I fully endorse the call by the African Railway Roundtable for the Europe Union to support the African Integrated High-Speed Rail Network. Whether Europe’s Global Gateway Strategy will actually fund this critically important infrastructure project is not clear.
The massive infrastructure deficit existing in all African nations is the greatest impediment to the elimination of poverty. Next to energy, rail transportation is the most vital category of infrastructure necessary for African nations to survive and develop in the 21st century. That U.S. and Europe have not understood this concept of physical economy for the last 50 years demonstrates a major failure in Western policy. That so called human right groups and NGOs have not made this–energy and rail infrastructure–their highest priority in their advocacy is another sign of the ignorance of what is required for African nations to provide for the welfare of their people.
Let Europe and the U.S. join China’s Belt and Road Initiative in bringing vitally required infrastructure to Africa.
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. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.
Watch the video below, an comprehensive discussion with Rowland Ataguba, Managing Director of Bethlehem Rail Infrastructure on the African Integrated High Speed Railway Network (AIHSRN). He is a driving force to have AIHSRN up and running in Africa by 2033. For Africa to realize the potential of the newly inaugurated, Africa Continental Free Trade Area AfCFTA, there must be an integrated rail network connecting the major capitals, cities, ports, and regions of Africa. Such an integrated network of freight and passenger transportation is necessary to reverse the dismal amount of trade among African nations, estimated at 15%. With the population of the African continent projected to have almost 2.5 billion people by 2050, the AIHSRN proposal is essential and cannot wait until 2063 as planned by the African Union (AU).
The African Integrated High Speed Railway Network will deliver connectivity across the huge continent via 6 main East-West and 3 North-South corridors, using standard gauge tracks with electric locomotives running at a speed of 160 kilometers per hour. These rail lines will become corridors of economic expansion for manufacturing and agriculture.
As the history of the development of great nations, such as the United States, Russia, and China demonstrate; railroads build nations, traverse continents, link oceans, and create a spine for manufacturing centers. Properly understood, infrastructure is much more than a simple collection of projects. Economic progress is determined by the relative level of the scientific-technological design embodied in the integrated infrastructure platform which undergirds the manufacturing and agricultural sectors of an economy. An individual infrastructure project, such as a railroad, may not yield an immediate profit itself. However, as physical economists like myself know, viable infrastructure projects contribute to increasing the productivity of the labor force, thus enabling the economy as a whole to generate a profit. Massive investments in infrastructure, such as AIHSRN, are essential to industrialize Arica, which is necessary to eliminate hunger and poverty across the continent.
Mr. Ataguba proposes that the entire network be completed in the next 12-13 years. The only way that AIHSRN can be FAST TRACKED is through centralizing the project. He says that too much valuable time has been lost in connecting the railway network, which is indispensable for improving the standard of living of the average African. He emphasizes that this rail network needs to affect the economy today, not tomorrow! Mr. Ataguba understands that for African nations to develop, this quality of infrastructure is urgently required.
AIHSRN will revolutionize African economies in providing standardized, fast, efficient, and safe transport at a far cheaper cost than road.
Once completed, freight and passenger transport across Africa will be transformed. For the first time in history, it will be possible to travel and send freight on a modern railway from: Dakar in Senegal to Djibouti or Pointe Noire; Congo Brazzaville to Dar Es Salaam; Tanzania to Walvis Bay; Namibia to Maputo Mozambique. Traversing the continent from east to west. Likewise, it will be possible to travel the entire length of the African land mass from Cape Town, South Africa along the Indian Ocean to Alexandria in Egypt or from Cape Town to Tripoli in Libya along the Atlantic coast.
For those passionately concerned about securing a prosperous future for Africa; watch this video.
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. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton
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.
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 Global Television Network, or CGTN published my article on the African Union’s creation of the Africa Continental Freed Trade Area-AfCFTA
Six decades after African nations began liberating their people from the yoke of European colonialists, the African Union has launched the “operational phase” of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), taking a giant step toward uniting the 54 African nations and fostering economic progress.
The landmark move was made at the 12th Extraordinary African Union Summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on July 7. Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, referred to it as a “historic moment.”
Many prominent African leaders view this new free trade agreement as a “game changer” with the potential to catapult the continent into a foremost position in global trade and development, especially with Africa’s population projected to double in the next 30 years to 2.4 billion.
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.”