January 26, 2021
I was asked to participate on inauguration day in an event sponsored by African Women for Biden/Harris 2020. As an American, who is knowledgeable about Africa, I was pleased to present my ideas for an improved US-Africa policy. Below is the content of my remarks..
January 20, 2021
Hello, this is Lawrence Freeman. I am happy to join you this afternoon in celebrating the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris.
I have been working in Africa for the last 30 years promoting development policies for the people of Africa; particularly transformative infrastructure projects. I teach classes in the Maryland area on African history. I am a consultant, researcher, writer, and lecturer. I created my own website: LawrenceFreemanAfricaandtheworld.com to help spread my ideas.
I have traveled to Africa many times and have visited several countries in sub-Saharan Africa. From my work in Africa over many years I have a good understanding of the dynamics of the continent. This administration will bring change to Washington. My hope is that this change will include initiating a new policy for Africa. One that is in the interest of United States, and one the serves the interest of Africa and raises the standard of living of all Africans.
Africa today has close to 1.5 billion people. It is expected that in 30 years by 2050, Africa will have close to 2.5 billion. It will have 1 billion young people and have the largest labor force in the world. If we do not address the needs of Africa today, then we could be looking at a dangerous situation in the years to come, and one that will make African nations less stable and less secure. It is in the interest of the United States and the world to help secure a stable future for Africa. We need new innovative policies that address those concerns.
After 500 years of slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism, sub Saharan Africa especially, has been left without the basic infrastructure needed to develop its economies. African nations have very limited, if any infrastructure. The kilometers of railroads and roads in Africa is minimal, although it is beginning to change. The most troubling deficit in infrastructure is the reality of a mere 100,000 to 130,000 megawatts of electricity for all of sub-Saharan Africa! This is literally killing Africans. This lack of infrastructure has to be reversed. It is a matter of life and death.
In order for African nations to develop their full capacity, and realize their rich potential, African nations require a massive investment in infrastructure, especially railroads, electricity, and roads.
African nations also suffer from small manufacturing sectors. Africa has the smallest manufacturing capacity of any continent in the world. And this has to change as well.
African nations need to develop a manufacturing sector. I have been advocating for many years that we have to apply the same economic approach for Africa that we applied to build the United States from 13 agrarian based colonies into an industrial powerhouse. The U.S. accomplished this feat by implementing the American System of economics developed by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, under the direction of President George Washington.
Hamilton understood two principles that were essential for developing the United States that can be applied to Africa today. One, the government has the power to issue credit. African nations desperately need credit for development. Two, Hamilton understood that the U.S. would not be an economically sovereign nation if we had to buy all our manufacturing goods from abroad. He and his followers were strong advocates of building up a manufacturing based economy, which is exactly what Africa needs today.
Africa needs Investment in infrastructure across the continent including high speed railroads connecting major ports and cities, which is being proposed by the African Union. This will take massive amounts of credit. It cannot be done by the private sector alone. The United States should extend long-term low interest credit to African nations for development of infrastructure. The United States should also extend economic assistance to building up the manufacturing capacity in Africa which is quite minimal at this point.
It is in our interest to develop Africa not because we are competing with other nations, but because we want to assist in the development of the African continent. Robust African economies with growing populations will provide larger markets for American capital goods. This will also contribute to creating real security. Poverty is the underlying cause of most conflicts in Africa. The lack of food; lack of water; and lack of jobs generates conflict. Thus, by assisting Africa in developing its economies in these critical areas we will be creating the foundation for peace and security. Simply giving aid alone, which the United States is the leader, will not solve the problem. Providing counter terrorism training alone will not solve the problem. If people are desperate, if they are poor, if they are hungry, they can easily be manipulated into conflict against their brothers and sisters.
I believe Africa can have a very bright future–the more people means the more creative minds. Africa will have the youngest population of any continent in the world. The U.S. should help Africa develop the capabilities to nurture these creative minds because creativity is the source of all wealth.
Presently China is active on the continent. I do not think this has to be a competition between the U.S. and China. The needs of Africa are so large that there are more than enough opportunities for investment by the United States, China, and other nations. Remember the profound words of Pope Paul VI, who in his 1967 encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, said: the new name for peace is development.
It is my hope that with this new administration and in a time of change and optimism we will usher in a new policy of development for Africa. I have written, taught, and lectured on the Hamiltonian economic system and I know this is an approach that will work. It has worked over hundreds of years. It was implemented by President Franklin Roosevelt, who used public, government issued credit, and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to fund his great infrastructure projects that brought us out of the depression. FDR intended to green the deserts of Africa after the war, unfortunately, he died.
Let us apply those same Hamiltonian economic principles for the development of Africa today. Now is the right time for the United States to extend its moral and economic leadership across the ocean, and act on behalf of the common good, which is in the shared interests of all nations and all people.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com