight. Scientists and engineers have been trying to build a smaller sun on Earth for decades. And helium-3 is a great fuel to do that.

“100 tons of helium-3 can generate the energy needed by all humans for a year. And there may be a million tons of helium-3 on the Moon—which can help humans survive another 10,000 years. Building the artificial sun requires many strict conditions, some of which can be easily met on the Moon since the sphere has much less gravity than the Earth.

“Imagine if we don’t need oil anymore. Lots of wars will become pointless and we may enjoy one of the most peaceful ages ever. Isn’t that great? And that’s why we should continue the effort of lunar exploration. China’s international Moon lab could be a good start.”

This is not the first time that CGTN has highlighted the helium-3 issue, but has been a steady companion to most of its coverage of the Chang’e-5 mission since it began. It has also been underlined by many of the researchers involved in the Chang’e-5 project in their briefings on the project.

China Commissioned a Tokamak Fusion Reactor Today!

People’s Daily reports that China began the commissioning of its HL-2M Tokamak nuclear fusion reactor in Chengdu, Sichuan province today, after its installation work was completed. This is the step required for testing operations and verifying functioning of all reactor systems and components before full operation can begin. PhysOrg reports that this tokamak is China’s largest and most advanced, which Chinese scientists plan to use in collaboration with scientists working on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is also a tokamak.

People’s Daily wrote that this “breakthrough has laid a solid foundation for China’s independent design and construction of nuclear fusion reactors… The development of nuclear fusion energy is not only a way to solve China’s strategic energy needs, but also has great significance for the future sustainable development of China’s energy and national economy.”

And of the world development, we might add. (China Nuclear Powered Artificial Sun)

China Lifts Last Nine Counties Out of Absolute Poverty, Achieves Historic End to Poverty in 2020

On Nov. 23, authorities in southwest China’s Guizhou Province announced that they had lifted the last remaining nine counties in their province out of absolute poverty. “This means that all 832 registered poor counties in China have shaken off poverty,” Xinhua reported. At the end of 2019, there were still 52 counties across China on the poverty list. “Earlier this month, all poor counties in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, as well as the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan and Gansu were lifted out of poverty,” Xinhua reported. With Guizhou now reporting the same, the national goal has been met.

Global Times op-ed by Yu Shaoxiang Nov. 24 celebrated and explained China’s historic achievement:

“First, China is able to concentrate its efforts on major tasks with strict enforcement of orders and prohibitions. This is what many other countries cannot do….

“Second, based on local conditions, we helped people move out of places such as remote mountains that are not suitable to live in. This was a complex project requiring a great amount of capital and manpower. It also demanded coordination between governments between their origins and place of settlement. The relocation efforts solved the survival problem of many people….

“Third, China has reduced poverty with industrial development. This has been one of the most direct and effective measures to offer long-term solutions for impoverished places. Nowadays, many places around the world are still troubled by poverty. Even in developed capitalist countries there are large numbers of people living under crippling circumstances. Capitalism’s nature of profits at all costs determines that many countries don’t take poverty relief as one of their top priorities….

“Against this backdrop, we can contribute Chinese wisdom to the governance of global poverty. China not only emphasizes poverty reduction, but also avoids situations where people can fall into poverty again…. The elimination of extreme poverty does not mean that the problem of poverty will no longer exist. After all, ‘poverty’ is a relative concept. Therefore, as extreme poverty is now deemed to be officially eliminated, China’s definition of poverty will gradually expand. The goal will be to upgrade from meeting the needs of basic subsistence to living a decent life. These include providing clean drinking water, better health care and education.”

China Daily also weighed in editorially:

“Feeding, clothing and sheltering 1.4 billion people is no easy job. But somehow China has managed to do it. And, in so doing, it has become the first developing country to accomplish the poverty reduction target of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—and done it 10 years ahead of schedule…. The country has therefore fulfilled its decades-long goal of eliminating absolute poverty. As President Xi Jinping proudly shared with other G20 leaders via video link the other day, lifting more than 700 million people out of poverty in a matter of four decades has been no mean feat….

“The good news from Guizhou came despite the country having to contend with the twin pressures from the economic downturn and the novel coronavirus outbreak.”

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Former Italian Prime Minister Calls for International Support for Transaqua

December 3, 2020

Below, I have reprinted a slightly abridged article from EIR magazine, which reports on important new impetus for Transaqua. Romano Prodi, former Prime Minister of Italy, former President of the European Commission, and former UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, has called on the EU, UN, and AU, to join with with China in moving forward with Transaqua, a mega water-development project to transform the Sahel. With this high level of backing for Transaqua, it is now incumbent on the Lake Chad Basin Commission to take the initiative to secure a contract for a feasibility study of the design of  Transaqua, outlined below.

Italy’s Prodi Puts Transaqua Back on the International Agenda

CC/Francesco Pierantoni Romano Prodi, former Prime Minister of Italy, former President of the European Commission, and former UN Special Envoy for the Sahel.
Nov. 23—At this time when the world’s nations have not yet adequately responded to the call for help launched by the World Food Program (WFP) to avoid mass starvation in the developing sector, the issue of Transaqua has again come into focus as the durable solution to famine, terrorism, and emigration in Central Africa. On November 13, Romano Prodi, the former EU Commission President and former UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, launched a strong call for the EU, the UN, the African Union (AU), and China to join hands in financing and building this giant infrastructure platform, that can be the locomotive of agro-industrial development for the entire African continent.

Transaqua—also called the Transaqua Inter Basin Water Transfer Scheme—is a project that dates back to the mid-1970s, when engineers from the Italian company Bonifica witnessed the drying up of Lake Chad and came out with the idea of refilling the lake by transferring water from the Congo Basin, where immense quantities of water were simply wasted into the Atlantic Ocean, unused.

EIRNS/Julien Lemaitre Dr. Marcello Vichi speaks at a Schiller Institute Conference, “Rescuing Civilization from the Brink,” in Rüsselsheim, Germany, July 2, 2011.
By building dams along some of the right-bank tributaries of the River Congo and connecting these reservoirs with canals, the Bonifica engineers, under the direction of Dr. Marcello Vichi, calculated that with only 5% of the water that goes into the River Congo, it was possible to transfer up to 100 billion cubic meters of water per year into Lake Chad. These tributaries are at high altitude, so that water in this dam and canal system can travel across the Central African Republic-Chad watershed by means of gravity alone.
Figure 1-The Transaqua Project, as Proposed by Bonifica
Besides refilling the gradually disappearing lake, the infrastructure would provide a 2400 km waterway that would boost trade from the southern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), close to the Great Lakes region, up to Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, and down to Lake Chad. The numerous dams would provide plenty of electricity and irrigation capability for 7 million hectares of farmland, providing the platform for developing agro-industrial activities.

After many decades of oblivion and thanks to efforts by EIR and the Schiller Institute, Transaqua received a new impulse in February 2018, when the plan was adopted at the International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja, and the Italian government pledged to fund part of the feasibility study.

Since then, however, the momentum has slowed down. After Abdullah Sanusi, P.E., left at the end of his mandate as Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in 2018, no significant impulse has come from that institution, which brings together the five riparian member states around the lake—Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

On the Italian side, with the exception of an amendment drafted by Sen. Tony Iwobi—who managed to include initial funding for the feasibility study in the Italian government budget for 2021—a political shift in the government has led to a change in ministerial personnel, and the tender for the study has been left up in the air. The Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed an unprepared and incompetent government.

Prodi Not for Colonial Songs about Africa

Now, a seminar organized by the Turin Center for African Studies on November 9-13, “Water Diplomacy and the Culture of Sustainability: The Lake Chad Basin,” has put Transaqua back on the list of strategic priorities. Speaking at the final roundtable, Prodi said the project cannot wait any longer: “Please, don’t come with environmental objections, the former EU chief said. “Don’t sing the song that human intervention can damage the environment: In this case, we help nature to recover a situation of internal balance, to the advantage of African peoples—an internal balance that has been lost.”

Prodi’s reference to pseudo-environmental objections to Transaqua is important, because one of the main sources for those objections has been that very EU Commission that Prodi has chaired in the past, whose structure and ideology Prodi knows very well…

Back in 2013, the EU Commission rejected Transaqua, ostensibly with environmental motivations. Answering a query by European Parliament member Cristiana Muscardini, EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs stated that “Preliminary feasibility studies… indicate that the project would involve major environmental risks.”

Opposition to Transaqua has also been fed by former European colonial powers which still have political control over some governments in the region. Notably, the government of Canada, on behalf of the British Commonwealth and of French government institutions, has recently funded a paper, “Soft Power, Discourse Coalitions, and the Proposed Inter-basin Water Transfer Between Lake Chad and the Congo River,” which claims that Transaqua is an imperialist scheme pushed by the government of Italy, China, and the Schiller Institute…

Representatives gather for a UN-sponsored international conference on the Lake Chad Region in Berlin, September 3-4, 2018.
‘Something To Do Together with China’

Rejecting such phony objections, Prodi stated:

“What we must do, in my view, is a strong action of healthy lobbying, a call on Europe, the African Union, the United Nations, China, to carry forward this project. Be aware that the Lake Chad Basin covers one eightieth of the entire African continent. This is enough to understand its importance. And it affects the poorest, most disgraced and left-behind area.

“Since such a large project as Transaqua involves political, financial, technological, and security aspects, it needs strong political leadership and economic power. Thus, the EU, UNO, and OAU—should try to involve China, because [some] reports connect Lake Chad with the Silk Road. What is the political problem of the Silk Road? It has been a Chinese thing. We must find something to do together with China.”

The video of Prodi’s presentation, in Italian with English subtitles, can be viewed here.

The day before, on November 12, the seminar had featured engineer Andrea Mangano, a veteran of the Bonifica team that had developed the original Transaqua idea in the 1970s. In an interview format entitled “Lake Chad and Infrastructure: Challenges and Ideas,” he presented the updated version of the project—similar to what Mangano himself and other Bonifica officials have presented at Schiller Institute and EIR events in recent years.

Starvation Warnings from WFP’s Beasley

Recently the UN World Food Program’s Executive Director, David Beasley, warned that the Central Sahel region faces one of the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises. This is the region most affected by the deterioration of living conditions due to the drying out of Lake Chad, conditions that have offered grounds for recruiting young people to the terrorist Boko Haram. Terrorism has added to economic devastation and caused huge migration waves in the region.

More than 13 million people now require urgent humanitarian assistance, five million more than estimated at the beginning of 2020, Beasley said, characterizing their plight as “marching toward starvation.”

In October, Beasley travelled in several nations in the region, together with the development ministers of Germany and Denmark, to solicit not only emergency aid, but also long-term investments in infrastructure. On October 9, Beasley was in Niger when he got the news that the World Food Program had been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. He said to reporters that day:

The fact that I was in the Sahel when we received the announcement is really a message from above, that “Hey, world. With all the things going on around the world today, please don’t forget about the people in the Sahel! Please don’t forget about the people that are struggling and dying from starvation.”

EIRNS Left to right: Mohammed Bila (Lake Chad Basin Commission), Andrea Mangano, Marcello Vichi, and Claudio Celani (EIR), discussing plans for Transaqua in the Rome Bonifica office, summer 2015. Lawrence Freeman also participated in this discussion.
Transaqua is exactly the infrastructure that could stabilize the entire region. You don’t need to wait until the first dam is built and water starts to come through the Chari River to Lake Chad from the Congo basin: The many jobs created by the project will immediately start to stabilize the region in terms of providing incomes for thousands of families.

Unfortunately, the October 20 donors’ conference organized by Denmark, Germany, the EU, and the UN in Copenhagen, took the restricted view of humanitarian intervention. Some $1.7 billion dollars were pledged for emergency aid—and this is of course welcome— but it failed to address the root of the problem and adopt long-term solutions.

Mr. Prodi’s words must be followed by deeds, so that the “healthy lobbying effort” in favor of Transaqua is successful in bringing together the international coalition to build Transaqua.

*I do not support everything in EIR’s article, and also note its omission of my central role in advancing the Transaqua project.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State

Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State

November 29, 2020

By Lawrence Freeman

Today, the Ethiopian government is reporting that the National Defense Forces have taken control of city of Mikelle, the capital city of Tigray, as well as the airport. This portends the effective defeat of the opposition forces that violently rebelled against the nation over three weeks ago, and the liberation of the Tigray region

Notwithstanding criticisms by some spectators, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was obligated to respond with force to safeguard the sovereignty of Ethiopia, in a similar manner to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s all-out war to preserve the Union.  The nation-state, which Prime Minister Abiy was defending, is not a coalition or association of separate states or semi-autonomous regions.  Rather it is a unique sovereign concept of self-governing that transcends various ethnic or religious beliefs. The nation-state is uniquely required to serve all its citizens and ensure the posterity of its people.  That is why throughout history, bloody wars have been fought to preserve the precious nation-state above all other considerations.  The military conflict was not a civil war, but more precisely, it was a war to preserve the integrity of the Ethiopian nation.

Prime Minister Abiy launched the now victorious military campaign against the leadership of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), not against the people of Tigray. The immediate cause for the government’s offensive was in response  to an early morning attack by the TPLF on November 4, on the Northern Command post of Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) located in Mekelle. This assault, which murdered many soldiers and seized equipment and ammunition, was deemed by the Ethiopian government, as “crossing the red line.” The government was compelled to respond with full force to safe the nation. No nation could continue to exist if it allowed its armed forces to be slaughtered. A six month state of emergency for the Tigray region was declared by the Council of Ministers on November 6. The stated intent of the government is to arrest and bring to justice a small “TPLF criminal clique” that has been funding and mobilizing to destabilize the nation.” (1)

TPLF Rejects Abiy’s Reform

To understand the underlying origin for this conflict requires reviewing the modern history of Ethiopia. In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of forces, overthrew the fascist-Marxist Derg regime and took over control of the government of Ethiopia. For the next twenty-seven years, the TPLF not only governed the northern Tigray region, but as well, exerted unparalleled influence over the central government and the other ethnic regions of the country.

A year after he was selected by the EPRDF to become the new prime minister in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy initiated a democratic-reform process that included replacing the countries narrowly focused ethno-national parties with a new nation-wide Prosperity Party.  Three regional parties that were part of the EPRDF coalition joined the new Prosperity Party as equals, in effect dissolving the EPRDF. However, the TPLF refused to accept losing its dominant political power. It voluntarily declined to join the new party, leaving the TPLF isolated with weakened political power.

 

Ethiopia’s constitution and its federation of a central government coexisting with regional ethnic states was formed as a compromise to various ethnic-nationalities that historically had been marginalized. This dubious arrangement indicates the ethnic pressures prevalent in Ethiopia, which must be overcome to unify the nation.  Consideration should be given to modifying the constitution following next year’s national elections. It is now imperative to reinforce a national Ethiopian identity that transcends ethnic-nationalism. This is what Prime Minister Abiy intended with his reforms and the creation of the non-ethnic Prosperity Party.  (Read: Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity). Confronted by open rebellion from the TPLF leadership, Prime Minister Abiy had no choice but to respond forcefully, otherwise the very existence of Ethiopia would be put in danger.

In harmony with his Medemer philosophy, Prime Minister Abiy proclaimed that all Ethiopians should accept responsibility for their past offenses, and all should be forgiven. He embraced the belief that the slate should be wiped clean of the past, in order for Ethiopian society to unite in a common pursuit of prosperity for all. (2)

Without concern for the future of Ethiopia, the TPLF rejected Prime Minister Abiy’s outlook and proceeded to commence an open rebellion against the Ethiopian nation.

Chair Persons of the eight parties who also represent eight Regions as governing parties worked under the umbrella of the EPRDF coalition signed a document for the establishment of Prosperity Party. Photo Credit OPM

Abiy Acted to Preserve Ethiopia 

Prior to attacking the soldiers of the ENDF in Mekelle, which the TPLF viewed as a foreign army, the TPLF disregarded national election law. After Ethiopia’s elected government-the House of People’s Representatives-postponed national elections in March of this year due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the TPLF conducted its own illegal elections in Tigray in September, violating the nation’s decree.

Prime Minister Abiy charged the TPLF leadership of trying to derail his transition, making the country ungovernable by instigating religious and ethnic conflicts, and inciting violence against the central government in Addis Ababa.

Although, Prime Minister Abiy is an Oromo, and is the first non-Tigrayan to become prime minister since 1991, he is acting in the interest of all Ethiopians, not simply or narrowly on behalf of his ethnic origin. If, Prime Minister Abiy were to allow the TPLF to defy federal law and initiate an armed attack on the defense forces of the federal government without responding as he has, this would encourage other ethno-separatist movements to flout the authority of the nation. Thus, contrary to what people may have wanted to believe, Prime Minister Abiy’s military campaign to subdue the reckless TPLF leadership, was the best way to prevent the conflict from becoming a civil war.

Bronwyn Bruton of the DC based, Atlantic Council Africa Center, argued that intuitive calls for negotiations endangered the future of Ethiopia. In her blog post Ethiopia: Calls for Negotiation Are Driving Ethiopia Deeper Into War, written before the defeat of the TPLF, she wrote:

“The most effective means of discouraging the continuation of this conflict is to finally put pressure on TPLF leaders…to stand down…in the interest of protecting the local population. Abiy urgently needs to be persuaded that he can rely on the international community–and not only his army–to ensure that the TPLF will be prevented from returning to power. Counterintuitively, the fastest way for the international community to do that is to stop calling for negotiations, and to start demanding accountability for the TPLF.

Calling for negotiations, as so many are advocating, will only encourage TPLF leaders to believe that violence will permit them to fight their way to a bigger chair at the table. That is not only a losing strategy in Ethiopia–it sets up an extraordinarily dangerous precedent for the next armed insurgency that wants to challenge central authority.”

Ethiopia, East Africa’s leader in economic development and a key nation providing stability to the Horn of Africa. There are confirmed reports that the TPLF fired missiles across the border into Eretria, and on the Bahir and Gondar airports in Amhara, Ethiopia. Thus, it is clear that the TPLF posed an immediate danger not only to Ethiopia, but to the entire region, and had to be defeated.

President Abraham Lincoln meeting with his generals at Antietam, Maryland. (courtesy history.com)

Lincoln Waged War to Save the Union

U.S. history records a troubled and dangerous time when the Army of the Federal Government came under attack.

Six weeks after Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, and demanded the removal of all federal troops. On December 26, 1860, Major Robert Anderson of the U.S Army in South Carolina, moved his 68 troops into Fort Sumter, an island in the Charleston Harbor. Immediately following his inauguration on March 4, 1861, President Lincoln was confronted with the threat of the dissolution of the United States. South Carolina, one of seven states that formed the Southern Confederacy on February 8, 1861, insisted that the Federal Fort Sumter belonged to them, and commenced a siege around the beleaguered federal troops.  President Lincoln had to make the most momentous decision of his two week old presidency, which he knew would impact the very existence of the United States; whether to send supplies to the troops or relinquish the fort. In the words of author Doris Goodwin:

“He [Lincoln] must make the decision between a surrender that might compromise the honor of the North and tear it apart, or a reinforcement that might carry the country into civil war.” (3)

On April 6, President Lincoln told the governor of South Carolina he would send provisions to the troops-no arms or ammunition. In response, Jefferson Davis, provisional president of the Confederacy, ordered Major Anderson to surrender the fort, which he refused. The Civil War officially began at 4:30 in the morning of April 12, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. President Lincoln rightly considered Fort Sumter as an outpost of the Federal Government, and thus an attack on the fort was an attack on the United States. Within days President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to join the Union Army to defeat the Southern rebellion and secure the very existence of the nation.

In President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, he discussed the reason for the federal government’s war against the rebel South. He remarked that while he was seeking to save the Union without war “insurgents were seeking to destroy it…seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects by negotiation.” The South, he said, “would make war rather than let the nation survive” and the North “would accept war rather than let it perish.”

President Lincoln made clear in this address, and throughout his entire tenure as president, that he would spare no effort, including the tremendous loss of life, to preserve the Union. The Confederacy, supported by the British, intended to abolish the Union, had to be defeated, even at the dreadful price of 750,000 soldiers perishing in combat. Americans and all people of the world should give thanks that President Lincoln was victorious, and that the United States of America survived as a sovereign nation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (left) with former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

No Moral Equivalency

Throughout the entirety of the of the four year long war, President Lincoln would only describe the enemy of the Union as a “Southern Rebellion.” He never recognized the legitimacy of the Confederacy of Southern States, because, to President Lincoln there was only one government representing all of the United States.

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister from 2012-2018, Hailemariam Desalegn espoused a correlated judgement in regard to the TPLF in his argument: Ethiopia’s Government and the TPLF Leadership Are Not Morally Equivalent. On November 24, he admonished the international community’s view of the conflict:

“The key problem…is the assumption of moral equivalence, which leads foreign governments to adopt an attitude of false balance and bothsidesism.” He continued: In the meantime, those who are advocating dialogue with the TPLF leadership should carefully consider the full implications of what they are calling for, as they will open a Pandora’s box that other ethnic-based groupings are ready to emulate. Those calling for talks should understand that the very prospect of negotiating with the TPLF’s current leadership is an error—as matter of both principle and prudence.”

While Prime Minister Abiy was not fighting a civil war, analogous to President Lincoln he was forced to make decisions that would determine the very existence of Ethiopia. Nations must be supported against separatist, ethnic or religious movements that attempt to tear apart the fabric of national sovereignty. All human beings, regardless of where we were born, are united by our universal innate potential of creativity. The power of our creative-soul is what makes us distinctively human, unique from all other species. It is our common heritage.  The nation-state exists to promote the creative potential of all its citizens from the past to the present and into the future.  Thus, its value to civilization is inimitable and must be safeguarded at all costs.

1 Updates on the unfolding developments of Ethiopia, Office of the Prime Minister, November 6, 2020

2 Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

3 Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon and Shuster, New York, 2005

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Transaqua Garners Support From Former Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi.

November 19. 2020

Support for Transaqua, a transformative mega infrastructure water project for Africa, continues to grow as reported below by movisol.org. Transaqua envisions transferring 50-100 billion of cubic meters of water yearly from the super wet Congo River Basin to the arid Lake Chad Basin via a 2,400 kilometer canal. When constructed, Transaqua will create a super economic zone that will affect a dozen African nations. Presently Italy and China are the only two non-African nations supporting Transaqua. The Lake Chad Basin Commission has not yet initiated a process to secure a contract for a feasibility study of Transaqua, despite support for it at an international conference held in Abuja in February 2018. I have campaigned for Transaqua for decades, and personally know that President Muhammadu Buhari is behind this project.  

Former EU Commission President and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi called for a major international effort, involving China, to build the Transaqua infrastructure to replenish Lake Chad. Prodi spoke at the final roundtable of a seminar dedicated to Lake Chad and sponsored by the Turin Center of African Studies Nov. 9-13.

Prodi, who had previously served as UN special envoy for the Sahel and had publicly declared that the Transaqua water-transfer program was too expensive, appears to have changed his mind and dedicated his pre-recorded video intervention entirely to an endorsement of Transaqua as the only solution for Lake Chad, calling for a concerted international effort to build the Italian-born project. Prodi accurately described Transaqua as an integrated water, energy, and transport infrastructure which will take only 5% of the Congo River, building dams on its tributaries and bringing water to Lake Chad through a navigable canal. The only mistake he made was to speak about the Ubangi River, the largest tributary of the Congo, instead of the Ubangi basin, whose water will be collected by Transaqua through the Central African Republic section of the waterway.

Since the political and economic hurdles are big, the international community at the highest level must be involved, Prodi said, calling for the UN, the EU, and the African Union to join forces to finance and build the project. And China: The New Silk Road, Prodi said, has a problem, namely, it has been so far a Chinese project. Let us involve China in something, let us involve China in building Transaqua.

Prodi’s presentation, in Italian with English subtitles took place at the “Water diplomacy and a culture of sustainability. The basin of Lake Chad,” at the can be followed here: Roundtable Discussion on Lake Chad

Andrea Mangano, a veteran of the Bonifica team that developed the original Transaqua idea presents in English, an overview of the Transaqua project and the conditions in the Lake Chad Basin. I urge everyone to watch this video.:

For more on Transaqua, read my earlier postInterview With Lawrence Freeman: The Time is Now For TRANSAQUA-to Save Lake Chad and Transform Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa to Djibouti Railway: A Model for the Role of Infrastructure in Fighting Hunger

Below is a useful article from EIR magazine that correctly emphasizes the role of infrastructure in providing food for Africa. The authors highlight Ethiopia, an East African nation that has aggressively pursed the expansion of infrastructure to advance their economy.

November 16, 2020

Click to access 19-25_4745.pdf