“China’s deal with Italian firms will rescue Lake Chad”
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.