Former Italian Prime Minister Calls for International Support for Transaqua

December 3, 2020

Below, I have reprinted a slightly abridged article from EIR magazine, which reports on important new impetus for Transaqua. Romano Prodi, former Prime Minister of Italy, former President of the European Commission, and former UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, has called on the EU, UN, and AU, to join with with China in moving forward with Transaqua, a mega water-development project to transform the Sahel. With this high level of backing for Transaqua, it is now incumbent on the Lake Chad Basin Commission to take the initiative to secure a contract for a feasibility study of the design of  Transaqua, outlined below.

Italy’s Prodi Puts Transaqua Back on the International Agenda

CC/Francesco Pierantoni Romano Prodi, former Prime Minister of Italy, former President of the European Commission, and former UN Special Envoy for the Sahel.
Nov. 23—At this time when the world’s nations have not yet adequately responded to the call for help launched by the World Food Program (WFP) to avoid mass starvation in the developing sector, the issue of Transaqua has again come into focus as the durable solution to famine, terrorism, and emigration in Central Africa. On November 13, Romano Prodi, the former EU Commission President and former UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, launched a strong call for the EU, the UN, the African Union (AU), and China to join hands in financing and building this giant infrastructure platform, that can be the locomotive of agro-industrial development for the entire African continent.

Transaqua—also called the Transaqua Inter Basin Water Transfer Scheme—is a project that dates back to the mid-1970s, when engineers from the Italian company Bonifica witnessed the drying up of Lake Chad and came out with the idea of refilling the lake by transferring water from the Congo Basin, where immense quantities of water were simply wasted into the Atlantic Ocean, unused.

EIRNS/Julien Lemaitre Dr. Marcello Vichi speaks at a Schiller Institute Conference, “Rescuing Civilization from the Brink,” in Rüsselsheim, Germany, July 2, 2011.
By building dams along some of the right-bank tributaries of the River Congo and connecting these reservoirs with canals, the Bonifica engineers, under the direction of Dr. Marcello Vichi, calculated that with only 5% of the water that goes into the River Congo, it was possible to transfer up to 100 billion cubic meters of water per year into Lake Chad. These tributaries are at high altitude, so that water in this dam and canal system can travel across the Central African Republic-Chad watershed by means of gravity alone.
Figure 1-The Transaqua Project, as Proposed by Bonifica
Besides refilling the gradually disappearing lake, the infrastructure would provide a 2400 km waterway that would boost trade from the southern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), close to the Great Lakes region, up to Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, and down to Lake Chad. The numerous dams would provide plenty of electricity and irrigation capability for 7 million hectares of farmland, providing the platform for developing agro-industrial activities.

After many decades of oblivion and thanks to efforts by EIR and the Schiller Institute, Transaqua received a new impulse in February 2018, when the plan was adopted at the International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja, and the Italian government pledged to fund part of the feasibility study.

Since then, however, the momentum has slowed down. After Abdullah Sanusi, P.E., left at the end of his mandate as Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in 2018, no significant impulse has come from that institution, which brings together the five riparian member states around the lake—Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic.

On the Italian side, with the exception of an amendment drafted by Sen. Tony Iwobi—who managed to include initial funding for the feasibility study in the Italian government budget for 2021—a political shift in the government has led to a change in ministerial personnel, and the tender for the study has been left up in the air. The Covid-19 pandemic has overwhelmed an unprepared and incompetent government.

Prodi Not for Colonial Songs about Africa

Now, a seminar organized by the Turin Center for African Studies on November 9-13, “Water Diplomacy and the Culture of Sustainability: The Lake Chad Basin,” has put Transaqua back on the list of strategic priorities. Speaking at the final roundtable, Prodi said the project cannot wait any longer: “Please, don’t come with environmental objections, the former EU chief said. “Don’t sing the song that human intervention can damage the environment: In this case, we help nature to recover a situation of internal balance, to the advantage of African peoples—an internal balance that has been lost.”

Prodi’s reference to pseudo-environmental objections to Transaqua is important, because one of the main sources for those objections has been that very EU Commission that Prodi has chaired in the past, whose structure and ideology Prodi knows very well…

Back in 2013, the EU Commission rejected Transaqua, ostensibly with environmental motivations. Answering a query by European Parliament member Cristiana Muscardini, EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs stated that “Preliminary feasibility studies… indicate that the project would involve major environmental risks.”

Opposition to Transaqua has also been fed by former European colonial powers which still have political control over some governments in the region. Notably, the government of Canada, on behalf of the British Commonwealth and of French government institutions, has recently funded a paper, “Soft Power, Discourse Coalitions, and the Proposed Inter-basin Water Transfer Between Lake Chad and the Congo River,” which claims that Transaqua is an imperialist scheme pushed by the government of Italy, China, and the Schiller Institute…

Representatives gather for a UN-sponsored international conference on the Lake Chad Region in Berlin, September 3-4, 2018.
‘Something To Do Together with China’

Rejecting such phony objections, Prodi stated:

“What we must do, in my view, is a strong action of healthy lobbying, a call on Europe, the African Union, the United Nations, China, to carry forward this project. Be aware that the Lake Chad Basin covers one eightieth of the entire African continent. This is enough to understand its importance. And it affects the poorest, most disgraced and left-behind area.

“Since such a large project as Transaqua involves political, financial, technological, and security aspects, it needs strong political leadership and economic power. Thus, the EU, UNO, and OAU—should try to involve China, because [some] reports connect Lake Chad with the Silk Road. What is the political problem of the Silk Road? It has been a Chinese thing. We must find something to do together with China.”

The video of Prodi’s presentation, in Italian with English subtitles, can be viewed here.

The day before, on November 12, the seminar had featured engineer Andrea Mangano, a veteran of the Bonifica team that had developed the original Transaqua idea in the 1970s. In an interview format entitled “Lake Chad and Infrastructure: Challenges and Ideas,” he presented the updated version of the project—similar to what Mangano himself and other Bonifica officials have presented at Schiller Institute and EIR events in recent years.

Starvation Warnings from WFP’s Beasley

Recently the UN World Food Program’s Executive Director, David Beasley, warned that the Central Sahel region faces one of the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises. This is the region most affected by the deterioration of living conditions due to the drying out of Lake Chad, conditions that have offered grounds for recruiting young people to the terrorist Boko Haram. Terrorism has added to economic devastation and caused huge migration waves in the region.

More than 13 million people now require urgent humanitarian assistance, five million more than estimated at the beginning of 2020, Beasley said, characterizing their plight as “marching toward starvation.”

In October, Beasley travelled in several nations in the region, together with the development ministers of Germany and Denmark, to solicit not only emergency aid, but also long-term investments in infrastructure. On October 9, Beasley was in Niger when he got the news that the World Food Program had been awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. He said to reporters that day:

The fact that I was in the Sahel when we received the announcement is really a message from above, that “Hey, world. With all the things going on around the world today, please don’t forget about the people in the Sahel! Please don’t forget about the people that are struggling and dying from starvation.”

EIRNS Left to right: Mohammed Bila (Lake Chad Basin Commission), Andrea Mangano, Marcello Vichi, and Claudio Celani (EIR), discussing plans for Transaqua in the Rome Bonifica office, summer 2015. Lawrence Freeman also participated in this discussion.
Transaqua is exactly the infrastructure that could stabilize the entire region. You don’t need to wait until the first dam is built and water starts to come through the Chari River to Lake Chad from the Congo basin: The many jobs created by the project will immediately start to stabilize the region in terms of providing incomes for thousands of families.

Unfortunately, the October 20 donors’ conference organized by Denmark, Germany, the EU, and the UN in Copenhagen, took the restricted view of humanitarian intervention. Some $1.7 billion dollars were pledged for emergency aid—and this is of course welcome— but it failed to address the root of the problem and adopt long-term solutions.

Mr. Prodi’s words must be followed by deeds, so that the “healthy lobbying effort” in favor of Transaqua is successful in bringing together the international coalition to build Transaqua.

*I do not support everything in EIR’s article, and also note its omission of my central role in advancing the Transaqua project.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa to Djibouti Railway: A Model for the Role of Infrastructure in Fighting Hunger

Below is a useful article from EIR magazine that correctly emphasizes the role of infrastructure in providing food for Africa. The authors highlight Ethiopia, an East African nation that has aggressively pursed the expansion of infrastructure to advance their economy.

November 16, 2020

Click to access 19-25_4745.pdf

World Food Program Awarded Nobel Peace Prize. WFP Dir, Beasley Responds With “Call to Action” to Stop Starvation

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program, visiting Sanaa, Yemen, September 2018, where the world’s worst hunger crisis continues to unfold. (courtesy WFP/Marco Frattini, September 2018)

October 19, 2020

I whole heartedly congratulate the World Food Program (WFP) for receiving the 2020 Noble Peace Prize “for its efforts to combat hunger.” I also full support WFP Executive Director, David Beasley’s call for action to prevent starvation. Speaking in Niger on October 9, Beasley said: “Just in the last three years, the number of people on the brink of starvation had risen before COVID, from 80 million to 135 million. And now, with COVID, the number of people—and I’m not talking about people going to bed hungry—on the brink of starvation is now up to 270 million people…we are on the brink of disaster.” Earlier this year, Beasley reported that Beasley warned that from 150,000 to 300,000 people could die a day from starvation.

Fifteen African nations account for half of that 270 million. The WFP has identified the following nations as being in dire need of food: Burkina Faso (4.8); Cameroon (5.2); C.A.R. (3.1); D.R.C. (21.8); Ethiopia (18.0); Liberia (0.84); Mali (3.5); Mozambique (3.3); Niger (5.9); Nigeria (23.8); Sierra Leone (2.9); Somalia (6.3); South Sudan (10.2); Sudan (17.7); Zimbabwe (6.3); totaling 133.64 million people.

David Beasley alerted the world, that 7 million people have already died of hunger this year and that figure could increase by“3, 4, 5 times or more.” The WPF calculates that it needs $6.8 billion to prevent famine. With $1.6 billion received so far, $5 billion more is urgently needed. “The $5 billion that we’re talking about is additional money, because we feed 100 million people. It literally is—the starvation rate is spiraling because of COVID and economic deterioration,” he said. “And quite frankly, with the billionaires making hundreds of billions of dollars with COVID, we’re facing the worst humanitarian crises since World War II. They need to step up. We need an extra $5 billion to save millions of lives around the world….This is a call to action. With all the wealth in the world today, no one should be dying from hunger, not a single person.”

Referring to the most severe cases, the Beasley warned: “There are literally about a dozen or two dozen places around the world that, if we don’t get the support that they need, three things are going to happen. One, you are going to have famine, I mean, literally of biblical proportions. Number two, you’re going to have destabilization. And, number three, you’re going to have mass migration. And we can solve all that. We have a cure against starvation, and it is called food.” (all emphasis added)

South African activist, Phillip Tsokolibane has called for a “military mobilization” to provide logistics to stop the spread of hunger in Africa. He said last week from South Africa:

“While various charitable and other organizations have sounded alarm bells and have appealed for money, the issue we face, if we want to save lives, is securing massive amounts of food, as soon as possible, to hungry and starving people. Given the state of infrastructure on the continent and the fact that much of this starvation is occurring in isolated, rural areas, the distribution that must take place is well beyond the means of individual governments and those of relief agencies.

“I believe we must mobilize the logistical capacities of the world’s most capable military forces and design a strategy to bring food supplies from such food-producing nations as the United States and Canada, and bring them directly to those who need them. Let allies and adversaries alike, join forces, in this greatest of all humanitarian efforts.”

Emergency Action Required

  1. We must urgently deliver food to starving people. One single human being dying from starvation is intolerable. Every creative soul that perishes is a loss to the human race.
  2. Nations producing food surpluses must allocate food shipments to feed starving people in Africa.
  3. Logistics for delivery will have to done in a military fashion or directly by qualified military personnel supported by governments.
  4. Roads, railways, and bridges constructed for emergency food delivery can serve as an initial platform for expansion to a higher plateau of infrastructure required for economic growth
  5. Debts must be suspended to enable nations to direct money away from onerous payments of debt service to growing and distributing food.
  6. A new financial architecture-a New Bretton Woods must be established with a facility to issue credit to finance critical categories of infrastructure necessary for economic growth and food production.

Read my earlier posts:

COVID-19 Tragedy Compels Revamping Globalization and Food Production 

Famine in Africa: More Than Humanitarian Aid Required

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Africa Threatened With Starvation: No Objective Reason

Millions ‘on the edge’ in DR Congo now in even greater danger of tipping over. WFP food distribution to Internally Displaced People in Kikuku, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. WFP/Ben Anguandia

There is no objective reason for hunger in Africa. African nations have abundant fertile land and many water systems that should enable them to be not only food self sufficient, but produce a surplus. With proper investment in infrastructure and planning, stockpiles of food would be available to feed the population during difficulty periods like the present COVID-19 pandemic. With manufacturing and agricultural processing sectors, people would have more job security, then living hand to mouth in the so called informal economy. 

WFP Chief warns of grave dangers of economic impact of Coronavirus as millions are pushed further into hunger

Transcript as delivered of remarks by UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley to today’s virtual session of the UN Security Council, September 17, 2020.

“Five months ago, I warned the Council the world stood on the brink of a hunger pandemic. A toxic combination of conflict, climate change and COVID-19, threatened to push 270 million people to the brink of starvation. Famine was real. It’s a terrifying possibility in up to three dozen countries if we don’t continue to act like we’ve been acting…

“As COVID-19 pushed countries everywhere to lock down, the equivalent of 400 million full-time jobs have been destroyed, and remittances have collapsed. The impact has been felt hardest by the 2 billion people who work in the informal economy around the world – mainly in middle and low-income countries. Already only one day’s work away from going hungry, in other words living hand to mouth…

“Let me turn to the countries on today’s agenda. In the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, conflict and instability had already forced 15.5 million people into crisis levels of food insecurity. These are people on the brink of starvation. The latest assessment indicates that the upsurge in violence, coupled with COVID-19, has sent this total sky-rocketing to nearly 22 million people, an increase of 6.5 million people. And I should warn you these numbers assume WFP is able to maintain current levels of food assistance. If we are forced to scale back operations, the outlook is even worse

“NIGERIA: COVID-19 is also forcing more people into food insecurity. Analysis shows measures imposed to contain the virus reduced incomes in 80 percent of households. You can imagine the devastation with that alone.

“In the northeast of the country, 4.3 million people are food insecure, up by 600,000 largely due to COVID-19. While in the large urban area of Kano, the number of food insecure people during that lockdown period from March to June went from 568,000 to 1.5 million people – an increase of 1 million people. Very troubling.

“SOUTH SUDAN: The outlook there is similarly worrying, where even before the pandemic, 6.5 million people were expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the lean season, made worse by the violence in Jonglei State in recent months. This has resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians, a large number of abducted women and children, and widespread loss of livestock and livelihoods. In addition, virus outbreaks in urban areas such as Juba could put as many as another 1.6 million people at risk of starvation.

Finally, even though it is not on today’s agenda, I also want to highlight the disaster unfolding in Burkina Faso, driven by the upsurge in violence. The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.3 million people, as COVID compounds the situation…displacement, security and access problems. For 11,000 of these people living in the northern provinces, famine is knocking on the door as we speak.

Read: WFP Warns Grave Economic Dangers From COVID-19

Food Is Now Up to 250 Percent More Expensive Across Africa

‘With crop reduction comes food scarcity, and prices go up with demand. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network found that Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, DRC, Mauritania, Nigeria, Guatemala and Haiti are the countries that have been most affected by the drop in crop production.

‘In the Republic of Congo, the average price of a basic food basket has increased by 15 percent, while a similar pattern has emerged in Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, with an above-average increase in the price of staple foods.

‘Then there’s the rising cost of sorghum – a drought resistant cereal grain that’s popular across the continent. In July, sorghum prices exceeded the five-year average by 150 to 250 percent in Sudan, 50 to 240 percent in South Sudan, 85 percent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and 20 to 55 percent in Southern Somalia

Read: Food Up To 250% More Expensve in Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

WFP’s David Beasley Warns of Potential Famines in Africa & Mideast Due to COVID-19

The COVID19 virus arrived in Africa weeks after it hit Asia, Europe and North America. But now, says Berkeley economist Edward Miguel, the virus poses grave risks for Africa and its 1.2 billion people. (AP photo by Patrick Ngugi)

The effects of COVID-19 on food supply chains in developing nations that are already suffering from hunger and acute food insecurity could be more deadly than coronavirus itself, according to David Beasley, Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). Speaking at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC on May 8, via teleconference, Beasley told his audience that, if economic conditions continue to deteriorate and endanger the production and distribution of food to impoverished nations, we could witness famines in Africa, and other parts of the world. “You could have 150,000 to 300,000 people die of starvation every day for several months—at a minimum,” he said. In a six-month period of time that equals between 27 to 54 million deaths. Beasley reported, as he did last month to the United Nations Security Council, that 821 million people around the world go to bed hungry and another 135 million are on the verge of starvation.

The fact that almost 1 billion of our fellow human beings are suffering from these levels of food insecurity is proof of the failure of globalization and an indictment of the current monetarist based financial system. With an abundance of fertile land, growing food and delivering food is a matter of investment in infrastructure. There are no valid objective reasons for any human being to go without food. The world needs a New Bretton Woods System, designed to lift all nations out of poverty, as President Franklin Roosevelt has intended. Nothing short of a global rebuilding of our world economy is required.

WFP’s David Beasley warns of dire famines in Africa, Mideast if COVID-19 supply chains damage continues

Watch video presentation below by World Food Programme Director, David Beasley 

A warning from the World Food Programme

Reuters published on May 7, a graphic report: Virus exposes gaping holes in Africa’s health systems, which quantifies the shortages in Africa of physicians, ventilators, intensive care beds and tests for COVID-19.  This deficit in healthcare infrastructure endangers millions of African, who are already suffering from food insecurity, poverty, lack of clean water, and lack of adequate electricity and other basic necessities of life. From March 30 to May 10, the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa has increased from 4,760 cases and 146 deaths to 64,214 cases and 2,344 deaths. That is an increase of 1300% and 1600% respectively in six weeks. If Africa is at the beginning of the  coronavirus curve, and the virus grows exponentially, as it has in other nations, then Africa will not be equipped to handle the magnitude of the crisis.

Read my earlier articles on COVID-19 and Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com