United Nations Conference: The Lake Chad Basin Should not be ‘Managed’; it Should be ‘Transformed.’

 

United Nations Headquarters, August 5-6, 2019

On August 5-6, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Third International Conference on the Lake Chad Basin Region: SDG Implementation-UN System and Non-State Actors Exploring New ways of Cooperation.” The two-day conference at the United Nations Headquarters was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, under the guidance of Dr. Ibrahim Umar. The assemblage was first addressed by ambassadors from three of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin; Permanent Representatives from the UN Missions of Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Lawrence Freeman with Dr. Ibrahim Umar, Nigerian Mission to the United Nations

The convening of this UN session is in response to the worsening living conditions for approximately 30 million Africans living in the Lake Chad Basin, whose livelihood is centered around the shrinking Lake Chad. Today the estimated area of Lake Chad varies from 1200-1300 square kilometers to upwards of 2,000; a 90% contraction from its 1963 level of 25,000 square kilometers.  During the afternoon panel of the first day, the conditions of Lake Chad were addressed by Charles Ichoku, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Howard University, and this author, who is Vice Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

Transforming is Superior to Managing 

Dominating the conference were speakers representing NGOs and international organizations, who accurately depicted the extent of the horrific humanitarian, refugee, and food crises prevailing in the region in detail. Regrettably, there were those who accepted the diminutive size of Lake Chad as unalterable. Some of the participants offered short term solutions and others believed that the recharging of the lake is not an easy or viable option. However, they miss the point; that to comprehensively address the issue of the Lake Chad Basin will require nothing less than the full recharging of Lake Chad. It is only in this way that the humanitarian issues, poverty and underdevelopment can be tackled in the long run. In my presentation I challenged some of the pessimistic thinking in the conference by stating unequivocally: “None of the solutions that have been discussed will work, unless the lake is recharged.” It should be noted that United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has pledged to collaborate with President Buhari of Nigeria, to raise the $50 billion necessary for the recharging of the lake.

Lawrence Freeman addressing the United Nations Conference on the Lake Chad Basin on the first day

My slide presentation demonstrated how the lake can be recharged to its previous level through Transaqua, an inter-basin water transfer project. Transaqua, designed in 1980 by Dr. Vichi of the Italian engineering firm, Bonifica, proposed to build a 2,400-kilometer canal created from 5-8% of the water in the Congo River Basin. The navigable gravity-driven canal would connect to the Chari River, in the Central Africa Republic, which releases its flow into Lake Chad. This bold innovative project is a “win-win” for the twelve nations of the Lake Chad and Congo River Basins, and for all of Africa. Responding to the necessity of recharging the shrinking Lake Chad, the project provides a unique opportunity to create a super economic “development zone” amongst the nations of the two basins. Trade, and commerce would increase by orders of magnitudes, hydroelectric power would be produced, millions of additional hectares would be irrigated, new roads created, new fisheries and manufacturing centers would be built. This author also presented to the audience the conclusions from the three-day International Conference to Save Lake Chad, held in Abuja Nigeria-February 26-28, 2018, at which the Heads of State from the nations of the Lake Chad Basin, endorsed Transaqua as the preferred method to expand the lake.

Both before and after my presentation numerous presenters spoke out against “big projects” and “diverting water” as if the Africans suffering in the region want the lake to remain at 10% of its previous level. International intervention and technology to alleviate the conditions in the basin were also eschewed in favor of local projects and listening to the so called “voice of the people.” Manage! Manage the existing deplorable conditions; don’t even dare think of changing-improving was echoed repeatedly.

On the second day, this author was compelled to speak out against the condescending attitude that assumes Africans do not want to enjoy the same standard of living as all the speakers from the US and Europe. I asked, if they thought that those people struggling for daily survival within the Lake Chad Basin wouldn’t desire clean running water, and having access to 1,500 watts of electricity 24 hours a day all year?

 

A slide presented by Mr. Freeman at the UN conference displaying the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project

Underlying Cultural Beliefs About Mankind

Approximately five to six thousand years ago Lake Chad was a mega lake comprising 1,000,000 square kilometers. There are reports that several hundred years ago, Lake Chad almost disappeared. The lake sits on top of three aquifers and are adjacent to the gigantic Nubian Sandstone Aquifer.  Clearly the growth and shrinkage of the lake over millennia predates so called anthropomorphic caused climate change. Lake Chad is fed by river systems from Nigeria and Cameroon, the most significant contributor being the Chari River from the Central African Republic. With the southern movement of the Tropical Conversion Zone there is less rainfall thus reducing the flow of water into the lake. The closest source of water to refill and maintain Lake Chad is the super moist Congo River Basin, hundreds of kilometers south. A feasibility study should confirm the Transaqua hypothesis for the potential of a continuous flow of water into Lake Chad, resulting in transforming the entire region.

The failure to test and analyze the Transaqua proposal for almost four decades, even though many people were concerned about the worsening conditions resulting from the shrinking lake, leads us to examine a deeper cultural problem.

Over the last half century, Western societies have become victims of cultural pessimism. Our cultural paradigm has shifted away from one of optimism and confidence in human’s ability to discover new scientific principles that lead to technological revolutions for the betterment of humanity. In the years following the historic 1969 landing of humans on the Moon, inspired by the leadership of President John Kennedy, our culture has been dramatically altered for the worse. The previously discredited Malthusian dogma reasserted itself, with false assertions that if population growth was not stopped the planet would run out of resources. This was accompanied with hysterical calls for population reduction. Over time, as our culture became more decadent, the very progress of our society was assailed with attacks on science, technology, and industrialization.  In this new perverted ideology humankind, (made in the image of the Creator) became the devil-the source of evil itself in the world.

Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad Bande speaking at a reception hosted by the UN Nigerian Mission for the Lake Chad Basin conference

Contrary to declarations  that humans are destroying the environment, there is no such adversarial relationship. The physical universe is organized on the principle of continuous development and is predisposed to respond positively to the intervention of human creativity. Humankind is not just a caretaker or a steward. Humanity was created to interact with the universe for unending growth. Reflect on the biblical injunction in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Yes, we can and must transform the Lake Chad Basin. We can end suffering, hunger, and poverty in that region, and across the African continent. That is what humankind was created to accomplish. Let us not reject our fundamental human essence: to willfully transform our planet (the universe) for the perpetuation of our uniquely creative species.

 

Distributed at the UN conference reported on above: UN Statement on Transaqua for Lake Chad

Distributed at the Abuja, Nigeria conference 2/26-28/2018:  Now Is the Time to Think Big and In the Future 

Failed US-Africa Policy Exposed Yet Again

August 2, 2019
March 1961-President Kennedy provides real leadership by collaborating with President Nkrumah to industrialize Ghana

The article below, “More than Just Investment: Why America Was Once So Popular in Africa” by Nick Danby, published in World News, is a useful contribution to analyzing President Trump’s flawed African policy.  He accurately reports that the Trump’s administration’s “Prosper Africa” will not contribute to the development of Africa. He also highlights, as I have done, the leadership provided by President John Kennedy to support the rights of Africans to achieve economic sovereignty.

More than Just Investment: Why America Was Once So Popular in Africa

“On June 19 of this year, the Trump administration unveiled a new plan, known as “Prosper Africa,” to engage and invigorate the oft-forgotten continent. At the 2019 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Mozambique, American leaders and allies heralded the $60 billion investment plan as a “once-in-a-generational opportunity” for Africa. But the U.S. government is not strengthening greater commercial and trade connections between U.S. companies and Africa’s ICT sector out of the kindness of its own heart. Both publicly and privately the deal has been construed as a way to “provide financially sound alternatives to state-led initiatives from countries like China” and to prevent countries from falling into “opaque and unsustainable debt traps being laid by Beijing throughout the developing world.” At face value, the White House is working to promote a prosperous Africa by focusing on multilateral investment and trade. Yet the altruism of such an approach is undermined when administration officials, like national security advisor John Bolton, suggest that the new strategy predominantly serves as a counterweight to Chinese and Russian “predatory practices.”

“Countering Chinese and Russian influence in Africa remains a top priority for the U.S., but the most prudent way to win over African leaders and citizens is by demonstrating that American officials truly care about Africa’s well-being. China has built useful connections and alliances on the continent because it acts as though its efforts directly benefit Africa more than themselves. China’s powerful hold on the continent through its dominant commercial presence and debt diplomacy schemes were further developed when Xi Jinping invited dozens of African foreign dignitaries to Beijing and then pledged $60 billion in financial aid for the continent. Xi has also visited Africa on numerous occasions, hob-knobbing with leaders, boosting China’s public relations, and enlisting nations to join the “Belt and Road Initiative.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin will host 50 African leaders in Sochi for the first Russian-African Summit in October.

“If the Trump administration wishes to engage African leaders and dissuade them from partnerships with the Chinese and the Russians by teaming up with U.S. companies, it must develop a strategy that goes far beyond an anachronistic amalgam of trade and investment. The U.S. must first build off of the goodwill and trust it fostered with PEPFAR by not only continuing to fund PEPFAR (which has been nominated for the chopping block since the Obama days) but also other programs that can improve Africa’s standard of living, whether that be through strategic health diplomacy or the vast array of other issues their civilians must endure on a daily basis.

“President Kennedy always had a special interest in Africa that predated his own time in the White House. In the 1960 campaign, he lambasted Eisenhower for not exerting enough effort or attention on the continent as it underwent decolonization. During one campaign speech, Kennedy told his audience, “We have neglected and ignored the needs and aspirations of the African people. The word is out – and spreading like wildfire…that it is no longer necessary to remain poor or forever in bondage.” The U.S. should heed Kennedy’s words and work toward improving Africa with the Africans. By caring about the continent’s welfare, Chinese and Russian influence will soon dwindle.”

Trump’s Policy for Africa Exists Only to Stop China

July 20, 2019

The analysis in the article below published by WPR is useful. However, I can be more blunt: President Trump’s policy for Africa has nothing to do with helping Africa, but it only to counter China’s influence! President Obama did very little for Africa, but make speeches about so called good governance and promoted his fraudulent “power-less Africa” program. Sadly, President Trump is following in Obama’s footsteps, premising his strategy for Africa on the old British geo-political doctrine of winners and losers in a zero-sum game. Read my article:  President Trump’s Fundamentally Flawed Africa Policy  Stopping China is not a policy to help Africa, a continent still suffering today from enormous infrastructure deficits, a legacy of 500 years of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Despite all the propaganda against China, China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative has done more to assist African nations in developing their economies in recent decades, that all the combined initiatives of Europe and the United States. President Trump’s “Prosper Africa” will not advance Africa’s interests. The best way to actually promote development in Africa, build robust manufacturing sectors, and industrialize the underdeveloped continent, would be for President Trump to join China in building infrastructure across the continent in the spirit of the Belt and Road Imitative. 

World Politics Review

Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Commission.
Ivanka Trump, and H,E, Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, African Union

Trump’s ‘Prosper Africa’ Strategy Is Fixated on a Cold War-Like View of China

Kimberly Ann ElliottTuesday, July 16, 2019

During the Cold War, American policymakers frequently pushed nonaligned countries to take sides. The Central Intelligence Agency fomented coups against governments that flirted with communism and the Soviet Union, or that just drifted too far to the left for comfort. The State Department threatened to cut aid flows to countries that voted too often against U.S. priorities at the United Nations. Could sub-Saharan Africa find itself caught in the middle again if a cold war with China breaks out?

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation last December, President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, launched a new initiative called “Prosper Africa” that he said was aimed at promoting trade and commercial ties “to the benefit of both the United States and Africa.” But there are a number of reasons for African governments to be concerned about what the administration really has in mind.

First of all, Bolton cast the goal of increased economic engagement as something necessary for “safeguarding the economic independence of African states and protecting U.S. national security interests,” not as something helpful for African economic development. He pointed to the growing influence of “great power competitors,” China and Russia, which he suggested were investing in Africa mainly “to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.” While there are certainly valid concerns about some of China’s foreign aid and lending practices in Africa and other developing countries, African governments have generally welcomed Chinese aid and investment. It’s not at all clear they would agree that this is a competition where they must choose one side or the other.

A second reason to be skeptical of how seriously this administration takes the goal of helping Africa develop is the low level of U.S. engagement to date. President Donald Trump has not visited the continent; his wife and daughter have in trips heavy on photo ops but light on policy substance. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross—hardly the most dynamic member of the Cabinet—was supposed to represent the administration last month at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, where details of the Prosper Africa initiative were announced. But he cancelled at the last minute because of a “scheduling conflict,” according to his office, sending Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley instead.

By contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Africa multiple times and has welcomed a stream of African officials to Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin will host 50 African leaders at a summit in Sochi later this year. Gyude Moore, a former minister of public works in Liberia (he’s now my colleague at the Center for Global Development), called the lack of Cabinet-level U.S. participation at the Maputo meeting insulting.

There are a number of reasons for African governments to be concerned about what the Trump administration really has in mind.

Finally, another reason to question the White House’s intentions with respect to trade with Africa is Trump’s view that trade policy is a zero-sum game: If another country wins, the United States must lose, and vice versa. Indeed, before getting to the mutual benefit part of his speech last December, Bolton asserted that the administration’s new Africa strategy would remain true to Trump’s “central campaign promise to put the interests of the American people first, both at home and abroad.”

So it should be no surprise that when he discussed trade, Bolton emphasized American jobs and exports to Africa. He said that the administration wants to pursue “modern, comprehensive trade agreements… that ensure fair and reciprocal exchange.” In recent congressional testimony, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also reiterated the administration’s goal of negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with an African country that could become a model for others. Negotiators for a little country, negotiating with a big country like the United States, might wonder just what reciprocity means in that context.

If more than two decades of history is any guide, negotiating a trade deal with the United States will mean more or less accepting whatever text American negotiators put in front of their counterparts, including onerous demands for strict intellectual property protections that could increase prices for drugs and agricultural inputs. Negotiating with one country at a time is also problematic because most African countries are party to one or more regional communities, which they are stitching together in a single, continent-wide free trade agreement that just formally entered into force. The continent—home to a large number of small economies, many of them landlocked—desperately needs more regional integration to increase its competitiveness by lowering transportation and other costs of trade and achieving economies of scale.

Beyond these problematic trade plans, what else is in the administration’s Prosper Africa initiative? Its second stated aim is to engage the private sector and double U.S. trade with and investment in Africa. According to Kelley’s remarks in Maputo, two of the three strands of the program are aimed at helping American companies find and close deals across Africa by streamlining and better coordinating U.S. government activities that provide information, financing and risk insurance to the private sector. She also suggested that these efforts on behalf of American businesses could include “U.S. government advocacy” to “expedite” transactions, which sounds like it might involve a little arm-twisting if African officials question the terms of a deal.

Helping African countries improve the investment climate, which is Prosper Africa’s third strand, and connecting American investors to opportunities on the continent, are worthy—and indeed longstanding—goals. Overall, however, the initiative appears to be a mix of existing programs in shiny new packaging, and with little new money. The $50 million proposed budget for Prosper Africa is a drop in the bucket compared to the administration’s proposed 9 percent cut in overall aid to Africa. And efforts to negotiate bilateral trade agreements country by country would undermine the regional integration that is needed for the continent’s development.

Trade and aid to support development in Africa can and should be to the mutual interest of all involved. But putting Prosper Africa in the context of the geopolitical rivalry with China, alongside Trump’s belligerent America First rhetoric, undermines that positive message.

Kimberly Ann Elliott is a visiting scholar at the George Washington University Institute for International Economic Policy, and a visiting fellow with the Center for Global Development. Her WPR column appears every Tuesday

 

China Helps Ghana Industrialize. First Ever Russia-Africa Summit

June 23, 2019

You will read below the continued cooperation of Russia and China with Africa in promoting economic growth on the continent. In this respect, the US is largely absent in Africa. President Trump would be wise to correct this flawed US policy, and join Russia and China in engaging in the development of African nations. 

Ghanaweb.com

Help Ghana industrialize – Business Development Minister tells China

 

Ibrahim Mohammed Awal 750x406
Ghana’s Minister for Business Development, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal

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Minister for Business Development, Dr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal, has appealed to China not to be a mere trading partner but to also support Ghana’s efforts to become a manufacturing hub in West Africa.

He said while Ghana appreciated and looked forward to growth in the trade relations between the two countries, it was critical for China to prioritize manufacturing in Ghana as well.

Opening the third China Trade Week in Accra yesterday, Dr Awal said his appeal was premised on the government’s industrialization drive as one of the major pillars to Ghana’s accelerated, all-inclusive and sustainable development.

The three-day event was organised by MIE Events, a global event organizer, as a business to business trade show featuring over 100 Chinese manufacturers looking to develop direct trading partnerships and links with local businesses.

It was also a platform for the local business community to explore business opportunities in China to enhance trade cooperation between the two countries.

It is a platform for both Ghanaian and Chinese businesses and brands to increase their visibility, find vendor partners and distributors in each other’s country.

Organizing for First-Ever Russia-Africa Summit in October Underway

The Kremlin announced officially on May 28 that the first-ever Russia-Africa Summit will be held on Oct. 24, 2019, in Sochi. It will be co-chaired by President Vladimir Putin and current chair of the African Union, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. All the heads of state of Africa are invited to attend, as well as leaders of major sub-regional associations and organizations. An economic forum will be held for Russian and African officials and businessmen the day before (Oct. 23), which some 3,000 African businessmen are expected to attend.

President Putin first proposed the idea of such a summit at the 2018 BRICS summit in South Africa, and his aide, Yury Ushakov, is now chairing the summit Organizing Committee. Russian organizers describe the summit as “of unprecedented scale” for Russia, whose intent is to provide “a strategically important step towards creating the most favorable conditions to develop trade and economic relations and diversity the forms and areas of Russian-African cooperation.”

Preparatory meetings are already being held, including a Russia-Africa Business Dialogue organized as part of the St. Petersburg Forum; a Russia-Africa Economic Forum being held in Moscow yesterday and today, along with the 26th annual shareholders meeting of the African Export-Import Bank, which is being held in Moscow for the first time; and a Russia-Africa Parliamentary Conference on July 1-3. Work started in April on drafting a document to be titled “Russia-Africa: Shared Vision 2030,” involving people from the African continent and Russians.

China’s Belt-Road Initiative Advancing Growth in Africa and Germany. Will the US join?

June 20, 2019

Everyday, nations around the world are experiencing economic growth by participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative-BRI. For a truly global transformation, the United States must join this new paradigm of development. The most productive way to enhance relations with China, is for President Trump, at next week’s G-20 meeting, to discuss with President Xi Jinping, the US joining the BRI. This would create an unprecedented level of economic growth throughout the world. It would also be a brilliant flank against those voices in the US, and internationally, who are demonizing China, and trying two divide our two great nations. 

{Independent}: Belt and Road Contributing to Prosperity in Africa

A feature today in the South African {Independent Online Business Report} publication reviews the benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative for Africa, saying that Liberia, Morocco, and Tunisia have benefited from African development projects, as has Ethiopia from the Addis Ababa Light Rail, which cut travel time to and from the city. Through the BRI, China has also built a light-rail system in Abuja, Nigeria, the first to be built in Western Africa. Chinese construction companies have further assisted Angola in rebuilding its Benguela Railway, which had been destroyed in the civil war. The country can now transport goods from Angola’s western coastline to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chinese-funded projects have also led to the construction of the Isimba and Karuma hydroelectric power stations, two new sources of electricity to Uganda, which will ultimately aid development. In Rwanda, road construction projects have brought young citizens into construction through their employment. This ultimately improved their welfare and provided labor skills. In the spirit of BRI’s trade ambitions, Egypt now looks to make the idea of the Cape-to-Cairo road a reality. Since taking the reins as 2019-2020 chairperson of the African Union, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt plans to construct a superhighway through multiple African nations, eventually ending in Cape Town, to open
countries to trading in the Cape’s ports and in Cairo, Egypt’s gateway to the European Union.

German Mittelstand Supports New Silk Road

China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been creating opportunities for German enterprises, said Hans von Helldorff, chairman of the board of the Federal Association of German Silk Road Initiative (BVDSI), in an interview with Xinhua on June 17.

“The future markets and the new markets, for example, are in Asia, Africa, as well as Eastern and Southern Europe. They are not so well-connected. China has been providing the connections, thus it will generate great opportunities,” said von Helldorff, stating that new markets are needed by Germany’s Mittelstand firms.

Von Helldorff said that, thanks to the inter-connectivity, businesses have already been on the rise in some German cities, such as Hamburg and Duisburg. Many small and medium-sized companies in Germany got contracts with seaborne and logistics enterprises from China and other countries for local registration, legal, accounting, and tax services, von Helldorff stated.

“The infrastructure projects along the Belt and Road countries also need a lot of know-how. Harbor-related, road-related, train-related, etc. We have to open our eyes and participate in them,” von Helldorff said, declaring that the strengths of German businesses can contribute as an “innovation and investment engine.”

Speaking about prevailing doubts and worries about the BRI, allegations that the initiative might be politically motivated and harm local industries, von Helldorff said that some of them are simply clichés and that some are unfounded.

“The BVDSI sees China as a fast-growing economy that follows a plan. We need to sit and make eye-to-eye contacts and negotiations. Only cooperation in the sense of fair competition is for the benefit of humanity,” von Helldorff said. The BVDSI, founded in March 2019, is a business association serving as a platform for the interests of small- and medium-sized German companies. The BVDSI plans to organize a
forum later this year in Germany on the BRI for partners to establish project-related contacts.

 

President Trump’s Harmful Huawei Sanctions Against China, the US, and the World

June 16, 2019

President Trump’s foolish sanctions against Huawei display a poor understanding of the history of human development on this planet, as we know it. As William Jones points in his article below, it is the US economy and American citizens, more than China, that could suffer from these ill thought out sanctions. The beauty of human beings is our continued ability over millions of years to make discoveries of new physical principles of the universes, due to our inherent capacity for creative thought. Although this quality of human thought is less valued in American culture these days, this is not so in China. China will continue to make scientific advances, as should all nations. We should all rejoice when new discoveries are made, resulting in new advances in applied technologies, which benefits all of mankind. Who will create the next technological platform with “6G?” This is the essence of human progress and it should be celebrated. As I have repeated many times on this website, if The Trump administration and US Congress had any brains, they would enthusiastically join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and collaborate with China in industrializing the Moon as a stepping stone to colonizing Mars. These joint endeavors would produce a new platform of economic growth across the globe that would benefit humanity for decades to come.

Africa should not be bullied into rejecting Huawei’s 5G technology

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The U.S. Could Be Shooting Itself in the Foot with Huawei Sanctions

2019-06-12 China Today

Author:WILLIAM JONES

The near-hysteria in Washington over the expansion of Huawei worldwide and its development of 5G technology has provided some much sought ammunition for politicians here in Washington with a dearth of ideas for resolving America’s economic woes, and may have some short-sighted benefit for them among a populace fearful that the direction of American society is on a downward spiral. Finding a scapegoat for the country’s dilemma apart from the powers in Washington that actually determine the fate of the nation, is always a welcome relief for those power-brokers who hold themselves above scrutiny. And preventing a competing nation from becoming an integral contributor to the vital communications networks on which the world increasingly depends is an added boon. And yet the attempt to undermine Huawei from becoming a bigger player in the world’s communications systems may in fact sabotage the growth of U.S. companies engaged in the same field

Read US Sanctions Against Huawei

AU Amb Chihombori-Quao: “The African Sleeping Giant is Rising”-The Significance of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area

On June 2, 2019, I interviewed African Union Ambassador to the United States, Arikana Chihombori-Quao at her home, on the significance of the new agreement on an Africa Continental Free Trade Area-AfCFTA, initiated on May 30. The AfCFTA is intended to reduce tariffs and barriers between African nations to promote trade, and spur economic development throughout the continent.

 

In the interview above, Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao, provides a provocative and optimistic analysis of what the newly enacted agreement for an Africa Continental Free Trade Area-AfCFTA will mean for continent over the coming years and decades.

Amb Chihombori emphasizes huge potential for the AfCFTA to double, triple and even quadruple intra-African trade, which today is a mere 16%-18% of total continental trade. According to the UN Commission on Africa, AfCFTA could increase intra-trade by 15% to 25%, that equals $50-$70 billion in the next 20 years.  The concept of AfCFTA is to enable each African with the opportunity to potentially access the continent’s multi-trillion dollar market and 1.2 billion buyers and sellers. Landry Signe of the US based Brookings Institute estimates that by 2030 AfCFTA could boost consumer and business spending to $6.7 trillion.

Historically, Amb Chihombori views the AfCFTA as a continuation of the struggle by African nations to liberate themselves from intended under-development imposed on Africa by the infamous Berlin Conference (1884-1885). She stresses that 56 years (and five days) after the founding of the Organization of Africa Unity-OAU (May 25, 1963), Africa will now be functioning as one trading bloc of nations, which is intended to equalize the international playing field. As the implementation of AfCFTA proceeds, Amb Chihombori believes that Africa will acquire the stature of a “heavy-weight” in global trade and commerce. She is also hoping that by the end of this year Africa will ratify the “Free Movement Protocol” that would allow Africans to live, travel, and work anywhere on the continent, thus complementing the AfCFTA

Amb Chihombori accentuates in this interview, that infrastructure is a level one priority for Africa in the AfCFTA. “Investment in infrastructure is an absolutely essential step for us to take as we move into the implementation of AfCFTA,” she says. The denial of basic infrastructure, power, access to water, education and healthcare, by the colonial powers following the Berlin Conference, kept African nations from  developing; by design. “Leaders in Africa are now discussing the building highways and high-speed rail from Cape Town to Cairo and Djibouti to Dakar.”

Challenging those who advocate reducing Africa’s population and falsely claiming that Africa’s growing population is a major contributor to Africa’s economic problems, Amb Chihombori asserts that: “Our youth is the biggest advantage we have over the rest of the world…Youth is our biggest asset.”

Amb Chihombori wants to make the US the number one trading partner with Africa, telling Americans; “that the African sleeping giant is rising-it is a new game.”

***The AfCFTA had already come under attack, even before its birth, by the International Monetary Fund-IMF. According to the People’s News Africa, the IMF warned African nations they could lose revenue, if the AfCFTA is enacted.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame quickly responded: “It is important that Africa gives the necessary considerations to the views and opinions by external entities and ‘development partners,’ it is more important at the same time that Africa becomes aware of what we want for ourselves, pursue what is good for the continent, and defend what is necessary for our collective development.”

African Union Deepening Relationship With Huawei

Africa should not be beholden to US anti-China policy from President Trump’s administration. China and Africa have formed a closed relationship, collaborating to build vitally necessary infrastructure projects that the US and the West have refused to build over many decades. African nations have the right to have the most advanced technologies to realize their full economic potential on a continent rich with people and resources.

 

Huawei’s vice-president for the Northern African region Philippe Wang (on the left) and the deputy chair of the African Union, H.E. Kwesi Quartey

June 2, 2019

Huawei announced on May 31 that they had signed a three-year MOU to “improve the technical expertise of the African Union (AU) and to cooperate on key issues related to information and communication technologies,” according to Quartz Africa. Huawei and the AU will partner to strengthen sectors including the internet, cloud computing, broadband, 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and cyber-security, while also providing training for young people.

Since an MOU signed in 2015, people from across the AU have been hosted on tours to Huawei training centers in China.    While the China-bashers in the U.S. are warning countries against Huawei spying on people, China is “trying to improve its competitive advantage in the continent,” Quartz Africa reports.

“The company is already one of the biggest phone brands operating in Africa, coming just behind China’s Transsion and South Korea’s Samsung in the smartphone space. Since starting its operations in Kenya in 1998, it has used a blend of pricing, customer service, brand awareness, and a vision to bridge the digital divide to penetrate the African market. Huawei has also reportedly built about 70% of Africa’s 4G networks, vastly outpacing competitors in the demand not just for internet but for improved and faster connectivity.”

“Huawei’s deal with the AU could also be seen in the context of trying to improve its competitive advantage in the continent. The company is already one of the biggest phone brands operating in Africa, coming just behind China’s Transsion and South Korea’s Samsung in the smartphone space. Since starting its operations in Kenya in 1998, it has used a blend of pricing, customer service, brand awareness, and a vision to bridge the digital divide to penetrate the African market.

“Huawei has also reportedly built about 70% of Africa’s 4G networks, vastly outpacing competitors in the demand not just for internet but for improved and faster connectivity.

“Under this agreement, we are pleased to consolidate our existing partnership with Huawei, a leading group in the fields of innovation and technological research,” Thomas Kwesi Quartey, the deputy chairperson of the AU said. “It is essential that we work closely with our partners to meet the digital transformation challenges of Africa.”

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US Moon-Mars Space Exploration: Scientific Progress Will Benefit All Humanity & Future Generations

May 23, 2019

Space exploration is in mankind’s nature. Human beings-homo sapiens-sapiens- have been looking up to the stars and discovering new qualities of the physical universe from our earliest existence. A new Moon-Mars program is essential for two reasons. One, it excites our creative imagination, and instills optimism in us. Secondly, all new discoveries of physical principles lead to economic progress. These type of scientific endeavors will provide the knowledge to help us green the vast Sahara Desert, which has plagued Africa since it dried up several thousands of years ago. For these reasons and more, I am an enthusiastic advocate of going back to the Moon and onward to Mars.

(Courtesy of SpaceNews)

NASA Video: Moon Source and `Checkpoint for All that Lies Beyond’

A new video produced by NASA shows the far greater challenge and potential of the “Moon by 2024” mission in comparison to the United States’ manned landings on the Moon a half-century ago. Presenting an array of new rocketry and manned capsules in action and under development, the NASA astronauts and engineers promise, “We’re going to the Moon this time to stay.”

But more, the Moon is the launch pad, the new space coast, and the source of both fuel and supplies for missions to Mars and beyond; mankind will explore the Solar System from the Moon.

“In 2009 we learned that the Moon contains millions of tons of water ice,” the technicians say. “This ice can [make] water, oxygen for breathing, or hydrogen for rocket fuel. The Moon is uniquely suited to prepare us, and propel us to Mars and beyond…. This we can replicate throughout the Solar System.”

No suggestion is made of competition or conflict in space; rather “We go to seek knowledge and understanding, and to share it with all.”

“We return to the Moon now as preparation…as a checkpoint toward all that lies beyond.”

Enjoy watching this short video:

 

 

$50 Billion to Recharge Lake Chad; Pres Trump Should be at China’s Belt-Road Forum

April 25, 2019

Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari-left and UN General Secretary  Antonio Guterres-right  (courtesy LEADERSHIP)

UN Promises To Help Raise $50 Billion for Lake Chad Water Transfer

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari enrolled UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the effort to raise the $50 billion needed to finance the construction of the Transaqua project to refill Lake Chad, Nigerian media report. That figure was proposed at the International Conference on Lake Chad in February 2018. Here is one such report from the Nigerian daily {Leadership}. Transaqua is an “inter-basin water transfer” project that I have advocated for over 20 years and discussed with President Buhari shortly after he was elected in March 2015. True to his word, President Buhari has remained committed to this inter-basin water transfer project, which would transform the living conditions for over 30 million Africans trying to survive in Lake chad Basin.

“There is a glimmer of hope for the revival of the shrinking Lake Chad after the United Nations yesterday agreed to help in efforts to raise $50 billion for its recharge.” President Muhammadu Buhari revealed yesterday that  UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, had accepted to co-chair a special fundraising session to raise $50 billion (or £38.65 billion) for a project to help revive the drought stricken Lake Chad.”

{Leadership} reports that President Buhari had written to the UN scribe to co-chair the fundraising session with him, which the UN chief accepted. The response of the UN Secretary-General was presented to President Buhari by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank-(AfDB), at the State House, Abuja yesterday.

In a statement by his press spokes person, Garba Shehu, Buhari  said such a special forum was necessary in view of the size of capital required for the project, which was unavailable to the Lake Chad Basin countries. “President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the acceptance of the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres to co-chair a Special Session to raise $50 billion to fund the inter-basin water transfer from Central Africa to revive Lake Chad,” Buhari said in the statement.

{Leadership} reports that the Lake, which borders Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has lost 90% of its size due mainly to climate change, leading to fear of famine and throwing the economic life of the 30 million population around it into jeopardy. The shrinking Lake is part of the reason why insurgency and terrorist activities thrive in the region, with militant groups including Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram having their strongholds there….”

Read the full article

China Ambassador: `Why U.S. Shouldn’t Sit Out the Belt and Road’

Under the headline above, China’s Ambassador in Washington Cui Tiankai wrote a column in {Fortune} magazine on the eve of the Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. “Don’t miss all the winning” involved in the Belt and Road, Cui admonishes, perhaps referring to one of President Donald Trump’s favorite phrases.

The ambassador starts with a very direct challenge: “Imagine the potential of China and the United States, the world’s two largest, most vibrant economies, collaborating on the most ambitious development project in history. The scenario is no fantasy: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which kicked off almost six years ago, will eventually connect a vast swath of the world, creating huge yields in economic activity, and wiring the world together as never before. However, the United States remains on the sidelines, and this has implications not only in terms of missed opportunities for growth in the U.S., but for the cause of global development, which needs the ingenuity of US industry.”

Cui gives many arguments for the BRI which reflect those of Xi Jinping. He cites total benefits to the 126 countries now in relationship to it: $6 trillion in total trade, $80 billion in direct investment by China; 300,000 new “local jobs” in those countries; Kazakhstan’s first-ever access to the Pacific Ocean; 6,000 new jobs in Europe’s largest inland port, Duisburg; Kenya’s beginning of economic development and industrial-ization; and so on, with citations from national leaders.

“So where is the U.S. amid all of this winning?” he concludes. “There are countless opportunities to U.S. corporations available through BRI projects. Honeywell International is already working with partners to further oil and gas development along the Belt and Road. General Electric has signed a number of deals with partners of the BRI which will help to provide reliable power and energy to critical regions throughout the world. Caterpillar is working with China’s initiative to help solve Pakistan’s severe power shortages. Meanwhile, Citibank is actively providing financing for projects through the markets along the Belt and Road. We certainly welcome more taking part…. My suggestion is that the U.S. embrace this opportunity.”