It’s Time for Africa
Alignment with China’s development vision heralds a new era of opportunity on the continent
It’s Time for Africa
Alignment with China’s development vision heralds a new era of opportunity on the continent
It has been my firm belief for several years that, if China and the US jointly partnered with African nations, we can eliminate poverty and hunger across the continent. Development of Africa is not a “zero sum game.” Africa’s infrastructure deficit is estimated in the trillions of dollars for energy, rail, ports, roads, new waterways, and much more. There is no part of Africa that could not be developed, if the two largest economies worked with African nations. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is an excellent vehicle for such collaboration between Presidents Xi, and Trump. Below is a useful article reporting on US and Chines companies working together in Africa
“When it comes to Africa, it is no secret that the United States and China have very different philosophies. China adopts a more state-led approach, with state-owned enterprises and policy banks spearheading Africa’s infrastructure development. The U.S. is more willing to let private companies and the market take the lead on commercial development, while the U.S. government itself puts more emphasis on the continent’s capacity building and governance challenges…
“As China expands its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Africa, government-level U.S.-China cooperation in Africa continues to be scarce. However, this trend contrasts sharply with the growing collaboration between Chinese and American companies in infrastructure projects on the continent. Indeed, although the Chinese projects and financing have the tradition of favoring Chinese contractors and providers, the technical advantages of some American companies have made them the beneficiary of the Chinese BRI campaign…”
What is Transaqua?
Last June, in Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, Chinese construction giant PowerChina and the Italian firm, Bonifica SpA signed a deal about a regeneration project of Lake Chad.
The agreement includes carrying out feasibility studies on transferring water from River Congo in the Democratic Republic of Congo to replenish Lake Chad.
Due to less rainfall and increased irrigation, the Lake’s area has shrunk from 20,000 square kilometres to just 2,000 square kilometres. Other factors, include an influx of refugees fleeing the atrocities of the Boko Haram, have contributed to increased demand.
The proposed major water diversion scheme would involve channeling a small percentage of water from River Congo towards the north via a navigable canal.
Mohammed Bila of the Lake Chad Basin Commission explained that the Pan-African project is “necessary to restore peace and security in the Lake Chad region and for the promotion of navigation, industrial and economic development in the whole Congo basin.”
Courtesy of Schiller Institute. The Transaqua project aims to move water from River Congo to Lake Chad.
He also highlighted that the movement of the water could feasibly be used to create hydro-electricity, as well as boosting regional trade, creating new economic infrastructure like river ports, and making new agro-industrial zones.
How is China involved?
PowerChina, a large state-owned enterprise in China that built the Three Gorges Dam, has committed US$1.8 million to finance to research studies for the initial stages of Transaqua.
The canal will effectively create a New Silk Road to Lake Chad and there are plans to have a service road and eventually a rail line run alongside the waterway, creating more infrastructure and access.
This is in keeping with the values of China’s Belt and Road initiative. Wang Hao, from the Chinese Embassy in Germany speaking at the Schiller Institute’s Development of Nations Conference, explained China’s decision to put forward the Belt and Road initiative.
He spoke of how China has learned from its own experience how important transport facilities are for the development of the economy. He quoted the Chinese saying: “To get rich, you must build a road first.” This is at the core of the Belt and Road initiative – infrastructure supports economy recovery and strength.
He highlighted that China accounts for two-thirds of the world’s total high-speed railway, with 25,000 kilometres. This infrastructure laid “a solid foundation for the rapid development of China’s economy”.
Facilities connectivity is one of the priorities of the Belt and Road initiative as China believes proper infrastructure is at the basis of economic development. This in part illuminates the reason behind China’s investment into Transaqua.
Mohammed Bila of the Lake Chad Basin Commission said Africa can become the next China if it invests in the Transaqua infrastructure with the support and partnership of China and Europe.
With investment so far of US$1.8 million from China and US$2.5 million from Italy, this project could “launch Africa on the road to economic growth, human security, industrialisation, peace, development and the attainment of the dreams of Pan-African leaders” such as Dr Kwame Nkrumah, former president of Ghana, who first proposed the project in 1964.
“Transaqua is an inter-basin water project to transfer a sufficient flow of water from the tributaries of the Congo River to restore Lake Chad from its current diminutive size of 1500-2500 square kilometers to its 1963 level of 25,000 square kilometers. The Transaqua design is to create a navigable 2,400-kilometer canal that by gravity will deliver between 50 to 100 billion cubic meters of water to the Chari River in the Central African Republic, which is the primary tributary to Lake Chad. The channel will be created through a series of dams of the tributaries to the right of the Congo River.
Transaqua, the brainchild of Dr. Marcello Vichi of the Italian Bonifica engineering firm, was first proposed almost 40 years ago. Its unique feature lies beyond refurbishing Lake Chad, in restoring economic growth to the poor people living in the Lake Chad Basin This mega-project will create a super economic zone of trade and commerce between all the nations of the Congo river and Lake Chad Basins; potentially affecting one third of the entire African continent. In addition to the generation of desperately needed hydro-electric power, new roads will be built, new manufacturing-agricultural centers will be created, new fisheries will develop, and food production will expand with an additional 40,000 hectares of irrigated land.” Source: Lawrence Freeman
Africanagenda: Hello Mr Freeman, thank you for joining us today to discuss the Transaqua Project.
You are very well informed on this subject and since 2014 have been the Vice Chairman of the Lake Chad Scientific Committee. Earlier this year you spoke in Abuja, Nigeria at the International Conference on Saving Lake Chad. Could you tell us about the sense of optimism that this project is bringing to Africans? I believe this was a dream of Ghana`s President Kwame Nkrumah, that the Sahara Desert could bloom.
Heads of State of the Lake Chad Basin nations sign Abuja accord
L. Freeman :The endorsement of the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project at the International Conference to Save Lake Chad held in Abuja from February 26-28 was a milestone for the entire African continent. Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari deserves credit for initiating this conference and his support over many years to recharge Lake Chad. This project would be the largest infrastructure project in Africa connecting a dozen African nations in a super economic zone of development. The Transaqua proposal has been known for several decades, but it was only at the Abuja conference that the Heads of States of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin Commission- (LCBC) officially decided to explore the feasibility of the inter-basin water transfer project. As a result of the conference, approximately $3.6 million will be allocated for the first ever feasibility study of Transaqua to be conducted jointly by PowerChina and Bonifica.
The Sahara Desert, the largest in the world-the size of the continental United States- can bloom if it has water. The loss of lake Chad, the largest body of water in the desert would be a catastrophe not just for those living in the Lake Chad Basin, but for the entire continent, and implicitly the world. Therefore, I am optimistic that the Abuja conference will be a turning point for Africa.
Africanagenda: Transaqua is unique.It is it the largest engineering project ever proposed and as the largest infrastructure project in the world it has the potential to radically transform the economy of the continent`s interior, not just in terms of agriculture but through industry. Could you explain to our readers how transformative Transaqua will be?
L.Freeman: The land area of all the nations that would be affected by Transaqua equals approximately one third of the African continent. The inter-basin water transfer project would create a navigable canal that would facilitate a new level of trade and commerce between the nations of the two basins: Congo River; and Lake Chad. Resulting in an increase in farming, manufacturing, fishing, electrical power, roads, and other related infrastructure.
Thanks in part to China’s New Silk road, African nations are presently engaged in the most intense level of development of infrastructure, most especially in new railways that potentially could cross the continent from Djibouti to Dakar. Plus progress is being made on several East-West highways that would also connect to South-North routes crossing the Sahara Desert.
image: The Schiller Institute
If you look at a map of Africa, you will see that Transaqua will travel northwest from the southeast corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo through the Central African Republic, thus intersecting the East to West network of new railways and highways. The combined effect of the completion of these infrastructure projects would create an economic renaissance for Africa that portends the elimination of poverty and hunger for hundreds of millions of Africans.
Field interviews with more than 1,000 Chinese companies provide new insights into Africa–China business relationships.
In two decades, China has become Africa’s most important economic partner. Across trade, investment, infrastructure financing, and aid, no other country has such depth and breadth of engagement in Africa. Chinese “dragons”—firms of all sizes and sectors—are bringing capital investment, management know-how, and entrepreneurial energy to every corner of the continent. In doing so they are helping to accelerate the progress of Africa’s economies.
Yet to date it has been challenging to understand the true extent of the Africa–China economic relationship due to a paucity of data. Our new report, Dance of the lions and dragons: How are Africa and China engaging, and how will the partnership evolve?, provides a comprehensive, fact-based picture of the Africa–China economic relationship based on a new large-scale data set. This includes on-site interviews with more than 100 senior African business and government leaders, as well as the owners or managers of more than 1,000 Chinese firms spread across eight African countries1that together make up approximately two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP.
In the past two decades, China has catapulted from being a relatively small investor in the continent to becoming Africa’s largest economic partner. And since the turn of the millennium, Africa–China trade has been growing at approximately 20 percent per year. Foreign direct investment has grown even faster over the past decade, with a breakneck annual growth rate of 40 percent.2Yet even this number understates the true picture: we found that China’s financial flows to Africa are around 15 percent larger than official figures when nontraditional flows are included. China is also a large and fast-growing source of aid and the largest source of construction financing; these contributions have supported many of Africa’s most ambitious infrastructure developments in recent years.
We evaluated Africa’s economic partnerships with the rest of the world across five dimensions: trade, investment stock, investment growth, infrastructure financing, and aid. China is among the top four partners for Africa across all these dimensions (Exhibit 1). No other country matches this depth and breadth of engagement.
This report by the United States Institute of Peace provides a useful overview of current and future rail projects for Nigeria. Hard infrastructure in rail, energy, and water management provide an essential platform for real economic growth. China understands this principle as demonstrated in the expansion of the New Silk Road across the globe. It is a credit to President Buhari that has taken leadership in collaborating with China to build a modern rail system in Nigeria that will connect the entire nation.
April 18, 2018
May 18, 2018-ThisDayLive
Just days before President Buhari met with President Trump at the White House, history was made in Washington, DC, with the signing of a landmark infrastructure agreement between the Nigerian Government and a consortium of multinational firms led by the American digital industrial giant, General Electric (GE). The implementation of that agreement, worth US$45 million in the first phase, will ensure that within the next 12 months, passenger travel by rail from Lagos to Kano will be faster and safer, while for the first time in over a decade, contracted
and scheduled freight rail services can once again be offered.
This milestone project is the outcome of President Buhari’s single-minded determination to develop, upgrade and modernise Nigeria’s transport infrastructure, as well as the relentless push by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to fully deliver on the President’s vision.
Since Mr. Amaechi took office in November 2015, as Minister of Transportation, there has been a renaissance in Nigeria’s rail industry, in line with the President’s oft-stated vision. This planned revamp of the Narrow-Gauge Rail Network by the international consortium comprising General Electric, Transnet of South Africa, Sino Hydro of China and APM Terminals (part of the Danish Maersk Group) – after two years of meticulous planning, negotiating and contracting, President Buhari in one of the coaches when he commissioned the Abuja-Kaduna train services offers strong proof of the seriousness with which the Buhari Administration is taking its railway
Nigeria’s Narrow-Gauge Rail System was conceived in the 1890s and built between 1898 and 1926, with a total length of 3,500 kilometres. It consists of two primary lines – Lagos to Nguru and Port Harcourt to Maiduguri– with spur lines to Eleme, Baro, Kaura Namoda and other places.
The Buhari administration, as part of its infrastructure development vision, has now finally taken the long overdue bold steps to modernise the rail network. On August 18, 2017, the Federal Executive Council, following a competitive procurement process, approved the concession of the Narrow-Gauge Rail System to the GE-led Consortium. The Government is advised by a multidisciplinary consortium led by the Africa Finance Corporation.
The initiation of that concession agreement is what has now finally taken effect following the signing in Washington DC yesterday, ahead of President Buhari’s bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday…
The benefits of this intervention are immense: increased economic productivity, job creation, private sector investment, human capacity development and much-needed world class expertise. Worldwide, rail infrastructure has been proven to reduce costs and wastage of goods; increase economic trade between farmers/miners and industry and between traders and consumers; and grow business competitiveness and increase operational efficiency.
May 16, 2018–Nigeria has awarded a $6.68 billion contract to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. (CCECC) for work on a major segment of a railway linking the country’s commercial hub Lagos, in the southwest, and Kano in the north, Xinhua reported May 15.
“The signing of the segment contract agreement today [May 15] concludes all outstanding segments of he Lagos-Kano rail line,” Xinhua quoted Nigeria’s Transport Ministry as saying. The work is expected to take two or three years. CCECC, a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corp., has been involved in other parts of the Lagos-Kano rail project, which started in 2006 and was broken into segments for implementation.
In 2016, Nigeria awarded work on a segment between the northern states of Kano and Kaduna with a contract sum of $1.685 billion. The railway line already receives funding from China Exim Bank which in April approved a $1.231 billion loan for network modernization programs. Nigeria is also negotiating with Russia, on projects within the ambitious national rail development program which requires investments totaling $46 billion.
May 16, 2018-Global Construction
By Tom Wadlow
In 1943, after having flown over the Sahara Desert on his way to a Casablanca conference with Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt remarked to his son Elliott, that with the recreation of a lake in the depressed flats in North Africa, “The Sahara would bloom for hundreds of miles.” He also reminded his son of the rivers which arise in Atlas Mountains and disappear under the Desert. “Divert this water flow for irrigation purposes? It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch!”
Later in the trip, FDR made Winston Churchill apoplectic by discussing plans for anti-imperialist development with the Sultan of Morocco, including mooting American aid in providing the resources to train indigenous scientists and engineers to develop the nation.
FDR’s American System vision for African development was not taken up in the post-war era, but his outlook was echoed by at least two prominent statesmen of the next generation from very different backgrounds—Kwame Nkrumah and President John F. Kennedy. It was no mere coincidence that twenty years later, when Ghanaian President Nkrumah addressed the Organization of African Unity, he would also speak about the “possibility for the Sahara to bloom.” Nkrumah’s vision also would be temporarily crushed.
But today, finally, FDR’s and Nkrumah’s dream is beginning to be realized. A giant step toward greening the desert, and defeating the miserable living conditions which go with it, was taken this February, when a meeting of several African heads of state decided to go ahead with a massive project of water engineering called Transaqua. Although proceeding without American government backing, this project is truly in the spirit of American System development, a long-term investment in transforming the physical environment for the benefit of the general welfare.
It is with that in mind that we present this report by an American who does understand the American System, and has worked persistently for several decades to bring its benefits to Africa.—Nancy Spannaus
The Abuja Conference
After two months, the deliberations from the “International Conference on Saving Lake Chad” held in Abuja, Nigeria from February 26-28, 2018 are still reverberating, and will continue to do so. This historic conference, the first of its kind to be convened on the African continent, was initiated and sponsored by the Nigerian government in conjunction with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), and supported by the United Nations. It has already begun to change the thinking of what is possible for Africa’s future.
From across the globe, hundreds of water experts, hydrologists, scientists, political leaders, advocates for Lake Chad, the African Union, the Africa Development Bank, and the World Bank, joined the heads of state of the Lake Chad Basin nations for three days of deliberation on the best policy to recharge the contracting Lake Chad.
Having served as an advisor to the LCBC and participated in several discussions with the Nigerian government on the necessity for an inter-basin water transfer project to recharge Lake Chad, this author was given a prominent role throughout the entire proceeding, addressing the gathering several times in various capacities. (Written remarks by me were also circulated at the conference and to the press.)
Read entire the article: Save Lake Chad With Transaqua: Presidents Roosevelt and Nkrumah Would Concur
African development hinges on a maddening paradox: its greatest asset—the sheer size and diversity of its landscape—is also the greatest barrier to its development. Landlocked countries are cut off from ports, and the difficulty of moving goods from country to country weighs down intra-continental trade (only 15% of African trade is within Africa. (African Development Bank, 2017) African consumers bear the brunt of these difficulties. . Costs are driven up by a host of factors: tariffs, border delays, corruption. But the biggest challenge is that no streamlined transport route exists between West and East Africa – only a decaying and underdeveloped road and rail system which pushes up costs and drags down efficiency.
Several ambitious schemes have been proposed to link Africa’s east and west coasts, some of which are closer to full realization than others. Most notable in this respect is a plan to expand the existing Trans-African Highway 5 (TAH5) into a true cross-continental road and rail link, the early stages of which China has helped bring to fruition where Western consortiums failed. Likewise, Chinese investment in African infrastructure through Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) may help create expanded sub-regional linkages, particularly in East Africa, that could help facilitate the emergence of an eventual, true East-West link in the long term. However, in the short-to-mid-term, the obstacles to a truly robust set of East-West transport links are formidable, and it is unlikely that China’s involvement will be a panacea.
Read entire article: Can China Realize Africa’s Dream of an East-West Transport Link?