Ignoring the geo-political overtones from Deutsche Welle (see link below), the article does discuss Russia’s role in helping Africa to build nuclear energy plants, which are vital for the continent. Over 600 million Africans lack access to electricity. Over 1,000 gigawatts of additional power is urgently required. Nuclear power is the most efficient energy to preform work and power an industrialized economy, as well as an optimal energy source to desalinize water. Without abundant accessible electricity, Africa will not develop, and poverty and food shortages will continue. Production of energy and the elimination of poverty are essential for fighting COVID-19 and reducing all diseases in Africa, including cholera.
“Rwanda’s parliament has just approved a plan for Russia’s state-owned Rosatom nuclear conglomerate to build it a nuclear research center and reactor in the capital, Kigali.
“The Center of Nuclear Science and Technologies, planned for completion by 2024, will include nuclear research labs as well as a small research reactor with up to 10 MW capacity.
“Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zambia have signed similar deals with Rosatom, while countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Sudan and DRC have less expansive cooperation agreements…
“Rwanda’s planned research reactor will also be used to manufacture radioisotopes, according to Rosatom. Radioisotopes have many applications from irradiating food to increase its shelf life to helping diagnose tumors or heart disease.
“Such research reactors have “definite advantages” in fields such as nuclear medicine, nuclear scientist Michael Gatari, a professor at the University of Nairobi, told DW.
“In addition, on a continent where where more than half of the population lack access to electricity, there is “immense potential” for nuclear to provide a clean source of energy to meet Africa’s large energy deficit, the Center for Global Development study, Atoms for Africa, found.
“In the long term, a nuclear reactor generates electricity cheaper than we are paying now. It is also stable and produces no carbon emissions,” Gatari said in a phone interview from Nairobi.”
In my interview with PressTV, Watch: Ending Conflict in Libya Requires New Thinking, I discussed the necessity for a new approach to end the war in Libya. The West turned Libya into a failed state in 2011. Armies on the ground competing for territorial control will not be able to restore Libya’s sovereignty.
Below are excerpts from my article on the strategic role of China’s Belt and Road in today’s world economy, published by CGTN
The global economic breakdown ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic entails China and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) playing an important role in restoring health to the world economy. While Western nations are still struggling with COVID-19, and are months away from beginning to refurbish their economies, China has already started its recovery, following its earlier success in combating the coronavirus.
The collapse of nations to conditions resembling the Great Depression and the inability to contain the deadly virus have belied the alleged success of globalization. The underlying flaws of the deregulated post Bretton Woods financial system, which has become an international gambling casino to make fast money, are now nakedly revealed. Given the breakdown of the present global financial system, it is urgent that leading nations issue a call to convene a conference to initiate a New Bretton Woods system, which values human life over making money.
For civilization to progress, a new economic architecture dedicated to ending poverty, and promoting productive economic growth is compulsory. Without question, the United States and China will have to perform outsized roles in establishing a new paradigm of political-economic relationships among nations, notwithstanding current tensions.
Right now, as I write, two regions of Africa are experiencing food emergencies: East Africa and Southern Africa. This is a crime against humanity. There is no objective reason for starvation and malnutrition in this continent rich with arable land. Actions should be taken today, not tomorrow, to reverse this life threatening, but preventable food shortage. It is morally repugnant to witness so many human beings perishing due to the persistence of poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa.
On January 20th, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) requested a mere $76 million to combat the spread of the destructive Desert Locusts. A just released joint statement-UN Joint Statement on Locust in East Africa signed by several organizations, Locust in Africa: A Race Against Time, reports that since February, the locust swarms originally sighted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, have spread to South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, and have reached the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not since a locust incursion since 1944. With the expansion of the locust invasion, the FAO has doubled its request for emergency funding to $138 million, of which only $33 million, less than 25% has been collected of pledged.
In this region of the world the food supply is already so fragile that 20 million Africans are deemed food insecure. Experts estimate that a one square kilometer swarm of Desert Locusts can consume as much food as 35,000 people in one day, which potentially increases the number of food insecure Africans in this zone to almost 40 million.
The joint communique boldly states: “The next wave of locusts could devastate East Africa’s most important crop of the year, right when it is most vulnerable. But that doesn’t have to happen. The Window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now.”
The statement concludes: “It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more late.”
Simultaneously, on the Southern end of the Africa continent; Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Lesotho, and Eswanti (Swaziland) are also facing shortages of food.
Journalist, Shannon Ebrahim, reports that “according the World Food Program (WFP), 7.7 million Zimbabweans are facing the worst hunger emergency in a decade…An astounding 90% of infants are malnourished and have stunted growth.” However, severe food shortages are not limited to Zimbabwe
“In Angola, 2.4 million are affected by food insecurity, where children are barely eating one meal a day. World Vision staff in Angola report they have never seen hunger and malnutrition on this scale.
“In Zambia, 2.3 million are facing acute hunger, and in Eswatini 24% of the population are suffering food shortages. In Lesotho, 20% of the population is food insecure
WFP regional director for southern Africa Lola Castro has said, “The hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve never seen before and evidence shows it’s going to get worse.”
Ebrahim writes, “As a result of drought, widespread flooding, and economic problems, 45 million people in southern Africa are facing food shortages.”
Hunger Can Be Eliminated
Droughts, locusts, and other disasters that contribute to food insecurity may not easily be prevented, but human intervention can mitigate and surmount so called natural catastrophes. However, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to persist in a continent of abundant, fertile, arable land.
Food self-sufficiency, which is a national security priority, in this age of out sized and exaggerated globalization, has worsened in the majority of African nations over the last several decades. Not only does this jeopardize the health and existence of society, but it drains nation’s foreign reserves with mega-food import expenditures.
The most critical, essential, fundamental, and undeniable ingredient to a successful agricultural sector, as well as a manufacturing sector, is infrastructure. It is the sine qua non for progress. Africa is suffering from a lack of infrastructure, particularly in the most crucial categories of hard infrastructure; electrical power and railroads. No concerned official in Africa or from a friendly government, who does not place their emphasis on energy and rail, is not helping African nations to develop. No NGO activist, no matter how sincere, who does not advocate for such infrastructure is not truly helping Africans to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, hunger, and disease.
I do not make these statements lightly. Without massive construction of hard infrastructure, African nations will not have productive agricultural and manufacturing sectors capable of producing the physical goods necessary for society’s continued existence. This is a scientific-economic reality.
Why are trees being cut down across the Sahel? To provide firewood and charcoal for cooking. This is foolishness. Trees are one of the best means to reverse the march of the desert. However, trees are being cut down, because homes do not have access to electricity and gas. If a portion of the tens of billions of dollars being spent on “global warming” were spent providing electricity to the nations of the Sahel, the counterproductive practice of charcoaling would be eliminated. If we built the decades’ overdue East West railroad, along with irrigating the desert (again energy) we could, can, transform the desert.
Why should over 100 million Africans face food insecurity on this rich African continent? The truth is; there is no acceptable reason. Our own lack of action speaks volumes.
In the next decade, beginning on January 1, 2020, African nations must pursue nuclear energy. This is necessary to provide energy to the continent, which is suffering from a huge deficit in electricity, but nuclear technology has many additional benefits to African economies. This includes creating large amounts of potable water. With nuclear power plants along the Mediterranean and Red Sea, the equivalent of a “second Nile River” from desalination through nuclear powered desalination would transform the nations of the Nile Basin. Constructing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors-SMRs (see below) in every African nation would be a important first step towards ending poverty and industrializing the continent. Let me bluntly state: without abundant, low cost energy, Africa will not develop, and its people will suffer. Energizing Africa is not an option, it is a life and death necessity!
“Combining renewables with nuclear power, however, makes the task of powering Africa’s growing economies more viable – not to mention the other useful and often overlooked aspects that nuclear can contribute to development. Although South Africa is the only country on the continent currently operating a nuclear power plant, the technology is being increasingly considered by African leaders. For example, works are set to begin on a new 4.8GW plant in El Dabaa Egypt next year, which is being developed by Russia’s Rosatom.
“Other countries including Ethiopia, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana also have memorandums of understanding with Rosatom that pave the way for nuclear development. South Korea are also looking to invest in the continent’s energy industry, while Chinese nuclear firms have entered into agreements with Kenya, Sudan and Uganda. Energy is a key driver for development. In Ghana, for example, nuclear is seen as the obvious way to provide reliable energy for bauxite refineries which would increase jobs and export capacity.
Technology beyond electricity
“But nuclear technology provides more than just energy: many advanced nuclear designs produce high-temperature process heat for uses in desalination plants, chemical production and even district heating systems. These subsidiary features would allow nuclear technology to benefit society beyond the generation of electricity – and potentially accelerating its deployment.
“Nuclear technologies are already being used in agriculture, for example, where isotopes and radiation techniques are harnessed to combat pests and diseases or to increase livestock and crop production. For instance, farmers in Benin have increased their maize yields by 50 percent, while simultaneously reducing the amount of fertiliser used by 70 percent, thanks to the deployment of nuclear-derived nitrogen-fixation methods – the same techniques that are allowing Maasai farmers in Kenya to double vegetable crop yields with half the irrigation of traditional methods.
“By contrast, nuclear desalination could use the excess heat from new reactor designs like Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) to produce thermal and electrical energy without emitting greenhouse gases, which then transforms seawater into freshwater. While capital costs for nuclear plants are initially high, fuel costs are low and stable: a doubling in the price of uranium would result in only a five percent increase in the total cost of energy generation. In contrast, an equivalent increase in oil would cause freshwater production costs to surge by 70 percent.”
December 13, 2019—There’s some real good news for the U.S. economy today. NuScale, an Oregon company that is developing a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), has passed the next stage of review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Cross-section of NuScale small modular reactor (world nuclear news)
As this blog has reported before, the mass development of nuclear power is a critical component to bringing the productivity of the U.S. economy out of the doldrums, and thus bringing us into a new era of prosperity. High-speed rail, modernized water systems, the space program, and many other components of an economic recovery program depend upon generating huge amounts of electricity that are way beyond our current capacity. Nuclear represents a leap in productivity that will allow us to get there, as well as a step on the way to the development of thermonuclear fusion.
NuScale’s design for an SMR has now gone through four phases of review. It still has to go through stages 5 and 6. According to the company’s press release, the Oregon-based company is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as other companies. It has received support from Congress.
As I outlined in a post approximately one year ago, the promise of SMRs lies not only in their safety design, but in the fact that the United States still has the industrial capacity to produce them assembly-line fashion. Over the past 40 years, the heavy industrial capability for producing a standard-sized nuclear reactor (measured in hundreds of megawatts or over 1000) has been dismantled. But a small reactor of 12 to 50 megawatts could be produced in assembly-line fashion, and provide a flexible means of providing power outside major urban areas, including hard-to-reach regions.
The United States is not the only country working on SMRs, and some in the industry are seeking to motivate investment in NuScale on the basis of “beating the competition.” Such peaceful competition has a huge positive payoff for the human race, and can only be encouraged. Thus NuScale’s progress with the NRC is most welcome news.
The NuScale press release can be read in full here.
Nuclear power is essential to meet the needs of Africa’s huge energy deficit. However, it will do more for Africa. Nuclear energy not only has a higher energy flux density than hydro, coal, gas, inefficient solar, and silly wind mills, but it embodies a higher level of technology. This will enable African nations to raise the skill level of their workforce, as they learn to build an operate a more technologically advanced energy platform. More engineering schools and training centers will be required as African nations enter the age of civilian nuclear power. Thus, the nuclear energy industry will serve as a science driver for society, while creating higher levels of economic growth.
The Rwandan Cabinet has approved an agreement with Russia to advance the use of nuclear energy for “peaceful purposes,” a move that is expected to bolster relations between the two countries and advance the latter’s interests in the region.
This comes ahead of the first Russia-African Forum next week in the city of Sochi, which President Paul Kagame has confirmed attendance, accompanied by a delegation of senior government officials.
The nuclear power deal was first signed in Moscow last December and will see Russian scientists set up a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology in Kigali.
The deal was boosted in May when a Russian government nuclear parastatal, Rosatom Global, reached an agreement to set up the nuclear plant by 2024—that the government says will help in the advancement of technology in agriculture, energy production and environment protection.
The Russia-Africa Economic Forum in Sochi will host a special panel discussion, “Contribution of Nuclear Technologies in the Development of Africa,” on October 23, with the participation of Alexey Likhachev, Director General of Rosatom-the State Nuclear Energy Corporation.
“Rosatom has been active in Africa for a long time. The creation and development of the nuclear industry in Africa will not only solve the problem of the energy crisis, but also change the standard of living, providing full access to public health services, increasing the level of education and food security. We see a great interest on the part of African countries in creating new ties for further technological development. Moreover, we are ready to discuss all possible options for cooperation on the continent. I am sure that Russian-African nuclear projects will have a great future,” said Likhachev on Oct. 15, in a preview of the Sochi event.
The forum in Sochi was also prepared by a conference in Nairobi last week that featured officials of Rosatom and over 150 energy and nuclear professionals from across the globe. Representatives from key African countries that are planning or already implementing their respective programs for developing peaceful nuclear technologies included Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.
Speaking in Nairobi, Dmitry Shornikov, CEO of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa, emphasized the advantages of joining the atomic club through creating nuclear industries in newcomer countries, and gave an overview of projects with the maximum positive effect on industrial development, enhancing the quality of life and developing ‘knowledge economy’.
Russia’s Growing Involvement in African Nuclear Development
One of the questions of the Oct. 23-24 Russia-Africa Summit is the need for Africa to develop civilian nuclear power. Russia is at the front end of the strategy to equip Africa with nuclear power, reports Sébastien Périmony in his blog “Africa with the Eyes of the Future” in France. No fewer than eight African countries have already signed agreements with Russia’s nuclear power company, Rosatom: Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Ghana.
“The stark reality is that Africa is in dire need of energy: 48 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa produce as much energy as the single country of Spain produces in Europe. That means that every other African has no access to electricity. According to the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index Report 2017, only five African countries have 100% electrification, all of them in North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco. South Africa follows immediately after, with a rate of 85.40%. Then come Ghana, 64.06%; Senegal, 56.50%; Ivory Coast, 55.80; and Nigeria, 55.60%. Some francophone countries: World Bank Reports gives access to electricity as 16% for Niger, 9% for Chad, 14% for the Central African Republic, and 20% for Burkina Fasso.”
“The future of energy and base-load generation is in nuclear, and probably coal and liquefied natural gas. Kenya needs to push ahead with the nuclear agenda to meet the country’s energy needs,” said the managing director of Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board Collins Juma.
Mr Juma said that Kenya requires at least 18,000MW to become a middle-income and an industrialized nation. With the total installed capacity at 2,370MW, it will need to diversify its energy sources to reach that target.
Countries in East Africa are among those on the continent seeking to build nuclear power plants driven by the need to end power challenges, and accelerate industrial and economic growth.
Russia, China and South Korea have emerged as the key vendors of nuclear energy, offering to help in financing the deals.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been at the forefront of the campaign to sell nuclear to Africa. Its deputy director-general Mikhail Chudakov told The EastAfrican that nuclear energy holds the key to industrial development.
“Africa needs to understand that solar and wind are good for home lighting [but not manufacturing],” he said.
But nuclear energy needs massive resources to build and operate, so state-owned companies like Russia’s Rosatom, China General Nuclear, China National Nuclear Corporation and Korea Electric Power Corporation are pushing various financing and construction models for the continent’s customers.
The companies have signed agreements and memoranda with African countries, ranging from research and development and human resources development to full reactor projects. Russia and China, in particular, have crafted packages providing state-backed loans, in the process altering the dynamics of nuclear markets.
In Egypt, for instance, Russia is providing 85 per cent of the funding for the 4,800MW plant currently under construction at a cost of $21 billion.
Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth
Lawrence K Freeman
October 14, 2019
Completion and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-(GERD) will profoundly affect not only the future of Ethiopia, but all of the Horn of Africa, and the entire African continent. It reflects the bold visionary thinking that characterizes Ethiopia’s unwavering determination to eradicate poverty in the second largest nation on the continent with 103 million people. Ethiopia has been a leader in economic growth for the last decade due to its unparalleled commitment to constructing new infrastructure projects. Although an emerging nation, Ethiopia with assistance from China, completed the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti railroad in October 2016. This is the first and only electrified rail line in sub-Saharan Africa- (SSA), reducing travel time from several days by truck to hours by rail, effectively freeing Ethiopia from the limitations of a landlocked nation via Djibouti’s port.
Ethiopia’s former Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi, who conceptualized the developmental state, proposed building a dam on the Blue Nile, laying the first foundation stone on April 2, 2011. Thus, initiating the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile that will be the largest in Africa. The GERD will be 175 meters tall, 1,800 meters wide, with a reservoir of 79 billion cubic meters-(BCM), more than twice the size of the Hoover Dam in the US. It will have the potential to generate upwards of 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Upon completion, Ethiopia will be the largest net exporter of electricity in Africa with transmission lines to its neighbors that include Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. Ethiopia will also become second only to South Africa in power generation in SSA, as it strives to achieve its interim goal of producing 15,000 MW. The GERD, self-financed by bonds sold to the Ethiopian people, is not only a source of tremendous pride, but an indispensable component of Ethiopia’s resolve to expand its manufacturing sector and become a “middle income” nation by 2025. A nation must have abundant and accessible electricity in order to power an industrialized economy. With more than 60% of its population deprived of access to electricity, and energy demands growing every year, Ethiopia wisely realized that utilizing the potential hydro-power of the Blue Nile to drive its economic growth was not an option; but a necessity.
Sovereignty Superior to Colonialism
Egypt is accusing Ethiopia of violating the 1959 agreement for utilization of water from the Nile River, which stipulated that 55.5 BCM of waters be allocated to Egypt, 18.5 BCM to Sudan and that no other nation could interfere with the flow of water in the Nile. There is no basis in law or physical topography for Ethiopia to adhere to this agreement for the following reasons:
The 1959 water agreement is a rewrite of the British imperialist 1929 water treaty, when Egypt was a British colony that governed Sudan under the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1956).
The Blue Nile flowing from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands that joins the White Nile in Khartoum, provides 85% of the Nile water as it travels north through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
Ethiopia, as an independent nation that was never colonialized, was not a signatory to either water agreement.
Ethiopia has the sovereign right and obligation to utilize its natural resources, in this case water, to improve the living conditions of its people.
The Nile River, although the longest in the world at 6,650 kilometers, is not the most voluminous. Historically, the Nile was the only water way to cross the Sahara Desert from SSA. Today ten nations in Eastern and Central Africa are part of the Nile Basin with their total population approaching 500 million, whose present and future needs exceed the 84 BCM of Nile water. For development of the Nile Basin, it is urgently required that:
a new approach to water management for the region, which supersedes the archaic colonial agreement.
a new system for generating additional water. A crash program to create billions of cubic meters of fresh water through desalination is an obvious solution.
In essence, a “second Nile” must be created. Nuclear energy, utilizing its higher heat source, would be ideal for removing salt through evaporation, and, equally as important, supplying thousands of megawatts of power to energy-starved nations.
Shared Common Interest
The Declaration of Principles, signed in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 by the heads of state of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia calls for cooperation among the three nations to resolve disputes concerning the GERD among themselves. The report states: “The Three Countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.”
The shared vision of the Nile Basin should be to promote prosperity for all the nations involved. The common shared interest of the upstream and downstream nations is one and the same: to uplift millions of Africans out of poverty and present the expanding youth population with economic opportunities to obtain a meaningful and productive life that secures a future for their families.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shourky warned Ethiopia: “Ethiopia’s moving forward with the operation and filling of the Renaissance Dam is unacceptable and a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles and will have negative consequences for stability in the region.” Within Egypt threats of military action have recently resurfaced, but such unwarranted aggression is highly unlikely, and would be roundly condemned by the international community.
According to Xinhua News, Egypt is looking for the United States to play an “international instrumental role,” a position presently not supported by the US State Department. Egypt’s attempt to bring in an outside party to mediate disputes concerning the Nile waters is in direct violation of the Declaration of Principles.
Exercising its sovereign rights, Ethiopia has already completed 60% of the construction of the GERD, and although there have been delays, it is expected to begin producing electricity by the end of 2020. Egypt has no choice but to accept this reality and continue to engage discussions regarding the management of the Nile. There are substantive legitimate issues respecting the effects of the GERD on Egypt, a downstream nation that is almost totally dependent on Nile water. However, Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Blue Nile is inviolate. In 2018 the National Independent Scientific Research Group-(NISRG) was established to discuss the filling of the dam’s reservoir. The NISRG consisting of scientists from Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, has met several times, and has reported to the Minister of Water Affairs of each nation.
How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.
Below are excerpts from a useful presentation that provides an overview on crucial areas of development in Africa. It echoes many of the ideas I have written about over the years, and has helpful maps on energy, water, and rail transportation. The presentation concludes with a discussion on the Transaqua water project, which I have advocated for over 20 years with a modest level of success.
“In contrast, is the really exciting development of relations between China and the nations of Africa. Every three years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meets, alternating between China and the capital of an African nation. At the last meeting, which was held in 2018, the meeting was in Beijing, and in 2021 it will be held in Senegal. What China has been doing with its cooperation with Africa, has been making available large amounts of credit for the kinds of projects that just make sense: rail lines, power systems, water systems, transportation, road networks, industrial parks—these kinds of significant investments.
“This is not charity; this is not a case of somebody saying “We’re going to step up to the plate and donate to those poor Africans who can’t help themselves.” That’s not the case. The United States is a bigger donor to Africa than is China. But I think if you speak to many African nations in terms of which nation is doing more at present to provide a long-term future, it’s not aid that lasts for a year; it’s taking the lid off and saying, “We’re going to develop a full economy here, not perpetually slightly alleviate poverty; that’s not a future…
“Compare that with National Security Study Memorandum 200, authored under Henry Kissinger in 1974, which stated, for about two dozen countries in the world, that the growth of their populations represented a threat to U.S. strategic interests. Because it would be more difficult, essentially, to get materials from countries that were developing and prosperous than countries that are disarrayed and poor.
“Compare this to when the British ran their official empire. Consider India, for example. Some people say that at least Britain helped develop India, building railroads, and so forth. No, Britain ruined India. India was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cloth, for example, and had a major ship-building industry, which was destroyed by the British. Empire destroys the economic potential of its colonies, and that is the reason that development has been deliberately held back in the world
Below is my article on China: Friend or Foe?-January 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 65 (85 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine
By Lawrence Freeman
January 1, 2019
The short answer is a China is friend and contributor to Africa’s progress. Ignore all the propaganda, ignorance and outright lies claiming that China is the new colonizer of Africa. There is absolutely no truth in the contorted comparison between China’s involvement in Africa today, and 500 years of slavery and colonialism by Western nations.
Following the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, we have witnessed an escalated disinformation campaign alleging that China is attempting to snare African nations in a new “debt-trap.” New vicious rumors have emerged that China is taking over ownership of key infrastructure projects in Africa. Every African Head of State who has spoken out, has refuted these allegations and praised their cooperative relationship with China.
According to a report by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” China is owed a minority of external debt. Their figures compiled from the World Bank and the China Africa Research Institute show that 20% of African government external debt is owed to China in contrast 32% to private lenders, and 35% to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.
Of these 14 countries that have they examined: 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe); and three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).
The proponents of the “debt-trap” accusation conspicuously, egregiously omit from their chronicle the history of the financial imprisonment of the then newly independent African nations by the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, and their kith and kin in the City of London and Wall Street. Through manipulation of terms of trade, controlling prices, and forcing currency deviations, African nations found themselves shackled in several hundred billion dollars of new debt to the West shortly after African nations achieved liberation from imperialist colonial masters. Western debt replaced slavery and colonialism as the new method of looting Africa of its wealth, reinforced by the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programs-SAPs, otherwise known as the “Washington Consensus.”
So, who is kidding whom about a “debt-trap?”
Debt for Infrastructure is Necessary
Credits issued for hard infrastructure; energy, railroads, ports, roads, bridges, and soft infrastructure in well equipped; schools, libraries, universities, and hospitals will always result in an increase in productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. By employing advanced technologies embedded in new capital equipment, including infrastructure, farmers and workers can produce more efficiently. Simply providing abundant energy, high-speed railroads, and water inputs to an African nation would lead to a jump in economic output.
All nations that have experienced real economic growth and raised the living standard of their citizens have created credit i.e. public-sector debt or borrowed debt at non-usurious interest rates for targeted physical economic growth.
China is the single largest nation contributing to financing and constructing of infrastructure projects in Africa according, to Deloitte’s 2017 edition of Africa Constructive Trends. The report examines 303 infrastructure projects begun in the first half of 2017 that costs over $50 million. Appropriately, energy& power, and transport comprise 167 of these projects-over 55% of the total. While African governments fund 27.1 % of the funding, China accounts for 15.5% of the funding and 28.1% of the construction for these projects. The US accounts for 3% and 3.3% respectively. Both Italy and France are larger than the US percentage in building infrastructure in Africa.
African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, speaking on November 28, 2016 accurately linked the deadly migrant crisis to deficiencies in Africa’s economic development and infrastructure.
“I believe that Africa development deserves significant support, even in the midst of these challenges. We must not forget that the reason several thousands of Africans have been (illegally) migrating to Europe, is because of the lack of jobs and shrinking economic opportunities at home. Our result must not be to reduce support, but to increase support to help build greater resilience, boost its economies, address its structural challenge, such as closing its huge infrastructure gap, strengthening intra-related trade, and creating jobs for its teeming youths.”
A study done by the AidData Research Lab at William and Mary College in Virginia that analyzed China’s investments in the developing sector between 2000 and 2014, concluded:
“We find that Chinese development projects in general, and Chinese transportation projects in particular, reduce economic inequality within and between sub-national localities,” and “produce positive economic spillover that leads to a more equal distribution of economic activity.”
China has come to know, what the US has forgotten, that infrastructure is the sine qua non to drive economic growth.
Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit is the causal factor for widespread poverty, and insecurity across the continent, precisely that which China has begun to address over the last decade. The Western financial system that dominated Africa from 1960-2000 contributed almost nothing to help African nations industrialize and failed to help create vibrant agro-manufacturing sectors. China with its Belt and Road Initiative has presented the world with a new paradigm to guide political-economic relations among nations; Africa is the beneficiary.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission
A recent forum sponsored by Brookings Institute in Washington DC entitled: “Top priorities for Africa in 2019” produced a healthy discussion that alluded to important fundamental conceptions of economics. Although the deeper principles of what should be called economic science were not elucidated, issues raised in the dialogue serve as a useful starting point for further elaboration of that subject.
The event was organized to present FORESIGHT AFRICA, a new publication by the Africa Growth Initiative. Representative from the International Monetary Fund-(IMF), and Mo Ibrahim Foundation, joined Ambassador Linda-Thomas Greenfield, and Brahima Coulibaly, director of the African Growth Initiative, for a wide-ranging discussion on the future of Africa to a packed audience.
Members of the audience challenged the prevailing assumptions of the International Monetary Fund. One participant raised the inadequacy of the IMF’s rigid macro-analytic approach, when what is needed, she said, is a fine-tuned micro-economic intervention to deal with the scope of the challenges facing African nations. Another suggested the need for a state-funded public sector job program to put the millions of unemployed youth to work—a proposal which the IMF representative categorically rejected. The IMF’s hostility to state sector involvement belies the several hundred-year historical record of the modern economy, which is replete with successful and indispensable interventions by the state to foster economic growth.
Measuring Real Economic Growth
While the Brookings report, FORESIGHT AFRICA, provides some relevant statistics, its analysis rests on erroneous axioms of what comprises economic growth
The commonly accepted notion that African nations today are experiencing “jobless economic growth” reveals the fundamental antagonism between the analysis of the IMF and its co-thinkers, and proponents of real i.e. physical-economic growth. Jobless growth is a moronic oxymoron. Real*economic growth augments the productive power of society to increase its surplus of tangible wealth in order to sustain an expanding population at a higher standard of living. The IMF pretends to measure growth by adding up monetary values such as the price of extracted resources and real estate, stock market gains, etc. The aggregation of prices is not a measure of the economy’s growth. The only true calculation for economic growth is the result: an improvement in the living conditions of the population.
Creating Real Economic Growth
An excellent example of this defective thinking is highlighted in the article from the Brookings report entitled “How Industries without smokestacks can address Africa’s youth unemployment crisis.” Author John Page reports that Africa has not only failed to industrialize, but shockingly, its share of global manufacturing today is smaller than it was in 1980! He forecast that Africa’s working age population (15-64 years of age) will grow by 450 million between 2015 and 2035, and that “20 percent of new employment for wages will be in the service sector, and only 4 to 5 percent will be in a wage paying job in industry.” His conclusions for the future of youth employment in Africa are ill-founded and deadly when he states that since: “industry has declined as a share of output and employment…over the past four decades…Africa may not be able to rely on industry to lead structural change…”
Page then proceeds to dangerously postulate the equivalence of employment in manufacturing with tourists and service jobs. He writes: “The same forces that limit Africa’s opportunities in industry, however, are also creating a growing number of tradeable services—such as tourism and remote office services…”
“Growth in tourism is outpacing manufacturing in many African countries… It has the potential to create some of the millions of formal sector jobs Africa needs each year to employ youth entering the labor force…”
This is not an academic question for the people of Africa. We should all be level-headed about the implications of this prognostication: without industrialization Africans will die. African are dying every day due to lack of infrastructure, a diminutive manufacturing sector, and an inefficient food-producing industry. The industrialization of Africa with a massive expansion of its manufacturing base is not an option, but a life-or-death necessity!
Nor is this conjecture on my part. From the standpoint of economic science of physical economy there is no equivalence. Manufacturing, by transforming nature and producing needed goods, contributes real value to society; tourism and services do not. A variety of services are required for a functioning society, but this sector should not perform role of a primary employer for new entrants into the labor force. Tourism serves no vital task except to promote the natural beauty of a county. No new wealth is created by tourism; it is essentially collecting other people’s earned income.
Service-related jobs, whether useful or not, will never lead to real economic growth for one elementary reason. They do not contribute to the creation of new wealth. A properly organized economy would only have a relatively small percentage of its employed labor in the service sector. To do otherwise, as some African nations unfortunately are, is not sustainable, and will lead to calamity. To equate non-goods producing employment with manufacturing jobs is a grave fundamental error that should be rejected by serious economists and leaders.
Africa’s Youth Bulge Is Not A Curse
FORESIGHT AFRICA estimates that today 60% of Africa’s 1.25 billion people are under 25 years of age. That amounts to 750 million youth, a majority of which are unemployed or mis-employed in the pathological informal economy. It is projected that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, the youth population will expand by 522 million, and comprise one-third of the world’s youth by 2050. Thus, making Africa the continent with the youngest population, and potentially the largest workforce on the planet.
While these figures are striking, they do not justify enforced population reduction measures, as extremists advocate. Human life is intrinsically sacred because it is endowed with the divine spark of creativity. Contrary to popular misguided opinion, human creativity is the underlying source of all wealth; not money or even natural resources. Paleoanthropology shows us that millions of years ago before the emergence of homo sapiens-sapiens (wise-wise man), proto-humans, homo hablis, (handy man) designed tools first in the mind’s eye before shaping rocks into useful implements that were used to transform the environment for the benefit of mankind. Africa is not facing a crisis of too many people, but rather the urgency to formulate the best policies today that will incorporate millions of youth as productive members of the labor force.
What African nations most desperately need, and which will have the greatest impact of their economies, is infrastructure, infrastructure, and more infrastructure. It is not hyperbole to state that the lack of infrastructure is responsible for millions of deaths on the continent. The dearth of on-grid energy, arguably the most crucial component of an industrialized-manufacturing society, is preventing African nations from attaining the levels of economic growth required to sustain their populations.
For example. If we desire, as we should, that Africans enjoy the same relative living standard as Western nations, then each of the 2.5 billion Africans in the year 2050 should have access to at least one kilowatt (1,000 watts) of power every day. That would require, starting immediately, erecting enough power plants to generate 2,400 gigawatts of electricity. Itemize the bill of materials to build that many thermal, hydro, and nuclear power plants.
Now contemplate the number of workers that would be employed in this endeavor. Extend the same mode of thinking to constructing hundreds of thousands of kilometers of high-speed rail lines to connect the major cities, ports, and manufacturing centers across this vast continent. Add to that the number of new roads, hospitals, schools, libraries, and water ways that need to be built to provide an adequate standard of living. How many tens of millions or more youths will Africa need to employ in just the construction of primary infrastructure projects? Imagine how many additional jobs will be created in the spin-off industries.
Africa’s Future Begins Today
Trillions of dollars of long-term low interest credit must be made available to fund these projects. Only state-issued public credit will suffice for this scope of investment. The private sector, investments funds, or any other fund that is motivated by seeking high yield and quick financial returns on their investment will never, ever, underwrite the credit necessary. The overriding concern of the nation state is not making quick monetary profits, but the welfare of its citizens living and their posterity. The IMF thus far shown itself to be mentally, emotionally, and ideologically incapable of comprehending the true economic needs of Africa, or how to fund them. Those who are blinded by their erroneous view of evaluating an economy by its monetary worth, will forever be incompetent, and are not qualified to give advice, much less diktats to developing nations.
Credit issuance by the nation state is not a new or novel concept. The success of United States’ economy, which was maintained with ups and downs until its decline over the last five decades, emanated from the accomplishment of President George Washington’s Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton. It was Hamilton’s understanding of credit and the central role of manufacturing that created the basis for U.S. economic growth from thirteen indebted colonies. Over the last 230 years, those leaders, in the U.S. or abroad, who were wise enough to comprehend and apply Hamilton’s understanding of national banking and credit, have been successful in stimulating economic growth for their nations.
Africa’s future does not begin in 2050; it begins now. It is incumbent on Africans, with the assistance of their friends and allies, to prioritize crucial transformative infrastructure and related projects that must be built and funded. This cannot wait. This is a war to eradicate poverty, hunger, and disease, and secure a productive life for billions of Africans living and yet to be born. Thus, this campaign should be conducted with a military-like commitment to achieve objectives and goals each month and each year. Hence, we are not waiting for the future; we are creating the future in the present.
*real and true are interchangeable terms signifying a physical (non-monetary) improvement in the economy.
Lawrence Freeman has been involved in Africa for over 25 years as a writer, analyst, and consultant. He teaches courses on African History in Maryland. In 2014 he was appointed Vice chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
The Guardian of Nigeria published on Monday, January 28, 2019, my article: “Proposal for Nigeria’s Future” with included pictures of President Trump, President Xi, and myself that were omitted from the on-line article.