Saving Lake Chad with Transaqua: An Inter-Basin Water Transfer Project

The excerpts below are from a speech by Mr. Franco Persio Bocchetto, Foreign Director for Bonifica, S.p.A., Italy, the engineering firm that designed the Transaqua proposal in  the1980s. It is an excellent presentation on a transformative infrastructure project to save the shrinking Lake Chad and develop the African continent.

We can be very optimistic, but due to the growth of the population, the long-term measures cannot be other than to think how to transfer large volumes of water from the  Congo River Basin to Lake Chad.

Well, water transfer to drying up endorheic lakes is not merely a “nature conservation measure.” Environment and wildlife deserve to be protected—human beings, too. A drying endorheic lake is proof that the water resources in its catchment area are overexploited with respect to incoming run-off. transferring water from adjacent river basins that have surplus water flowing into the sea, is a way of increasing water availability, especially for agriculture, in the context of the increasing population and declining rainfall, and to restore wildlife.

When water is in short supply in a given place, either you bring it there, or people will migrate elsewhere. Near Lake Chad, there is an immense, scarcely populated
river basin, which discharges into the Atlantic Ocean an average of 40,000 cubic meters/second—the equivalent to 1,250 billion m3 /year. That discharge is 200 times the discharge of the Main River [in Germany], or 14 times that of the Rhine at its mouth. How much of this volume could be possibly and safely discharge of the Main River [in Germany], or 14 times that of the Rhine at its mouth. How much of this volume could be possibly and safely diverted into Lake Chad has yet to be studied.

Can we think of a “win-win” project, where all countries involved have their advantages, which is perhaps, one of the basic conditions for developing this project?
Bringing water from the Congo River Basin to the thirsty Chad region and increasing irrigated agriculture, restoring the lake, producing hydropower and improving inter-African transport and commerce, is the vision of this Transaqua Project.

A canal would have to intercept part of the discharge of the right-hand tributaries of the Congo River, and convey them across the watershed between the Congo Basin and the Chari Basin. The diverted flow would reach Lake Chad through one of the Chari tributaries, properly reshaped. A very preliminary estimate gives an amount up to 100 billion m3 /year could be diverted. That this less than 8% of the Congo discharge, ensuring thus the restoration of Lake Chad and irrigation of up to 3 million hectares.

In its fall toward Chad, the diverted flow could be used for hydropower production. Along the canal, a road should be built which would become the backbone of inter-African land transport. The hypothes is that the canal could also be suitable for navigation has been made. Those ideas stemming from the early 1920s, have been studied by Bonifica, and are presently being considered by the Lake Chad Basin Commission as a possible project for the future.

The idea of Bonifica is to transfer about 100 million cubic meters of water per year from the Congo River Basin to the Lake Chad and Sahel district. This is the Congo Basin as you can see in red, which is the alignment more or less of the canal. You cross the watershed and you go into the water catchment area of the River Chari.

What is important to note is that the Transaqua formula is not simply to replenish Lake Chad, but to give access to drinking water, revive agricultural activity, irrigation, fish farming, a navigable waterway, trade, transport, regulate flows, produce electric power, river ports, commerce, and road connections—thus creating an economic development system along the Transaqua waterway

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China Daily: Refill Shrinking Lake Chad with TRANSAQUA Project

Chinese, Italian firms reach deal to refill fast-shrinking Lake Chad

By Kimeng Hilton Ndukong (People’s Daily Online)    17:51, August 21, 2017

Fishing is a major source of livelihood for millions of people in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo: LCBC

Hopes have been revived for the 40 million people who depend on Lake Chad for their livelihoods following the signing last June in Hangzhou, China, of a deal between Chinese construction giant, PowerChina and the Italian firm, Bonifica Spa. However, the news was only made public at the beginning of this month. 

Huge water transfer project

The agreement concerns the carrying out of feasibility studies on transferring 100 billion cubic metres of water per annum from River Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, to replenish the fast shrinking Lake Chad, a distance of 2,500 km. The project is also known as Transaqua. According to the website of Executive Intelligence Review, EIR magazine, the letter of intent was signed at a meeting between the executive of the two companies in the presence of the Italian Ambassador to China, Gabriele Menegatti

The recent deal between PowerChina and Bonifica Spa is sequel to the Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, signed between PowerChina and the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on December 13, 2016. LCBC is made up of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and the Central African Republic, CAR. The MOU is for a period of four years, but can be extended after renegotiation by both parties.

The Transaqua project seeks to transfer water from River Congo to Lake Chad. Map by Schiller Institute

The agreement is “with a view to setting forth the principles of a technical and financial assistance arrangement towards the actualization of water transfer from the Congo Basin to Lake Chad,” LCBC website reported. PowerChina will fund the studies at the cost of 1.8 million US dollars, while LCBC will provide all necessary information and assistance.

Linking Central and West Africa

The MOU is to establish the basis on which the parties shall carry out further research on the Lake Chad Basin Water Transfer Project and other future projects in accordance with the Lake Chad Basin Water Charter, national legislations, regulations and practices of member countries. Additional research will be needed to strengthen climate change resilience in the Sahel and to raise the project into a continental infrastructure by opening up a new development corridor to link Central and West Africa.

The terms of the agreement between PowerChina and LCBC include the potential transfer of 50 billion cubic metres of water per annum to Lake Chad through a series of dams in DRC, Republic of Congo Brazzaville and the Central African Republic. There is also the possible generation of 15,000-25,000 kilowatts of hydroelectricity through the mass movement of water by gravity.

Other benefits are developing irrigated land for crop and livestock farming covering 50,000-70,000 square km in the Sahel zones of Chad, north-eastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and Niger; and providing new infrastructure platform for industries and water transport.

The core idea is to increase the water quantity in Lake Chad, improve water flow conditions, alleviate poverty within the basin through socio-economic activities, meet the energy needs of towns and surrounding areas in DRC and Congo Brazzaville, and conduct in-depth environmental impact assessment studies.

Satellite maps show how fast Lake Chad waters have receded over the past decades. Maps by NASA

New Silk Road to Lake Chad

The Lake Chad Basin Commission resolved the issue of funding studies on water transfer by creating a new Silk Road to Lake Chad. PowerChina, one of the country’s largest multinationals that built the Three Gorges dam, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with LCBC last December.

PowerChina committed to finance the feasibility studies for the initial stages of Transaqua and eventually to build the infrastructure. The water transfer canal will be a navigable facility 100 metres wide and 10 metres deep, stretching from southern DRC to CAR’s northern border. The waterway will be flanked by a service road and eventually a rail line.

Fast-receding lake

Lake Chad, once one of the greatest in the world, has receded fast in recent years as a result of less rainfall and harmful irrigation practices. Other unforeseen phenomena like the exodus of refugees and displaced populations fleeing the atrocities of the Boko Haram terrorist group have since arisen.

The recent deals between PowerChina,  LCBC and Bonifica Spa have raised hopes for the 40 million people in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo: LCBC

According to experts, only a robust measure like replenishing the lake’s water could spare the wetland – a food basket located between Central and West Africa – from total disappearance. Meanwhile, the impoverishment of the Lake Chad Basin has made it fertile ground for recruiting terrorists for Boko Haram. Although Transaqua offered a viable solution to the lake’s problems since the 1970s, Western nations and institutions showed little interest in funding the project.

Push by President Buhari

A shift occurred in May 2015 with the election of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari. He came to power with a programme to develop national infrastructure, including implementing the water-transfer project for Lake Chad. At several international gatherings, President Buhari made the case for resolving the problems of Lake Chad and requesting Western nations to deliver on promises for financial assistance. He has also strongly oriented his government towards cooperation with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) nations.

Discussing the groundbreaking water agreement in The Nigerian Tribune newspaper last July 25, Nigeria’s Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, noted that a similar project to move water from southern to northern China where some areas are semi-arid has been undertaken by the authorities. The Minister added that Nigeria is working with UNESCO to organize an international conference on Lake Chad in Abuja before the end of 2017 to rally support for Transaqua.

Role of LaRouche

Thanks to the fight taken up by LaRouche organization over the years and the initiators of Transaqua, the project is today becoming reality within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. Executive Intelligence Review magazine and Schiller Institute in 2015 arranged the first meeting between LCBC and the brains behind Transaqua. This was followed in December 2016 by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between LCBC and PowerChina, and subsequent contacts between Bonifica Spa and the Chinese company.

The Boko Haram insurgency has led to the displacement of thousands of people, thereby aggravating the problems in the Lake Chad Basin. Photo: Nigerian Tribune newspaper

Origin of Transaqua project

Transaqua was first developed by the Italian engineering firm, Bonifica, in the late 1970s.

River Congo is the second largest river in the world with an average 41,000 cubic meters of unused water emptied at short intervals into the Atlantic Ocean. Bonifica then estimated that 3-4 per cent of this quantity of unused water will be enough to replenish Lake Chad.

The project involved building of a 2,400 km canal from the southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, (then Zaire) to intercept the right bank tributaries of River Congo through dams and reservoirs, and move 100 billion cubic metres of water per annum by gravity to Lake Chad. The project was given consideration by various stakeholders without much progress because of lack of interest or insufficient funding.

Several meetings were held between PowerChina and LCBC officials. Photo: LCBC

Kimeng Hilton Ndukong, a contributor to People’s Daily Online, is Sub-Editor for World News with Cameroon Tribune bilingual daily newspaper in Cameroon. He is currently a China-Africa Press Centre, CAPC fellow. 

US and China Must Collaborate to Save Lake Chad

Lawrence Freeman

April 18, 2017

      Over recent weeks, there has been considerable, long-overdue international attention given to the horrific conditions for the people living in the nations of the Lake Chad Basin (LCB). Following last month’s visit by members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), on March 31, they issued a first-ever resolution respecting the state of the crisis of the LCB. Now, the most important challenge to be addressed is what long-term strategic policy will be adopted to transform the LCB region, to reverse its downward spiral of abject poverty, famine, and displaced persons from the conflict with Boko Haram. For those of us who understand the root causes of the crisis, it is clear that without a project design to refurbish the shrinking Lake Chad, all other efforts will be insufficient. Unfortunately, but all too consistently, the lack of strategic visionary thinking by policymakers in Washington DC and other Western capitals has contributed to the failure to address the underlying causes for this ongoing tragedy in the LCB. For the very first time, the proposal to create a canal to transfer water from the Congo River Basin to the LCB is being studied by ChinaPower. Due to the tireless efforts of many of us over decades, and the extension of China’s One Belt-One Road (OBOR) into Africa, the possibility exists to provide tens of millions of Africans living in the LCB with a better future.

Inadequate International Response to Humanitarian Crisis

José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reports the following conditions in the LCB nations: 11 million in need of food assistance, among them 6.9 million are severely food insecure, and 2.5 million people are displaced. In northeast Nigeria 5.2 million will be need of food, with 50,000 facing famine.
From March 2-7, the UNSC visited Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. On February 24, a total of $1.458 billion was pledged ($1 billion by Nigeria), at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region. On March 31, the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2349 (2017), with 34 recommendations. These actions express a greater concern for the LCB region than previously, but avoid the supporting the most crucial requirement for long-term stability; replenishing Lake Chad. The resolution focuses primarily on defeating Boko Haram and ISIL, barely mentioning the effects of the shrinking Lake Chad in exacerbating the hardships in the region. It does little more than recognize that “promoting development and economic growth” is part of a comprehensive approach to combating violent extremism, while failing to make any recommendations of how to achieve such growth. Speaking on the resolution, Ambassador Tommo Monthe from the Cameroonian Mission to the UN does make the point that “regional countries understood that the military response, though essential, should be part of a holistic approach.” FAO Director da Silva notes that Lake Chad has lost 90% of its water mass since 1963, and has resulted in “devastating consequences on food security and the livelihoods of people” dependent on fishing and food production. His beggarly proposal is to save water through new irrigation techniques, but what is vitally needed is to create more water by recharging Lake Chad.

The Time for Transaqua has Arrived

  Over 35 years ago, Engineer Dr. Marcello Vichi designed a farsighted, breathtaking proposal to bring water to the arid Sahel; he called it Transaqua. His proposal was to divert 5-8% of the waters from the tributaries to the Congo River, which are presently unused, through a navigable canal reaching the Chari River that empties into Lake Chad. According to his calculations, this inter-basin water transfer project would increase the depth and area of the lake to its proximate 1963 level. As importantly, the canal would also function as an essential feature of an economic corridor between the Congo River Basin and Lake Chad Basin that would include generation of hydroelectric power, an increase in irrigated farmland, and expanded trade. Thus, the full potential of this great water-transfer infrastructure project would affect a significant portion of the entire continent when realized.
It is well understood that poverty, lack of food, high unemployment, and lack of meaningful economic activity are drivers for conflict, yet for over three and half decades the international community has never bothered to make the smallest expenditure for feasibility studies to examine the potential of Transaqua. The international community willingly spent billions of dollars on military counter-terror measures, billions more on humanitarian aid, while millions of lives were lost in unnecessary bloody conflicts, but refused to even consider a revolutionary new concept to develop the nations of the Sahel and Great Lakes.
The flame for this novel idea of Transaqua was kept alive until, finally, in December 2016, when ChinaPower signed an agreement with the Nigerian government and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) to conduct a $1.8 million feasibility study respecting a segment of the Transaqua design. Despite support by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Sansusi Abdullahi, Executive Secretary of the LCBC, to save Lake Chad by transferring billions of cubic meters of water, as opposed to the fallacious concept of simply conserving disappearing water, funding was not available until China’s intervention. ChinaPower’s actions regarding Lake Chad are paradigmatic of China’s approach to erecting infrastructure projects across the continent. Ask yourself: Who is funding and building the great expansion of railroads across Africa today?

The West Lacks Vision for Economic Growth

  Sadly, for the United States and the world, President Franklin Roosevelt was our last great leader who possessed the knowledge to generate new physical wealth by using American System methods of credit creation for funding great infrastructure projects. Perhaps surprisingly, it is Chinese Present Xi Jinping’s global development policy–OBOR or the New Silk Road–that most closely echoes Roosevelt’s commitment to economic growth. Western leaders, along with the citadels of global finance, are suffocating society with ideologically driven, narrow, short-term thinking, restricting their judgment of what is necessary and possible to transform the present into a better future.
The severe limitations of this ideologically attenuated mindset were revealed to this author at a day-long conference in Washington, DC on April 11. Sponsored by the US Institute for Peace (USIP), the Carter Center, and the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the speakers and specialized audience explored the theme and title of the conference: “Can China and the United States Find Common Ground with Africa.” Ambassador Mohamed Ibn Chambas opened the day-long proceedings, discussing the need to address the root causes of insecurity, the vital importance of Lake Chad, and the need to transfer water via a canal from the Congo River Basin. However, it was in the final panel: “Cooperating to Counter Violent Extremism in the Lake Chad Basin and Beyond” that the sharp difference in outlook between this author and most of those participating became publicly evident.
  Mohamed Yakubu, Nigerian Defense Attaché, made the germane observations regarding the LCB and Nigeria: that Lake Chad is the only body of water in the Sahelian desert; the desert is moving south at the rate .6 kilometers per year; and that in northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram has been most active, rates of illiteracy and poverty exceed 70%.  Most relevant, were the comments by Yawei Liu, Director of the Carter Center’s China Program, who, in an earlier panel, emphasized that the OBOR was not a just a five- or ten-year program, but a fifty-year program, and that northeast Nigeria could be a place for US-China collaboration. While the representative from the US Department of State acknowledged that US-China relations are unexplored in the LCB, his main focus on collaboration was short-term humanitarian needs and countering Boko Haram. The USIP representative repeated that cooperation must be holistic, long-term, and provide stability, but did not provide an actual long-term strategic policy for such collaboration.
  This author was able to challenge the conference attendees with a concrete proposal to advance China-US relations in Africa, which would alleviate the suffering of Africans in the LCB region. To wit: The US organizations present should support and collaborate with China for the realization of the Trasnaqua water-transfer project. This level of cooperation would solidify a strategic partnership by the two leading world powers to act for the “common aims of mankind” for the benefit of Africans. Since ChinaPower has already initiated the first step with its commitment to a feasibility study of Transaqua, it would be relatively easy for the US to advocate for and assist in bringing this transformative project to fruition, thus implicitly becoming part of China’s OBOR.
Regrettably, the moderator and panelists did not endorse this author’s proposal, or even respond. Their cold reaction displayed precisely the lack of vision that permeates the grossly deficient US policy toward the development of Africa. However, there is still time to seize this opportunity, if US policymakers adopt a new paradigm of thinking; one that is more closely aligned to China’s One Belt-One Road.

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

We Can Prevent Famine from Killing Millions of Africans

Lawrence Freeman
March 17, 2017
 
Famine is stalking Africa, threatening unprecedented levels of starvation. Famine has already been officially declared in parts of South Sudan’s Unity State, Somalia, and sections of the Borno State in Nigeria. Somalian officials reported 110 human beings perished from hunger in forty-eight hours in one region in the first days of March. One cannot imagine how parents cope watching their children slowly, painfully expire. Famine in Africa is not only unconscionable, but a crime against humanity, because it can be prevented. Only through an entirely new paradigm, that eliminates poverty through infrastructure led development, which can and must be done, will death by starvation finally be eradicated from the entire continent. In over 30 years China has lifted 750 million of its people out of poverty, and has pledged to help Africa eliminate poverty from its vast continent as well. Nothing less than this is acceptable. What is urgently required is; intention and vision for a better future.
 
 A Partial Overview
 
The United Nations humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council that the world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945. More than 20 million people in four countries are facing starvation and famine, O’Brien said, and that “without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to
death” and “many more will suffer and die from disease.” The four nations facing immediate catastrophe are; Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northeast Nigeria.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies reports that nineteen African countries are facing crisis, emergency, or catastrophic levels of food insecurity. This includes 17 million people in the Horn of Africa; Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda, and millions more in Central African Republic, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique are also in danger of acute food insecurity.
According to international food organizations, famine is declared if more than 30% of the population is acutely malnourished;  one in five households within a vicinity face extreme food shortages; and two or more people or four children die per 10,000 daily.
 
*Somalia
Of its 6.2 million population, more than half are in need of aid, with 2.9 million requiring immediate assistance, and 270,000 children suffering acute malnutrition. Somalia has suffered two consecutive years of drought. In the 2011 famine, Somalia lost 260,000 people; over half were children under the age of five.  Many experts fear that unless immediate action is taken there is the potential of a full blown famine, possibly exceeding the 2011 death totals.
 
*South Sudan
As this poor landlocked nation is approaching its sixth anniversary of independence, its living conditions are horrific. The UN reports: almost 5 million people- 40% of the population are in desperate need of food; and 100,000 people in Unity State are presently struggling to survive the reality of famine. UNICEF reports that 1 million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished, and 270,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition.
 
 Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin
In the four nations of Lake Chad Basin; Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, the UN estimates that 10.7 million people require assistance, with 7.1 million categorized as food insecure. In the Northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, the UN reports that 400,000 children are at risk of from famine, with 75,000-90,000 facing immediate danger of dying from hunger.
 
          Humanitarian Aid Is Insufficient
 
          To avert the further spread of famine, UN Secretary General of the United Nations António Guterres has requested upwards $5.6 billion, with a majority of the funds needed as soon as the end of March, the New York Times reported. Guiterees also appealed for $825 million in aid to address drought and cholera in Somalia. So far only a small portion of these goals have been met.
          In response to drought, famine, and other disasters, emergency aid is necessary to save lives, and is a moral responsibility. However, we must have the courage to admit to ourselves that simply providing aid is an inadequate response by the UN and international community. Yes, many of these nations suffer from the interrelationship of civil strife, and famine. A paramount underlying cause of both is the inability to provide the basic necessities of life due to severe underdevelopment of their economies. This essential and fundamental truth has been overlooked or deliberately ignored for over five decades, until the recent extension of China’s Silk Road onto the African continent.
In the years following the “Winds of Change” as African nations freed themselves from the yoke of colonialism, many became food self sufficient or nearly so due to abundant fertile soil. Objectively, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to exist anywhere in Africa. Given the large areas of uncultivated, but arable land available in Africa (the most abundant on the planet), Africa not only has the potential to feed its own expanding population, but also become a net food exporter to Asia. Thus to die from hunger is not only criminally immoral, but actually “un-African” at its roots. The not so secret missing ingredient for Africa to achieve its agricultural potential is: physical economic development of vital infrastructure.
 
          What is Actually Required to Prevent Famine
 
 All functioning, i.e. growing economies depend on a platform of integrated infrastructure especially in categories of rail, energy, roads, and water projects, because of their essential, irreplaceable contribution in raising the productivity of the labor force. It has been the failure of Western institutions to assist the emerging nations of Africa in securing the necessary infrastructure across the continent that is the long term cause for the crisis that African nations face today. Some may object to such an analysis, but history has proved that it is the long waves of policy that shape the present and the future. After suffering hundreds of years of slavery that ripped the social fabric of the continent apart and tortured the cultural soul of Africa, it was followed by another century of brutal-exploitive colonialism. The best form of justice would have been to assist these newly formed nations in becoming economically sovereign. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy had this vision, but tragically it was not shared by other leaders.
Lack of economic growth has a great deal to do with ethnic warfare and the spread of terrorism. Poor people, reaching to find enough water, food, and land for the very survival of themselves and their loved ones become desperate, and desperate people become victims of manipulation in violent conflicts, as well as easy recruits to extremist groups. Economic growth that provides the citizens with means to exist, and hope for a better future, is the great “mitigator” against desperation and alienation that leads to violence.
So far mankind has not been able to prevent draughts, but mankind can prevent draughts from causing famine. How? With infrastructure, nations can mitigate the deadly effects of draughts; by utilizing irrigation, and water management projects, generating sufficient energy to pump water; railroads for transporting food to the needy from other parts of the state and from other countries not as severely affected, and by creating integrated industrial–agricultural sectors capable of producing a surplus of food.
Can one deny that the extreme poverty rampant throughout the nations of the Lake Chad Basin is not a major factor for the spread of Boko Haram? Can anyone deny that the paucity of electrical power for Nigeria’s 190 million people along with sky high rates of youth unemployment are not contributing factors to the multifaceted crisis in north-east Nigeria? Was it not patently obvious that the creation of the new nation of South Sudan without first establishing a stable economy providing the basic needs for its people, especially food, was at serious risk from the beginning?
For example, had the East-West railroad, connecting the Horn of Africa along the Gulf of Eden and Indian Ocean across West Africa to the Atlantic Ocean been built Africa would have achieved new levels of economic growth for all the nations involved. A similar effect would have occurred, had the South–North railroad along African’s eastern spine had been developed. If the great inter-basin water transfer project known as Transaqua, capable of transferring billions of cubic feet of water from the Congo River Basin to Lake Chad, while creating an economic corridor between the nations of the Great Lakes and the Lake Chad Basin, been built thirty years ago when it was first proposed, how much suffering and death could have been prevented. Finally, in December 2016, ChinaPower signed an agreement with Nigeria for a feasibility study on a portion of the long overdue Transaqua project.
 
A New Opportunity to End Famine and War
 
In this century, infrastructure projects are being built across the African continent for the first time, as an extension of China’s Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road policy, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative-BRI. China is collaborating with African nations to build railroads at a rate never seen before on the continent. Discussing the importance of railway development, the Chinese Minister of Commerce recently stated: “Africa is an important part of the One Belt rail initiative.” China’s five biggest foreign railroad projects are in Africa.  Premier Li Keqiang announced China’s intention to help Africa connect all its capital cities by modern rail lines. What effect will this have on the economies of Africa? Nothing short of an economic revolution spurring unprecedented levels of trade and commerce!
As the expression says, China is putting its money where its mouth is, when the West has firmly rejected financing any significant investment in infrastructure for Africa.  Between 2000 and 2014 China made $24.2 billion in loans to finance transportation projects in Africa, according to the China Africa Research Initiative-(CARI). China financed the recently completed Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Djibouti electrified train at $4 billon. China will provide $13 billion to finance construction of the Standard Gauge Railroad-(SGR) in Kenya. The first phase of a rail line for passengers and freight from Mbassa, the largest port in Africa to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital and further north to the major market in Naivasha is to be completed by the end of this year. The Horn of Africa will be transformed as the SGR is extended to the capitals of Kenya’s five neighboring states; South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. The longer term vision is for the Addis Ababa to Djibouti rail line and the SGR to become eastern part of the East-West railroad.
With Chinese financing and Chinese construction companies, Nigeria is building a standard rail gauge from Lagos to Kano for $7.5 billion with stops in Ibaden, llorin, Mina, and Kaduna. China has signed an agreement with Nigeria for $12 billion to construct a coastal rail line from Lagos to Calabar. China has also financed the light rail system in Addis Ababa, and light rail lines in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, and its former capital and largest city, Lagos. China has already financed $22 billion in infrastructure projects in Nigeria, with another $23 billion on going, and $40 billion more are in the pipeline according to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when he spoke last month in Abuja. For Nigeria, a country filled with mega cities inhabited by its huge and expanding population, rail transportation is a game changer.
          In addition to funding rail construction, Chinese companies are involved in other important infrastructure across the continent, including new ports, highways, and airports, reaping $50 billion a year on their investments reports CARI.
           Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority stated bluntly: “We approached the U.S., and they didn’t have the vision. They are not thinking ahead 30 years. They only have a vision from the past as a continent of war and famine. The Chinese have vision.”
It should be emphasized that these rail projects along with other infrastructure projects being built and financed by China will generate hundreds of thousands of skilled jobs for Africa’s unemployed.
 
It is vital that the Chinese Silk Road take up the task of creating electrical power for Africa. A mere 100,000 megawatts of electrical power for the sub-Saharan population of almost one billion, is literally a death sentence for Africa. Without hundreds of thousands of additional megawatts of power, Africa’s future; its very existence is in jeopardy. While the West is infatuated with off grid, lower technologies like wind and solar; construction of hundreds of nuclear power plants, which offer the best and most reliable form of energy is the next challenge. If the expansion of nuclear power follows the rate of growth of rail development, then famine, abject poverty, and war will become a distant memory of the past.  If the new Washington administration breaks from previous US policy, and decides to collaborate with China with its “win-win” approach for all nations to join the Silk Road, then the long overdue industrialization of Africa is eminently feasible.