China’s experience: Helping transform an African desert into a garden

William Jones

Editor’s noteWilliam Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

With the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Italy, there will no doubt be some discussion of cooperation between the two nations on the African continent. For Italy, helping to resolve the dire economic situation in Africa is both a humanitarian and an economic concern. The devastated economy in many African countries is bringing more and more refugees to Italy’s shore, and the burden is taking its toll on the Italian economy. For China, Africa has always been a particular concern having shared in the condition of underdevelopment for so many years. Even when both were clearly developing countries, China offered its assistance to its African brothers.

One of the most significant projects in that regard is the Transaqua project. This project would take some of the water from the Congo River, a river with the greatest flow of water in the world, and through a series of canals to the Chari River which flows into Lake Chad, a lake whose surface has been dramatically reduced from 25,000 km2  in 1960 to 1,500 km2 today.

The water transfer project would help revive the lake, and with the construction of dams and power plants along the canal, would help to bring development to the region, directly affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa and Nigeria, through which it would pass. In addition, it would also bring economic benefits to Niger, Cameron, Chad and Congo Brazzaville as well.

People crowd the oceanfront area along the Galle Face green in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 20, 2018. /VCG Photo
The Italian engineering company, Bonifica SpA has been instrumental in working out the plans for this project and is fully committed to it. In 2017 Bonifica and Powerchina entered an agreement for the joint development of the project. China, with its own extensive south-to-north water diversion project, possesses a good deal of expertise in dealing with such a project. Such collaboration also fits in nicely with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has received strong support from the Italian government. The Transaqua project developed by Bonifica has in part been developed by PowerChina.

Representatives from both Bonifica and PowerChina were invited in 2018 as speakers at the International Conference on Lake Chad, in Abuja, sponsored by the Government of Nigeria. The final declaration of the conference stated that Lake Chad needs to be saved and that its current situation demands immediate action. The Italian government at the time pledged 1.5 million Euros (1.7 million U.S. dollars) to start the Transaqua feasibility study.

The expansion of the BRI to Africa has kindled new hope in a continent that had virtually been abandoned by the West in terms of large development projects. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway, the Nigerian coastal railway, the Chad-Sudan railway, the Port Sudan-Khartoum railway have already provided the template for industrializing the entire African continent.

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer attends the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in Oslo, Norway, February 24, 2017. /VCG Photo
While China has been ground-breaking in returning to the long-awaited – and much-delayed – project of African industrialization, the enormity of the project is of such a magnitude, that China alone cannot do it.  But the BRI opens the possibility of working together with other Western nations in realizing this goal. And the cooperation with Italy on the Lake Chad project can serve as a paradigm for how the BRI must work.

While some Western nations are trying to depict the BRI as a geopolitical “ploy” by China, anyone looking at the effect of the project on the recipient countries will see the falsehood of these claims. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.” And to the extent that countries overcome their fears and begin to work with the BRI and contribute their strength to developing other countries, they will better understand the importance of the project and its more profound implications for global development.

China has made great gains in reversing the effects of desertification by means of their water diversion projects, their reforestation efforts and their irrigation projects. If some of this know-how were to be applied in Africa, it would help turn the devastated Sahel region into a veritable garden, which it once was. And the lessons learned can be used on a broader scale to change the nature of life on this planet – for all its people.

*Lawrence Freeman has been an advocate of the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project for over two decades. I am the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

New Course on African History: The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa

I will be teaching this course in the Fall at the Community College Baltimore County, and Frederick Community College, Maryland, USA

The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa

New! The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa
7 sessions, 14 hours

Africa is the poorest continent with hundreds of millions of people living on $2 per day. African nations have the greatest deficit in basic infrastructure like roads, rail, and energy. It’s the only continent where cholera is endemic. African nations are also spending billions of dollars importing food when they have an abundant amount of fertile land. Learn about the causes for Africa’s current condition due to it’s unique history of slavery and colonialism. With the recent China-Africa Summit-(FOCAC) in Beijing, one should be optimistic that economic conditions on the continent are changing for the better

Instructor: Lawrence Freeman has been involved in Africa for almost 25 years and has made over two dozen visits to the nations of Sudan, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, and Ethiopia. He has studied the history and political economy of several Africa nations. Lawrence has attended weekly seminars and forums on Africa in Washington DC including Congressional hearings on Africa. As a result, Lawrence has attained an in-depth knowledge of both historical and current developments of Africa. He has written dozens of articles analyzing the political economies of Africa nations including Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He specializes in promoting policies for physical economic development, and has presented his ideas to government and non-government circles alike in both Africa and the United States. Lawrence is the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and played a prominent role in the International Conference to Save Lake Chad in Abuja, Nigeria from Feb 26-28, 2018. He is promoting the Transaqua water project to recharge the shrinking Lake Chad

LR565 The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa
5-Digit  Number: 16290
Tue, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., 11/6 – 12/18 Location:  Conference Center/E-106
Tuition: $50.00          Fee: $114.00     Total: $164.00
MD residents age 60+ pay fee only

President of Ghana Speaks out for Strong Independent Africa

Speaking at the Presidential Palace of Ghana on December 4, 2017 with French President Macron, Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo spoke eloquently of the need for Africa to be self-sustaining and independent. Emphasizing that when African nations became developed their people would have no need to migrate to Europe. To watch his speech click: Speech by the President of Ghana

Through Science, Africa’s Challenges Will Be Met

December 10, 2017)–South Africa’s Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor told the third Science Forum in Pretoria on Dec. 7, that “it is through science that many of the challenges faced by our communities can be addressed.” A primary objective of the two-day forum, she said, is “to put science in the service of African society.” She stressed the importance of international collaboration, welcoming delegates from around the world to Africa’s largest “open science” event. Pan-African cooperation, in particular, is a hallmark of all of South Africa’s science and technology programs.

The purpose of the forum was to discuss the role of science in society. She said that one objective of the forum was to “showcase African science and technology to the world. We want to change the way they talk about us.” Pandor is dedicated to promoting African breakthroughs in science, which will change the way Africa has historically been viewed, and will help eliminate the “Afro-pessimism” on the continent itself.

China Extends Loan and Grant Facilities in Zimbabwe

December 7, 2017 — In a show of confidence in the new situation in Zimbabwe, China has extended a loan and grants for key development projects. They include a concessionary loan for the upgrade of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, and grants for the construction of the new Parliament Building and for the High Performance Computing Center being constructed at the University of Zimbabwe for a total of $213 million.

The loan and grants will be administered through the Export-Import Bank of China. Zimbabwe’s Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping signed the deal in Harare yesterday on behalf of the two governments.

The $153 million loan carries a concessionary 2% interest rate and is payable over 20 years with a seven-year grace period. The expansion of the airport aims to double the airport’s capacity from the current 2.5 million passengers per year to 6 million. “The government of the People’s Republic of China also gave support to the people of Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle,” said Minister Chinamasa.

“China is the only source of infrastructure financing. If you look at Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, their source of funding is China. We look forward to China and we have a lot to know from them. They are second largest economy after United States of America,” Chinamasa said. He described that the support springs from the state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Dec. 1, 2015, when he pledged to support the construction of the new Parliament building, and that more deals with China were in the offing, according to the Harare {Herald}.

For his part Ambassador Huang said: “The Chinese government will continue to support the Zimbabwean government and people in their economic revival and social development. The agreement we have signed today is just a testimony of our efforts and our true friendship that withstands the test of time.” He said China was pleased to be lending financial support to Zimbabwe at “this new juncture of Zimbabwe’s social and economic development.” Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has committed his government to correcting the policy inconsistencies that have prevented the Chinese from expanding their investments in the country, especially in infrastructure.

Nacala Corridor Project Receives $300 Million from the African Development Bank

“The African Development Bank (AfDB) and other participating co-lenders have signed agreements for the financing of the Nacala Corridor project. This is an integrated and transformative infrastructure project which consists of a 912 km railway and a port meant to unlock the Western region of Mozambique and landlocked Malawi. The total project cost is estimated at $5 billion,” the AfDB website reported. “The project has received further financial backing from the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation, Nippon Export and Investment Insurance and the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa, for an overall package of $2.7 billion in loans,” Infrastructure News website reported on Dec 5.

Upon completion, the Nacala Corridor project will fulfill West Mozambique and Malawi’s dream to connect by rail to the sea, for a cheaper way of transporting goods. Parts of yhis project have been completed, and last August, the inauguration of the Kachasu Nkaya railway section of the project has now linked Malawi to the Indian Ocean by rail. Last May, {Railway Gazette} had reported Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi inaugurating the deepwater port of Nacala-a-Velha.

This is the starting point to develop a 912 km “integrated logistics corridor” by rail, serving northern Mozambique, southern Malawi and the Moatize coalfield.According to AfDB, “the project is expected to have a catalytic effect in the region and create economic benefits for the various stakeholders, including sponsors, governments and the local population. It will enable a significant reduction in transportation costs and increase coal export volumes. Furthermore, additional capacity created in general along the corridor is expected to contribute to creating economic opportunities in the local economy, notably by increasing agricultural trade in the region.”

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