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.

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

 

Ouattara Elected President: Cote d’Ivoire Poised for Progress

Ballot of the four presidential candidates
President Ouattara and wife after voting

Lawrence Freeman

November 12, 2020

On October 31, Alassane Dramane Ouattara was re-elected President of Cote d’Ivoire. The official vote for President Ouattara was 3,031,483, which was 94.5% of total votes cast, with 53.9% of registered voters participating. Observers for both the African Union and Economic Community of West African States validated the legitimacy of the election process. On November 9, he was sworn in for his third term as president of Cote d’Ivoire.

In the days leading up to the election, scores of widely circulated stories, with frightening headlines predicting “chaos, a dangerous election, civil war,” attempted to create the narrative that this election could potentially experience a repeat of the violent conflict that caused thousands of deaths in 2010-2011. This blatantly false storyline, spread by major news outlets in Britain, France, and the U.S., that was intended to create fear and inflame the emotions of the population; never materialized. There were acts of civil disobedience and conflicts in a few outlying districts. However, in Abidjan, the country’s port city, where 20% of the population resides, there was no evidence of any kind of violence and the city remained calm.

I was very pleased to witness hundreds of Ivorians peacefully standing in long lines waiting to vote, in Treichville, a poor section of Abidjan. This was one of the several polling centers I visited. As I walked around several voting locations, I observed a professional orderly voting procedure.

Ivorians at Treichville lining up to vote

Stability for the nation of Cote d’Ivoire following this election is not only important for 25 million Ivorians but is vital for all of West Africa and the Sahel. Cote d’Ivoire’s bordering neighbors, Mali, and Burkina Faso are being destabilized from attacks by violent extremists.

Cote d’Ivoire, a potential economic hub in West Africa, is already exporting energy to several nations in the region and transporting goods from its port via rail to landlocked Niger and Burkina Faso. With the modernized Abidjan port, Cote d’Ivoire offers a vital gateway for development in West Africa.

Respect Cote d’Ivoire’s Sovereignty  

It is universally recognized that President Ouattara, who was president from 2011-2020, created an economic recovery from the previous ten years of 2000-2010. In that period, referred to as the ‘lost decade,” Cote d’Ivoire was governed by President Laurent Gbagbo, and racked by a protracted and bloody civil war.

Originally, President Ouattara announced in March of this year that he would not run for office again. He threw his support behind the then Prime Minister, Gon Coulibaly, who unexpectedly died of a heart attack in July, compelling President Ouattara to reverse his decision.

Ivorians in Abidjan waiting to cast their votes in the presidential election

In an article published on Oct 28, in Modern Ghana, More than meets the eye, Mamadou Haidara, ambassador to the U.S., explains President Ouattara’s reasoning to seek the presidency again:

“This extraordinary circumstance left a major political party with the difficult task of identifying, vetting and putting forward an alternative candidate in a matter of days or weeks — an unrealistic timetable in any country, and especially so in this young and still somewhat fragile democracy…

“Confronted with this unforeseen predicament, President Ouattara’s decision to seek another term in office was the only viable path forward for his party and his country.” 

The nation’s Constitutional Council ruled on September 14, that in accordance with Cote d’Ivoire new constitution of 2016, it was permissible for President Ouattara to seek a third term. United States ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, Richard Bell supporting the nation’s sovereign authority to conduct its election, responded in an interview  published in Fraternite Matin (October 17-18):

“Question: Of the 44 candidates, only 4 were deemed eligible to take part in the election. Do you have a comment on this situation?

Amb Bell: There are a lot of applicants who weren’t successful. I think the Constitutional Council ruled that they did not meet the criteria. In any country, there must be someone who decides. Who says the law in this country? There has to be a clear answer to this question. In Côte d’Ivoire, for questions of this kind, I believe that it is the Constitutional Council which decides. The United States respects the sovereignty of Côte d’Ivoire. I therefore find it hard to see my government contradicting what is said by the highest Ivorian authority.”

A voter registering to vote

 Destabilization Launched

Those seeking to destabilize Cote d’Ivoire, seized the ruling by the Constitutional Council to allow President Ouattara to seek a bid for a third term as a gambit to destabilize the nation.

In addition to the 78 year old President Ouattara, from the Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace party (RHDP), the Constitutional Council approved three other candidates to compete for the office of president.

  • Henri Konan Bedie, Democratic Party of Ivory Coast (PDCI), 86 years old, a former president Cote d’Ivoire from 1993-1999, before he was couped. He initiated ethnic conflicts when he introduced the notion that to be a “true” Ivorian both parents had to be Ivorian.
  • Pascal Affi N’Guessan, Popular Front Party (FPI), 67 years old, a former prime minister from 2000-2003 under President Gbagbo.
  • Kouadio Koana Bertin, running as an Independent, 52 years old, a former youth leader of the PDCI, who competed for president in 2015.

On October 15, candidates Bedie and N’Guessan, fearing they would lose, called on their supporters to boycott the election, in preparation to create the conditions to destabilize Cote d’Ivoire immediately following the vote. This calculated action, a mere 16 days before this critical election, which would impact the nation’s future, was intended to prepare the groundwork for a campaign to “delegitimize” the presidential election. Right on cue, as part of their scheme, Bedie, and N’Guessan, who received .99% and 1.66% of the vote respectively, characterized the election as illegal and illegitimate, as they had planned. The duo then nonsensically called for the creation of a “council of national transition.” In effect, these defeated candidates, who claim to support democracy, are advocating for the disenfranchisement of millions of Ivorians, who endured the heat and long lines to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Democracy at the ballot box

Sedition

N’Gueesan was arrested on November 7, and Bedi is under house arrest for calling for the formation of an unlawful-none-elected government. This may not seem serious to those unfamiliar with Cote d’Ivoire’s history of elections. However, Ivorians memories are deeply scarred from the violence that followed the 2010 presidential election, when President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave the presidential palace after being defeated by President Ouattara. From December 2010 into March 2011, heavy fighting between opposing armies in Abidjan killed three-thousand people and displaced upwards of one million. For a young, emerging nation, recalling the horrors from a decade earlier, the actions of N’Ggueesan and Bedie are threatening to Ivorian society and its elected government.

Joining the opposition coalition that is attempting to overthrow the elected government of Cote d’Ivoire is Guillaume Soro. He served as prime minister under President Gbagbo from 2007 to 2012, and President of the National Assembly from 2012 to 2019, during  Ouattara ‘s presidency. He previously was an ally of President Ouattara and led the rebel forces against then President Gbagbo. It is important to recognize that prior to the election, Soro confirmed the opposition’s game plan, telling Le Monde, a major French newspaper:

“We have succeeded (sic) in discrediting the electoral process and in giving ourselves the means not to recognize Mr. Ouattara as President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire after October 31.”

Soro, who was disqualified from running for president by the Constitutional Council for embezzlement and money laundering, is residing in Belgium after being found guilty in absentia. On November 4, four days after President Ouattara’s victory, Soro called for armed mutiny against President Ouattara. He posted on his face book an appeal for a military coup. He wrote:

Turning now to our security and Defense forces…I’m asking you to disobey illegal orders and join the national transitional council…We cannot out of fear, allow dictatorship in Ivory Coast by Alassane Ouattara.”      

Bedie also failed when he tried to enlist the support of the U.S. to join his effort to subvert the election. On November 2, the U.S. Embassy in Abidjan issued the following statement:

“The United States Ambassador did not meet the candidate Bédié this weekend. The United States respects constitutional order in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, which President Ouattara still leads, and urges all to respect constitutional order and avoid violence.”

Showing international observer proof he voted with blue ink on his finger

 Time to Move Forward

With the election over, now is the time for Cote d’Ivoire to unite around the goals of fulfilling the nation’s potential, industrializing its economy, and providing for the wellbeing of all its people.

President Ouattara, in his acceptance speech on November 9, committed himself to resolving the country’s conflict:

“I would like to reaffirm my availability today, as I did yesterday, for a sincere and constructive dialogue with the opposition, while respecting the constitutional order.

 “I would like to invite my elder, President Henri KONAN BEDIE, President of PDCI-RDA, to a meeting in the next few days for a frank and sincere dialogue in order to restore confidence.

 “I ask all our fellow citizens, in a surge of peace of minds and hearts, to work to maintain and strengthen peace throughout our country. We have so much to do together, to build and consolidate our Nation.

“The time for electoral competition has passed.  Now is the time for action.  And for me, action is the “Côte d’Ivoire Solidaire” Project for which I was elected, and which will accelerate the economic and social transformation of our country, through more inclusive growth.”

President Ouattara’s administration has outlined in its Strategic Plan-2030, a vision for a prosperous and inclusive Cote d’Ivoire. Key goals of this plan include; reducing poverty from 39% to 20%, increasing life expectancy from 57 to 67 years of age, creating 8 million new jobs, and reducing child mortality by 40%.

It is in the interest of all Ivorians to move beyond this contentious election and work together to achieve a stable and blossoming nation. With peace, stability, and the right policies, Cote d’Ivoire, a lovely cultural melting pot of many nationalities, is capable of becoming an engine of growth for West Africa.

(The authored visited Cote d’Ivoire from October 23-Novemebr 3, 2020)

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

 

 

Trump Administration Intervention Against Ethiopia Undermines Africa’s Progress

October9, 2020

While I have rarely, if ever agreed with any position of the {London School of Economics}, or for that matter, the {Washington Post}, and don’t’ support all the content that is contained in the article below, it is undeniably true; President Trump’s cutting aid to Ethiopia is harmful to the Africa continent. There is no justification for supporting a British colonial legacy that denies Ethiopia the right to develop its nation by harnessing the power of the Blue Nile. Ethiopia, with its large population, is aspiring to improve the conditions of life for its people, and eliminate poverty. It is attempting to become a leading manufacturing nation in Africa, which will not be possible without access to electrical power. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), with its capacity to generate, 6,200 megawatts, is potentially not only a “game changer” for Ethiopia, but also for its neighboring nations in the Horn of Africa. Sadly, the Trump administration continues to repeat unfounded allegations against China, which include claims that China has imperialist designs for Africa. And  without a shred of evidence, claiming that China is attempting to trap African nations into unpayable debt so they can seize their assets. Reality is, Africa needs massive investments in infrastructure to industrialize its economies. China is collaborating with African nations to build energy plants, railroads, airports, etc., and the US, under President Trump, has followed the same wrong headed policy of his predecessors, who foolishly repeat the mantra-“the US doesn’t build infrastructure.”

Far better than undermining the progress of Ethiopia, an emerging African nation, President Trump should reverse course and support the development of Africa. It is not too late. Read my earlier post: Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

A conflict is brewing on the Nile — and the Trump administration is making things worse-

Excerpts:

“This summer has seen significant escalation between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the filling of the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the latest front in a longstanding dispute between the countries over rights to the Nile’s water. The United States has tried to play the role of a mediator in such disputes. But in September, the Trump administration announced it would slash Ethiopia’s aid budget by $130 million, intervening in support of Egypt and exacerbating tensions.

“Ever since construction began on the dam in 2011 — and indeed for decades before that — it has been a flash point in the region. The problem is that all parties have a point. The GERD would provide Ethiopia with clean, cheap and abundant energy — a much-needed addition to a country in which 55 percent of people lack electricity and 27 percent live in poverty. Failing to move forward with the dam’s filling would deprive 65 million Ethiopians of substantial energy potential, condemning them to inadequate living standards and sluggish economic prospects.
“Yet to dam a river that provides 90 percent of Egypt’s freshwater will deepen that country’s perilous water crisis. In recent years, Egypt’s persistent water deficit has strained its agricultural industry and upended life in many parts of the country…
“The issue is complex and requires careful mediation, but the Trump administration has taken a different approach. By cutting aid to Ethiopia, Washington appears to be pressuring it to accept Egypt’s demands: to slow the dam’s filling and sign up for deferential water-sharing quotas. In practice, the abrupt move has worsened the dispute — hardening Ethiopia’s resolve, emboldening Egypt’s nationalism and undermining the United States’ own credibility as an international mediator.”

Read: Egypt-Ethiopia Standoff on Nile

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

UN Speech by Ivory Coast President: “Bolder Measures” Needed To Help African Economies Hit by COVID-19

Debate
Other press by DR General debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly by videoconference: Statement by HE Mr. Alassane OUATTARA, Head of State of the Republic of Côte d`Ivoire, September 24, 2020
September 28, 2020
The remarks by President Quattara at the United nations echoed those of other leaders of developing nations. However, we must contemplate taking even bolder action. The present global financial-economic system needs to be restructured.  The Bretton-Woods system as envisioned by President Franklin Roosevelt has been distorted beyond recognition.  The amount of debt and derivatives on the books of the international banking system is suffocating real economic expansion. Yes, we must have a debt moratorium for the duration of the crisis, but we have to do more. We have to construct a New Bretton Woods that will deflate existing unpayable debt and establish  standards for prioritizing the issuance of new credits explicitly for development; in particular infrastructure.  The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore, for all the world to see, the gross failure of the current globalized system. We, humanity, will only progress when we establish a higher platform of economy, one dedicated to the promotion of human life, not the balance sheets of debts. Read: New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

General debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly: Statement by His Excellency Mr. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

Excerpts below:
“Faced with the spread of COVID-19, developing countries, especially African countries, are more severely affected by the economic and social effects of the absence of global initiatives in favor of of their savings. In this context, in my capacity as Champion for the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, I welcome the initiative of the G20 to grant a moratorium on the service of the bilateral public debt for the benefit of several African countries.

“I call on all the continent’s partners to take bolder measures aimed at relieving our economies hard hit by the effects of COVID-19. Africa’s financial needs are estimated at US $ 100 billion per year over three (3) years, or a total of US $ 300 billion. In addition, countries should have budgetary leeway to allow them to pursue the necessary social investments and take into account security needs, especially in countries facing terrorism.

“Finally, the world must hear the Africans’ call for the cancellation of the public debt of their countries. My country supports the African Union’s efforts to collectively renegotiate the continent’s debt with the creditors, and to obtain an extension of the debt moratorium, mentioned above. But we must go further and act without further delay. African countries need lasting solutions, in particular liquidity and investments, in order to withstand the unprecedented shock suffered by our populations and to continue the development process of the continent.

Among these solutions, I recommend recourse to the Special Drawing Rights of the International Monetary Fund; a mechanism that has already proved effective during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.

“The fight against COVID-19 must not overshadow other diseases such as Malaria and AIDS, which claim more victims in African countries. Above all, it must not destroy efforts to fight poverty. In this area, my country has launched vigorous reforms that have reduced poverty by 15.6 percentage points in eight years.
The regional study on poverty by the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the World Bank confirms that Côte d’Ivoire has gone from a poverty rate of 55.01% in 2011. at 39.4% in 2018. It is therefore about 1.6 million Ivorians who were lifted out of poverty during this period.

“Likewise, still according to recent statistics from the World Bank, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of Côte d’Ivoire has more than doubled, from 1120 US dollars in 2011 to 2290 US dollars in 2019. , making Côte d’Ivoire the country with the highest per capita income in the West African sub-region.”

South African Pres. Ramaphosa Calls For End to Poverty and a New Global Deal

UN General Assembly celebrating 75th anniversary virtually - YouTube

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the United Nations calls for the necessity to end poverty in Africa and the need to establish a New Global Deal that provides affordable credit. I fully support these goals. I have advocated for the creation of a New Bretton Woods for decades. Without a new international financial architecture that provides long-term low-interest credit to developing nations for infrastructure, African nations will not be able to fulfill their ambition to end poverty.

Address by President of the Republic of South Africa and African Union Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 75th United Nations General Assembly Debate, September 22, 2020

Excerpts below:

“When the Secretary-General António Guterres delivered the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in July 2020, he called on the nations of the world to forge a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal.

“He said we must create equal opportunities for all, that we must advance a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, that debt architecture must be reformed, and that there should be greater access to affordable credit for developing countries…

“As the African Union we are encouraged by the collaboration of the G20, the IMF, the World Bank and the UN towards finding solutions to debt sustainability in developing countries.

“It is a call we as South Africa wholly endorse.

“This pandemic has highlighted the urgency with which we must strive to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals, but more importantly Goal 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

“For until we eradicate global poverty, we will always fall short of realizing the vision of the founders of the United Nations…

“Together, we must raise our level of ambition to ensure that every man, every woman and every child has an equal chance at a better future.

“It is a future free of hunger, disease, insecurity and war.” (emphassis added)

Read full speech: South Africa Pres Ramaphosa Address to the UN

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

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: “Africa’s Peace and Prosperity Begin at Home”-More is Required

Th AfCFTA is intended to be a new platform for the continent’s economic growth. (courtesy twnafrica.org)

September 14, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed make a strong case for African nations to chart a course to bring prosperity to to the continent. However, much more is needed to plan for the creation of economic growth that Africa requires today and for its future population. Poverty for hundreds of millions of Africans must be eradicated. Over 600 million Africans without access to online electricity must be brought into the “light.” This requires that African leaders, with the African Union and Africa’s true allies should come together and produce a development program. A plan of action for a 5-10-20 year growth policy that must include minimally: electrifying the continent with a thousand gigawatts of electricity; high speed modern trains connecting the major cities and ports; modern all weather highways; creating a healthy manufacturing sector; and a state of the art health infrastructure system. We must think boldly about the the basic requirements needed for all Africans to live meaningful and productive lives.

Excerpt from Prime Minister Abiy

“ADDIS ABABA – Africans must take responsibility for our continent’s affairs. We have all the ingredients we need to succeed, starting with a growing population – including a large and increasingly educated cohort of young people – and a favorable trade and investment environment. And now, determined to usher in an era of African peace and prosperity, we have a mature institutional platform through which to forge, articulate, assert, and defend our common interests under an independent, unified African foreign policy.

“For too long, Africa has been a strategic plaything of world powers. By bolstering its internal cohesion and economic integration, the continent can become a strong geopolitical force with an independent and unified voice on important global issues.

Read Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s essay:  Africa’s Peace and Prosperity Begin at Home

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

Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

Artist rendition of the completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

August 6, 2020

Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

By Lawrence Freeman

President Donald Trump has instructed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to pull back from a commitment to provide $100 million in security related aid to Ethiopia, a leading developing nation on the African continent. According to the New York Times, the State Department indicated this would be a “temporary pause” on some aid in response to “Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill [its] dam before an agreement was reached…” This action by the Trump administration is more than an outrageous encroachment of Ethiopia’s sovereignty. It is an assault on the right of emerging nations to take actions to improve the living conditions of their people.

In response to the decision by the State department, Eyob Tekalign, Ethiopia’s state  finance minister said correctly, “We don’t think that the U.S. has thought this through carefully…We are hopeful that they will reconsider because Ethiopia is doing what is absolutely right and in all senses of the word legally, morally as well.”

The Ethiopian people have funded the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) themselves. This fulfills a bold vision to develop their nation with the 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity that the dam will generate when completed. Ambassador Fitsum Arega aptly expressed the desire of the Ethiopian population, when he tweeted, “we will pull Ethiopia out of the darkness,” which is literally and metaphorically true.

Trump’s Bias

All indications are that President Trump acted on the insistence of Egyptian President el Sisi, who has claimed “historical rights” to the Nile River. In truth he is asserting “colonial rights” to the Nile bestowed on Egypt by the British Crown.

At the end of 2019, at the request of President el Sisi, President Trump instructed Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to act as an independent broker in discussions with Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Over four months, several meetings of the three Nile riparian nations were held in Washington DC discussing the “fill rate” of the GERD. There are legitimate concerns about how much water would be withdrawn annually in the next several years to fill the GERD’s reservoir of 74 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water. Technical issues like the rate of which water should be withdrawn from the Nile to fill the reservoir should be resolved by the three nations with the understanding that a functioning GERD will benefit all the people living in the Horn of Africa.

The heavy rains at the beginning of Ethiopia’s rainy season this summer have already filled the GERD with the required 4.5 bcm of water to test two turbines. This was accomplished without any reduction in the flow of the Nile.

As the tripartite discussions, with the US Treasury and World Bank in attendance continued into February 2020, it became clear that the US was “putting its thumb on the scale” for Egypt, in the words of retired US Ambassador David Shinn. By the end of February, Mnuchin secured an “agreement” regarding the Nile with Egypt, without the participation of Ethiopian representatives.  On February 28, 2020, an official statement from the US Treasury Department praised Egypt’s “readiness to sign the agreement,” and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” For more information read my earlier post: Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam.

Eventually, the unresolved issue of the Nile shifted to the proper venue for African nations to settle disputes, the African Union. The dialogue has continued under the personal supervision of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union.

The GERD is built in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile River, which supplies 85% of the Nile when it joins the White Nile north of Khartoum, Sudan

Bringing Africa Out of Darkness

What President Trump does not understand; is that his “pause” in aid is not only harmful to Ethiopia, but it is detrimental to the entire African continent. Whether he is aware of it or not, is establishing a dangerous precedent in foreign policy, and not just for Africa.

Ethiopia, with a population approaching 110 million, has made a commitment to eradicate poverty. To that end, Ethiopia has embarked on erecting significant infrastructure projects in roads, railroads, and hydro-electric dams. The GERD has the potential to generate over 6,000 MW of power, doubling Ethiopia’s present capacity, and placing Ethiopia only second to South Africa in energy production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Ethiopia would also become an energy exporting nation potentially providing electricity to neighboring South Sudan, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.

The root cause of virtually every crisis that African nations are facing today, including ethnic conflicts, can be traced to underdevelopment. This is especially true when one examines the dearth of hard infrastructure in SSA with a population nearing 1.5 billion that is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Electricity for SSA is estimated between 100,000-130,000 MW. This level of output is criminally deficient for a population over 1 billion, with 600 million Africans having no access to online electricity. The lack of electricity is literally a death sentence for millions of Africans.  Is this not a form of genocide?

Without abundant and accessible electricity Africa will not progress at the level necessary to provide for its present, much less its expanding population. Energy is the sine qua non for economic growth, and to eradicate poverty. It is required for; agriculture, producing fertilizer, pumping water, cleaning water, transportation, lighting hospitals, vaccine production and storage, shipping food in refrigerated cars, powering industry, constructing and lighting modern homes, schools and libraries. For Africans to enjoy the same access to electricity 24×7, as we experience in modern nations, Africa needs a minimum of 1,000 gigawatts or 1 million megawatts of electricity.

Does anyone in the Trump administration, or any individual in the leadership of the Democratic Party think on this level?

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act-TVA on May 18, 1933. (courtesy inthesetimes.com)

What Roosevelt Would Do?

Rather than being threatened with cuts in aid, Ethiopia should be supported in its bold efforts to build and operate the GERD. A thoughtful US policy would be assisting all African nations in addressing the enormous multi-trillion dollar infrastructure deficit, with long term-low interest loans to finance massive investments in life saving infrastructure. Instead of President Trump and his foolish advisors hurling geo-political condemnations against China, it would be far better for the US to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is building vitally necessary infrastructure in Africa and around the world.

Both the Democratic and Republican Party, including President Trump himself, from time to time utter fond references of President Franklin Roosevelt. However, I have found that no leader in either party has any comprehension of the genius of President Roosevelt’s economic policies. FDR as he is known, understood the importance of infrastructure. This was abundantly evident in his New Deal, his creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and his Good Neighbor policy. During the war he sternly reprimanded Winston Churchill for his Imperial-Colonial policies in Africa. President Roosevelt intended to end the British Empire’s political and financial control in the world. He had a vision to develop Africa, including greening the desert, with the same methods he had successfully implemented in the US: great infrastructure projects. I can assure you, that President Roosevelt would have championed and aided any developing nation that embarked on energy production.

Sadly, in the seventy-five years following the death of President Roosevelt, the only President, who had shown enthusiasm for the economic development of Africa, was John F Kennedy.

Let the Trump administration pause to rethink this wrongheaded policy that not only violates Ethiopia’s sovereignty, but undermines a strong US ally in East Africa. Let us recognize Ethiopia’s endeavors to improve the living conditions of its citizens, and pause again to ask, how would President Franklin Roosevelt respond.  His TVA harnessed the power of the mighty Tennessee River generating electricity to transform the lives of millions of poverty stricken Americans living in seven undeveloped southern States.  Is it not in the strategic interest of the US to support nations working to eliminate poverty in Africa using Rooseveltian methods?

Read: Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

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

Mali’s Future Depends on Development of the Sahel

The northern two-thirds of Mali is in the desert. It is completely underdeveloped, and it is in this desolate region that the violent extremists are based

August 4, 2020

The letter below was sent on September 1, 2020 to the Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State. The letter does not express my full thoughts about what precipitated the coup and the polices necessary to ensure future of Mali. However, as a long standing member of the Mali Affinity Group, and fierce defender of Mali’s sovereignty, I support much of letter’s content.

A Way Forward for Mali

Background

After several months of daily massive anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Mali’s capital city, Bamako, the Malian military intervened during the week of August 17 to remove President Keita and his government. While there appears to be broad and intense popular support for the military’s move, it violates the constitution and international law. In response, the West African community (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the United States, and the European Union condemned the military’s actions and it triggered the suspension of economic and military assistance from donor governments, as well as from the international financial institutions. While in the custody of the military, President Keita tendered his resignation, and has been allowed to return to his personal residence.

The ECOWAS mediator delegation, headed by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, had been working to end Mali’s internal political crisis for several weeks before the military takeover. This delegation is continuing to speak to the leaders of the military takeover, and to the different political factions, with the objective of returning the nation to civilian rule as soon as possible, through a brief transition, and new democratic elections.

The leaders of the military takeover are talking about a three year transition, revealing their total distrust of the Malian political elites. Such a long period of military rule is clearly unacceptable for a number of reasons, including the temptation to institute permanent military rule, as in the corrupt military dictatorship of General Moussa Traore, 1968-1991.

Here is what we recommend for U.S. policy toward the Republic of Mali at this time.

Recommendations

  • Continue to recognize and support the ECOWAS mediating mission as the lead international group to assist the Malians to establish an expeditious return to
    democratic government.
  •  Engage all stakeholders to implement the terms of the Algiers Accords without delay.
  • Through the U.S. Embassy Defense Attaché, encourage the Malian military commanders to immediately bring in civilian political persons to share planning and
    implementation of the transition. (N.B. The head of the military takeover group is Colonel Assimi Goita, who trained in the United States with American Special
    Forces.)
  •  Encourage a mixed civilian and military transition of no more than one year, followed by the organization of elections. The process should include civilian political
    leaders who are domestically or international known and respected for their democratic commitment to good governance, transparency, and free and fair elections
  • Provide assistance to American democracy institutions such as IRI and NDI to immediately send personnel to Mali to assist in the preparation of free and fair elections and reforms, and engage with civil society to address grievances around the political process with a special focus on combating corruption.
  • Inform the Malian takeover military leadership that economic and military assistance will be restored as soon as it is clear that the government is under civilian  control, and that preparations for elections are well advanced.
  • Consult closely with the French Foreign Ministry, and the French military to encourage continued support in the fight against “jihadist” terrorists in the north of Mali.
  • Begin to plan significant economic development projects for the north in order to deal with the socioeconomic causes of the insurgency.

_________________________________________________________________________________

In my brief interview below with CGTN, I discuss the effects on Mali of the the Western organized regime change against Muammar al Gaddafi in October 2011. The 2012 coup in Mali as well as the recent coup, have as their immediate cause, the destruction of Libya led by President Obama and his immediate circle of advisors. However, it is the failure over decades to develop the Sahel with basic infrastructure in rail, roads, water, and electricity that has systematically affected the Sahel, creating the conditions for the growth of violent extremism. The imposed underdevelopment of the African continent is the underlying cause for the majority of political and economic hardships that plague Africa today. 

Watch my interview below that begins at 11 minutes 40 seconds and ends at 14 minutes.   

 

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

Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Artist drawing of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

 

Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

Lawrence Freeman

July 17, 2020

Ethiopia is entering a crucial period for the future of its nation, as we approach the second half of July. Ethiopia must use the forthcoming rainy season (July to September) to begin the partial filling of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) being built on Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River. When fully completed, the GERD, Africa’s largest hydroelectric project is capable of producing over 6,000 megawatts (MW). This is not only a game changer for Ethiopia, but will contribute to transforming the Horn of Africa.

The Blue Nile, which joins the White Nile just north of Khartoum, Sudan, provides 86% of the water that becomes the Nile River. From there, the Nile flows north through the deserts of Sudan and Egypt before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  Ethiopia has been involved in intense discussions with Sudan and Egypt, downstream from the dam, about the amount of water to be withdrawn from the Blue Nile to begin filling the GERD’s 76 billion cubic meter storage/reservoir. Egypt continuously attempts to forestall the filling of the dam, alleging that since it is dependent on the Nile, if the volume of the Nile is reduced, its citizens will suffer irreparable harm. For most of the last century Egypt has received the majority of the Nile River’s 84 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water.

Electricity for Development

The GERD, which is 75% finished was entirely funded by the Ethiopian people, is a $5 billion water infrastructure project initiated in 2011. Its purpose is to provide much needed electricity to power Ethiopia’s transition from an agrarian dominated economy to one that encompasses manufacturing and industry. In the years ahead, Ethiopia envisions become a light manufacturing hub for Africa, increasing manufacturing output, and manufacturing jobs by 440%.

The functioning of the GERD is not an option for this emerging nation of 110 million people, but a categorical necessity.

As a physical economist, who has studied Africa for decades, and knows the key drivers of economic growth, I can tell you that nothing is more vital for the survival of Africa, than the production of electricity.  Without abundant and accessible electricity, poverty and disease will not be eliminated. Poverty is the number one enemy of Africa and is the cause of immense suffering for hundreds of millions of Africans.

Approximately 600 million Africans, almost half of the continent’s population, are not connected to a central energy grid. The overwhelming majority of them reside in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). More than 65 million Ethiopians, 40-45% of the population, do not have access to electricity. While Ethiopia suffers from one of the lowest per capita levels of electrical energy consumption, Egypt’s population of 100 million has 100% access.

When completed, the GERD will increase Ethiopia’s power generation from its current level of 4,500 MW to close to 11,000 MW, which will make it the second largest energy producer in SAA, behind South Africa. Ethiopia has already entered into agreements to export its excess electricity to other nations in East Africa.

“The Ethiopians officials have announced an annual investment of one billion dollars over the next decade in the development of specialized industrial parks.” (Courtesy Medafricatimes.com)

Ethiopia’s commitment to construct the GERD resonates with the same vision that compelled the nation to build the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti rail line; to expand their economy, eliminate poverty, and provide a meaningful future for their expanding young population.

While Ethiopia is blessed with several water systems, the Blue Nile provides between 70% of its surface water. Ethiopia suffers from water shortages, droughts, and food insecurity due to inadequate infrastructure and under development.

It is true that Egypt has one of the lowest water per capita consumption rates in the world at 570 cubic meters per year, well below the global average of 1,000. Ethiopia’s amount is a mere 125 cubic meters per capita, barely more than 20% of Egypt’s level.

However, the Ethiopia government has plainly stated that the intention of the GERD is not to provide water for irrigation or consumption. The motivation and sacrifice of the Ethiopian people in undertaking this mega infrastructure project is to provide electrical power for the purpose of developing their nation. Ethiopia intends on becoming a low-middle income nation. It can no longer allow its people to be without electricity, relegated to burning wood. Improving the lives of their citizens today and future generations is the objective of an operational GERD.

Blue Nile joins White Nile in Khartoum, Sudan

 

Sovereignty Versus Colonialism  

The Blue Nile descends from Lake Tana, deep inside Ethiopia’s mountains, traveling through Ethiopia before entering Sudan. The GERD will capture Blue Nile waters about 40 meters before the Sudanese border. Ethiopia intends to fill the dam’s reservoir with 14.5 bcm of water over the first two years for testing. The withdrawing of this amount from the Blue Nile’s 49 bcm will not adversely affect downstream nations (Sudan, Egypt). In fact, the GERD will benefit these nations by regulating the flow of the Nile, preventing flooding, reducing silt, and decreasing evaporation.

Ethiopia has the wonderful distinction in Africa of having never been colonized. Unlike my beloved American July 4th, celebrating our independence from the British Empire, Ethiopia has no Independence Day. Instead, Ethiopia celebrates Adwa Day, March 1, 1896, when they defeated the Italian army on the battlefield in northern Ethiopia. Yet Ethiopia is fighting the remnants of British colonialism today in its determination to generate energy to free its people from the bondage of poverty.

Contrary to Egyptian claims, the negotiations between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan are not about water sharing or water allocation. There have been two water allocation agreements regarding the Nile waters, that involved only Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia was not a signatory nor participants to either accord, yet Egypt asserts historical rights over the Nile River, including Ethiopia’s Blue Nile. The most recent such agreement was in 1959, three years after Sudan’s independence from Britain, which recodified the 1929 British Imperialist agreement guaranteeing 55 bcm of Nile waters to Egypt and 18.5 bcm to Sudan. At the time of the 1929 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, both Egypt and Sudan were colonies of Great Britain as stipulated by the 1899 Anglo-Egyptian Condominium.  This treaty also “granted Egypt veto power over construction projects on the Nile or any of its tributaries in an effort to minimize any interference with the flow of water into the Nile.”

To maintain geo-political domination and control of trade along the eastern spine of Africa, Britain maintained authority over the Nile waters from Cairo down to Khartoum and beyond into southern Sudan.

Ethiopia, an independent nation was not subject to Britain’s edicts and retained sovereignty over the Blue Nile.

Thus, from whence does Egypt’s historical claim to dominance of the Nile originate.

In a statement signed by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, sent to the Honorable Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair of the Black Caucus, dated May 19, 2020, Rev. Jackson reveals that Egypt’s “historical rights” over the Nile are derived from the British Queen.

He cites a letter dated May 7, 1929, from Mahmoud Pasha, Chairman of the Egyptian Council of Ministers, to the British requesting affirmation of Egypt’s “natural and historical” rights to the waters of the Nile. Lord Lloyd, Britain’s High Commissioner in Cairo, responded on behalf of the Queen:

“I would like to remind your Excellency [Mahmoud Pasha] that her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom has already recognized the natural and historical rights of Egypt to the waters of the Nile. I am entrusted with the responsibility of declaring that Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom considers the observance of these rights as a fundamental principle of the policy of Great Britain.” 

Rev. Jackson stresses in his letter, that Ethiopia should not be pressured “into signing a neo-colonial agreement will make Egypt a hegemon over the Nile River.”

U.S. Gets Involved

In September, Egyptian President Al-Sisi requested U.S. assistance in negotiating the operation of the GERD. President Trump asked Treasury Department to host a series of meetings in Washington DC, beginning in November 2019. Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt attended along with a representative of the World Bank, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, to act as an impartial observer, not a mediator. Ethiopia compromised by indicating they would extend the filling beyond 3 years, to 5-7 years and increased the amount of water to be released from 35 bcm to 40 bcm in seasons of healthy rain. With the negotiations failing to lead to a resolution, Ethiopia requested to postpone the February 27-28 meeting. The meeting proceeded without Ethiopia. Sudan and Egypt attending, but Egypt alone initialed an agreement prepared without Ethiopia’s input, which the Ethiopia Foreign Ministry characterized as “unacceptable and highly partisan.”

On February 28, 2020, an official statement from the US Treasury Department praised Egypt’s “readiness to sign the agreement,” and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” The next day, Ambassador Shinn (ret), former ambassador to Ethiopia, whose has spent decades in the State Department, questioned whether the U.S. was “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.”

In a June 22, 2020 bipartisan letter addressed to Ambassador David Hale, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, seven former Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs, asked the U.S. to embrace neutrality regarding the GERD talks. They wrote:

“The U.S. position at this sensitive juncture will also have long term implications. It will either strengthen or seriously weaken our future relations with Ethiopia. While there is no question that resolution of the Nile issue will require flexibility and compromise on all sides, it is not politically viable for Prime Minister Abiy (or any Ethiopian politician) to indefinitely delay filling the GERD. However, the perception—rightly or wrongly—that the United States has sided with Egypt in the negotiations will limit our ability to support efforts aimed at reaching a settlement.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chair of the African Union convening the teleconference on the GERD

 Discussions Move to Africa

Egypt, not satisfied with the negotiating process, attempted to involve the United Nations in forcing an agreement on Ethiopia that violated its sovereignty over the GERD. On June 29, 2020, Egypt with the support of the U.S. brought the matter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC is not the normal forum to settle such matters, but Egyptians were hoping to mobilize international pressure against Ethiopia. The UNSC has instead preferred to have the African Union (AU) resolve the issue of Ethiopia’s right to operate the GERD. On the previous Friday, June 26, the Extraordinary African Union Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government conducted a video-teleconference meeting on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat noted that more than 90% of the issues between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan had been resolved.

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the AU is committed to have “an African led process in the spirit of African solutions to African problems.”

In a June 23rd statement, the U.S. Congressional Caucus emphasized the pivotal role of the AU in these tripartite negotiations. They went on to discuss the importance of the GERD for Africa.

The GERD project will have a positive impact on all countries involved and help combat food security and lack of electricity and power, supply more fresh water to more people, and stabilize and grow the economies of the region.”

The Conference of Black Mayors, in a June 29th statement, expressed their support for the filling of the GERD

“Today, on behalf of global leaders throughout the African diaspora that hold the office of mayor, the Conference of Black Mayors released the following statement in support of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the impact GERD would have on Conference of Black Mayors member cities…

“It is known that Ethiopia generates 86% of the Nile waters but has been unable to use this considerable natural resource effectively in the past. Now, following more than a decade of impressive economic growth, Ethiopia desires to utilize its naturally endowed resource for its nation’s critical growth and development. Countries throughout Africa are in dire need of electric power to enable and sustain their respective nations rise out of poverty. The creation of a sustainable energy source will create a national infrastructure that directly contributes to the wellbeing of citizens our mayors represents through our global mayors’ association…

“We strongly support a timely fill of the dam without further delays to avoid the economic impact on Ethiopia and neighboring countries.”

 Ethiopia is desirous to cooperate with downstream nations, but it will not have its sovereignty violated by having the operation of the GERD jointly managed or contingent on the requirements of water for Egypt’s downstream High Aswan Dam.

Ethiopia should and will begin filling the GERD. It would be irresponsible not to use this year’s rainy season to begin filling the reservoir, with the dam already 75% constructed. Ethiopia’s leadership will not disappoint the aspirations of the Ethiopian people, who view the GERD as emblematic of their national identity, and a critical vehicle to raise their standard of living and secure a more prosperous future for their posterity.

Ethiopia’s use of the word Renaissance in describing its new dam is not metaphorical. When fully functional, the GERD will lead to a rejuvenation of Ethiopia’s economy and that of its neighboring nations.

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