Africa Update: African Union Discusses DRC’s Grand Inga. African Bankers Reject ‘Noise’ On Chinese Debt

August 3, 2019

African Union Meeting Revives Grand Inga Dam Project in Congo

The six-phase Grand Inga Dam Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) has shown signs of coming back to life when the project was discussed at the African Union Extraordinary Summit meeting held Niamey, Niger July 4-7,

{Construction Review Online} reported July 31. On Congo River, two other dams, Inga-I and Inga-II had long been completed, generating about 1800 MW peak power. Inga-III, whose construction had fallen through for a number of reasons, is projected to create nearly 5,000 MW of power. Grand Inga is a considerably ambitious project. With 52 turbines, it would dam the entire river and flood 22,000 hectares of the Bundi valley, which is home to as many as 30,000 people. Five additional hydropower stations would considerably increase the generating potential of the falls. Once these additional hydropower stations were brought online at the dam site, the  whole project would dwarf any other hydropower facility worldwide. The Inga project is estimated to produce 40,000 MW. This is enough to provide power to nearly half of the continent, reported {Construction Review Online}.

D.R. Congo, in Central Africa, where the total electrical power installation is close to 15,000 MW.  Central Africa constitutes of ten countries: Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville), D.R. Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Rwanda. Most of Central Africa’s power is generated from hydro.

African Bankers Reject “Noise” on Chinese Debt–We Have To Borrow for Development!

John Rawangombwa, chairman of the African Association of Central Banks, whose annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda ended Aug. 1, told Xinhua that “the noise around the Chinese debt to African countries”–this was the subject of a presentation at the gathering–was “unfounded.” Chinese debt, as a percentage of total African debt, is not a problem, he said.

Rawangombwa pointed out that borrowing is good, and borrowing outside the country is acceptable, although internal borrowing would be preferable to reduce foreign exchange risk.

The reality, however, he stated, is that Africa faces a financing gap; so, nations must improve their debt management capacity, and borrow for the right purposes, an build up their capital markets.

He emphasized that countries must ensure that they invest in the right projects, that generate foreign exchange in order to be able to repay their debt. He also said that the fact that Africa’s debt has increased is not unique to Africa. Rather, it is a global phenomenon, that requires global management, Xinhua reported

Ebola Crisis: How Many Africans Must Die Before the World Acts?

FILE – In this Sunday, Sept 9, 2018 file photo, a health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague after working at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, eastern Congo. Top Red Cross official Emanuele Capobianco said Friday April 12, 2019, that he’s “more concerned than I have ever been” about the possible regional spread of the Ebola virus in Congo after a recent spike in cases. (AP Photo/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro, File)

Today is the one-year anniversary second eruption of Ebola in sub-Saharan Africa in five years. On August 1, 2018, an outbreak of Ebola was declared in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), when four cases of Ebola in town of Mangina were verified. After 426 cases of Ebola were confirmed, the World Health Organization-(WHO) on November 29, declared this to be the second largest outbreak of Ebola in history. The largest outbreak was from 2014-2016 in West Africa that caused 11,310 deaths.  By May 3, of this year over 1,000 human beings had perished from Ebola. As of June 4, the number of cases exceeded 2,000. Yet, it wasn’t until July 17, 2019, after more than 1600 people had died from this deadly disease that the WHO declared a “public health emergency of international concern”. This declaration by the WHO is far short of what is required to combat this killer disease. To date, there are 2,593 infected with Ebola and more than 1,770 have died, according to the The New Humanitarian on line journal.

The fear of Ebola spreading to the city of Goma, a transportation center with a population of 2 million, bordering Rwanda, was realized on July 14, with Goma’s first confirmed case. July 30, health officials confirmed a second case, unrelated to the first. However, on August 1, two additional cases were discovered, of relatives to the second deceased, thus establishing the transmission of Ebola in Goma itself, as reported by AP. Thursday, BBC News reported that the border between Goma and its neighbor Rwandan city, Gisenyi, was closed in response.  On June 11, Uganda reported the first of two deaths cause by Ebola.

The WHO should declare a full international health emergency, not “a matter of concern.” Although the WHO does not have the resources to fully combat this latest outbreak of Ebola, such a declaration would sound the alarm. This could mobilize international institutions like the World Bank, United Nations et al, along with forcing western nations to act.  However, for such an emergency declaration to be issued more Africans must die to meet the criteria of at least 20 deaths in several countries. For now, the world is watching, as Ebola murders more and more Africans. The government of the DRC should also be making appeals to the rest of the world, including Russia and China, who have indicated their willingness to help, if approached officially by the DRC.  A full scale emergency mobilization could potentially provide the impetus to expand the healthcare capacity of sub-Saharan Africa, which is urgently needed.

There is no time to waste. The population of the DRC exceeds 70 million, and it has one of the weakest infrastructure systems in the world. Is Africa, and the rest of the world willing to gamble with thousands, if not tens of thousands or more, lives?

The article below, by Debra Freeman, a public health specialist, provides a good overview of the Ebola crisis. She concludes:

“…stopping this latest outbreak and others like it requires more than vaccines and short-term measures…eradicating the threat of this most deadly of viruses, and others that may emerge in Africa, requires nothing less than an international crash-program mobilization to provide adequate economic conditions (sanitation, water, power, housing) along with the development and implementation of a first-class public health system.”

Read entire articleEbola: World Health Emergency

 

 

Historic Italian-Chinese Agreement on Lake Chad

 Lawrence Freeman

August 8, 2017

      Backed by their respective governments, the Italian engineering firm Bonifica Spa and the ChinaPower, one of China’s biggest multinationals, signed a letter of intent for cooperation in exploring the feasibility, and eventually implement the construction of the largest infrastructure ever envisioned for Africa, the integrated water-transfer, energy and transportation infrastructure called Transaqua.

     The letter was signed during a meeting between the executive leaders of the two companies in Hangzhou on June 6-8, in the presence of the Italian ambassador to China, but it was made known only at the beginning of August.

 

Fisherman on Lake Chad

 

The author travelling on Lake Chad with Mohammed Billa of the LCBC

          Transaqua is an idea developed by Bonifica in the 1970s, to build a 2,400 km-long canal from the southern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.) which would intercept the right bank tributaries of the Congo River through dams and reservoirs, and carry up to 100 billion cubic meters of water per year, by gravity, to Lake Chad, in order to refill the shrinking Lake Chad, and in addition produce electricity and abundant water for irrigation. The canal would be a key transportation infrastructure for central Africa.

          In past decades, the situation around Lake Chad has become more and more explosive and urgent. While the drying out of the lake has forced a mass emigration to Europe, the impoverishment of the region has become a fertile ground for recruiting terrorists to Boko Haram. Although Transaqua offered a solution to all those problems, Western nations and institutions had so far refused to accept it, on financial and ideological pretexts.

          This project can now become reality in the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. This author along with other advocates made it possible for Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), under Nigerian leadership, and the Transaqua authors from Bonifica to come together, and agreed that Transaqua is the most comprehensive and realistic solution to preventing Lake Chad from completely disappearing, and reversing the abject poverty in the Lake Chad Basin. In December 2016, the LCBC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with PowerChina, and eventually organized contact between the Italian and the Chinese companies.

          Speaking about the 2016 MOU to the {Nigeria Tribune} July 25, Nigerian Water Minister, Suleiman Adamu, noted that PowerChina is responsible for the inter-basin transfer. “China is doing exactly the same thing, they are transferring water from southern China to northern China. Just like Nigeria, southern China has more water than the north. In the northern part, some areas are semi-arid, so they are transferring water. The total canal that they built is about 2,500 kilometers, and that is Phase 1.”

          The Executive Secretary of the LCBC, Eng. Abdullahi Sanusi, expressed his confidence that the new cooperation will succeed “to be part of good history, to bring hope to the voiceless.”

          Lake Chad, a mega lake in prehistoric times, stabilized at 25,000 square kilometers in 1963. Since then it has contracted to as little as 2,000 square kilometers, and recently may have expanded up to as much as 4,000 square miles. Over 40 million Africans, the plurality Nigerians live in the Lake Chad Basin-(LCB) that has a drainage area of 2,439,000 square kilometers. Poor rainfall is a factor, but the precise cause for its diminished size of Lake Chad is unclear, given that the lake is reported to have almost disappeared in earlier times. With the area of lake having been reduced approximately to 10% of its size from a half century ago, the economy, which depends primarily of fishing and farming has been devastated. While travelling on the lake by motorized canoe in 2014, I witnessed fisherman standing in water barely above their ankles. Military professionals and analysts are now beginning to understand that the extreme poverty of Africans living in the LCB is a crucial factor in the increased recruitment to Boko Haram. These impoverished youths who see no future for themselves and are desperate to make money by joining this extremist movement.

          Minister Adamu displayed his understanding of the relationship between security and economy concerning the LCB when he told the Nigerian Tribune: “It is not a climate issue, it is a security issue-the security issue we are having in the Northeast. I can guarantee you that substantially it has to do with the drying of up of the lake, because youth there have lost all opportunities of hope there.”

          Nigeria is by far the largest economy of the six countries of the LCBC. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria has stated publicly and privately that expanding Lake Chad is a priority of his administration. Eng. Abdullahi is also a strong advocate of restoring the lake to its previous size.  In the recent period, we have witnessed growing support for this project from some elements of the United States military, who realize this project is an essential component of countering violent extremism in the LCB.

          If these efforts successfully lead to the transfer of water to save Lake Chad, it will be celebrated throughout the Africa continent