In 1943, after having flown over the Sahara Desert on his way to a Casablanca conference with Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt remarked to his son Elliott, that with the recreation of a lake in the depressed flats in North Africa, “The Sahara would bloom for hundreds of miles.” He also reminded his son of the rivers which arise in Atlas Mountains and disappear under the Desert. “Divert this water flow for irrigation purposes? It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch!”
Later in the trip, FDR made Winston Churchill apoplectic by discussing plans for anti-imperialist development with the Sultan of Morocco, including mooting American aid in providing the resources to train indigenous scientists and engineers to develop the nation.
FDR’s American System vision for African development was not taken up in the post-war era, but his outlook was echoed by at least two prominent statesmen of the next generation from very different backgrounds—Kwame Nkrumah and President John F. Kennedy. It was no mere coincidence that twenty years later, when Ghanaian President Nkrumah addressed the Organization of African Unity, he would also speak about the “possibility for the Sahara to bloom.” Nkrumah’s vision also would be temporarily crushed.
But today, finally, FDR’s and Nkrumah’s dream is beginning to be realized. A giant step toward greening the desert, and defeating the miserable living conditions which go with it, was taken this February, when a meeting of several African heads of state decided to go ahead with a massive project of water engineering called Transaqua. Although proceeding without American government backing, this project is truly in the spirit of American System development, a long-term investment in transforming the physical environment for the benefit of the general welfare.
It is with that in mind that we present this report by an American who does understand the American System, and has worked persistently for several decades to bring its benefits to Africa.—Nancy Spannaus
The Abuja Conference
After two months, the deliberations from the “International Conference on Saving Lake Chad” held in Abuja, Nigeria from February 26-28, 2018 are still reverberating, and will continue to do so. This historic conference, the first of its kind to be convened on the African continent, was initiated and sponsored by the Nigerian government in conjunction with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), and supported by the United Nations. It has already begun to change the thinking of what is possible for Africa’s future.
From across the globe, hundreds of water experts, hydrologists, scientists, political leaders, advocates for Lake Chad, the African Union, the Africa Development Bank, and the World Bank, joined the heads of state of the Lake Chad Basin nations for three days of deliberation on the best policy to recharge the contracting Lake Chad.
Having served as an advisor to the LCBC and participated in several discussions with the Nigerian government on the necessity for an inter-basin water transfer project to recharge Lake Chad, this author was given a prominent role throughout the entire proceeding, addressing the gathering several times in various capacities. (Written remarks by me were also circulated at the conference and to the press.)
I wish to begin this keynote address by recalling two important events that happened 55 years ago. On 25thMay 1963 in Addis Ababa, thirty-three (33) African Heads of State and Government form the Organization of the African Union (OAU) with high hopes for rapid political independence, peace, security, economic cooperation, development, and a better life for the people of Africa.
The then President of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in a speech at the meeting said;“Our continent certainly exceeds all the others in potential hydroelectric power, which some experts assess as 42% of the world’s total.”
Sadly, fifty-five years after this speech, most countries of sub-Saharan Africa have less than 60% access to electricity. In the DRC, a country with the highest potential for hydro-electricity generation, less than 16% of the population have access to electricity. In Niger, it is about 12% access to electricity.
A year after the creation of the OAU, precisely on the 22nd May 1964 at Fort-Lamy now known as N’Djamena, the LCBC was created with equally high hopes. At creation the LCBC was expected to help an estimated population of 11,091,000 people to sustainably manage the Lake Chad and its basin. There was adequate water for development for this population as the Lake Chad had a surface area extent of about 25,000 km2. Today, the Lake Chad region is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with 7 million displaced people and about 2 million depending on humanitarian assistance and has the highest poverty and birth rates in the world.
Without education, energy and infrastructure no Nation will be out of poverty and misery.
Challenges Decades of Rapid Growth, Droughts, and Famine
Fifty-four years after the creation of the LCBC, the basin is characterized by steadily increasing population and drought. The population of the present conventional basin experienced a 100% decennial growth rate. The population increase by 33% to 31,461,000 by the year 2000 and 40 million by 2010. The Lake Chad Basin population is projected to be 50 million in 2020 and 62 million in 2030.
As the population growth rate increases every decade, the Lake Chad basin is at the same time undergoing severe droughts, famine, and water distribution problems, human and animal diseases. The consequences of these negative factors meant that local population must move or risk property destruction or death. As population groups migrate to minimize the risk, the chances for conflict increases among and between ethnic groups based on social, cultural, economic and/or religion differences.
These changes that have occurred in the past 54 years in the Lake Chad conventional basin principally because of global climate change and augmented by accelerated population growth are responsible for the accumulation of social tension which could have led to the outbreak of the violent insurgency that we face today in the Lake Chad basin and the migration of our youth to Europe.
3.1 The Inter-Basin Water Transfer Study
In 1992, a decision was taken to develop a master-plan for the Lake Chad basin to include the establishment of an environmentally sound management of the natural resources of the Lake Chad conventional basin. The feasibility study for the water transfer from the Congo basin to the Lake Chad was the second priority project out of 36 projects selected for implementation in the LCBC Master Plan.
One proposal to transfer water from the Congo to the Lake Chad called “TRANSAQUA” was submitted to the LCBC in 1984 at the height of the most severe drought affecting the Lake Chad basin. This proposal was approved and shared by the then President Mobutu Sese Seko of Congo (former Zaire) but was considered too big hence a smaller proposal taking water from river Ubangi to the Lake Chad was adopted by the Member States of the LCBC as requested by the Government of the Central African Republic.
Raising an estimated 6 million USD for the pre-feasibility study of the Ubangi – Lake Chad Inter-Basin Water Transfer became a challenge until the government of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo provided support and launched a diplomatic campaign to get the no-objection of the two Congos for the study to begin. The conduct of the feasibility study was awarded to a Canadian Firm, CIMA International, and work commenced on the 13th October 2009 for a period of 28 months.
The study was completed in 2011 with the conclusion that the Ubangi – Lake Chad Inter-Basin Water Transfer project is technically feasible and economically viable from the Congo basin via the Ubangi River to Lake Chad through a combined inter-basin transfer: a pumping transfer via the Palambo dam on the Ubangi River and a gravity transfer via the Bria dam through a deviation of the Kotto River. This will increase the water level of the lake by at least one meter(1.0m)in both the south and the north basins and increase the size of the lake by about 5, 500 km2 over a period of 4 – 5 years. The combined cost estimate of the projects for the transfer was put at US$14.5 billion.
The result of the study was endorsed by the 14th Summit of Head of States and Government of the Lake Chad Basin Commission on 30th April 2012.
3.2 Solution to Lake Chad Insecurity and the Future of Africa
The installation of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 opened new opportunities to continue the search for a long-term solution for insecurity in the Lake Chad and the Sahel, economic integration of Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel in a new form of African regional partnership.
The government of President Muhammadu Buhari secured a financial support in the amount of $1.8 m from the Chinese government and facilitated the engagement of Power China International of China to conduct “Basic Research” to update data and re-package the Water Transfer Project from the Congo Basin to the Lake Chad that will inform the selection of a suitable engineering option for the water transfer.
Among the measures taken under the new approach is to convene all stakeholders from the AU, ECOWAS, ECCAS, EAC, CICOS and LCBC and international partners to share experiences and engage in constructive discussions on how to restore the Lake Chad and promote African peace, security, development, and integration.
Restoring the Lake Chad is primarily an African strategic problem. Whatever action is taken to restore the Lake Chad, the direct beneficiaries are the African people. Today, following the dreams of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and his 32 fellow Head of States, African shave continental governing institutions in the form of the AU, the AUC and its subsidiary bodies such as the regional economic communities (REC). In Africa we also have developed common visions for infrastructure development (PIDA) and the ‘Agenda 2063’ for the socio-economic transformation of the continent as well as being a building block in the achievement of the goals of the 1991 Abuja Treaty on the African Economic Community.
What the Lake Chad region is requesting is that African leaders should look at the problem of insecurity and the lack of development in the geographical periphery of the Lake Chad region, the Sahel and the Central African region and develop an integrated regional approach using African resources to find a solution that will benefit all Africans. We hope the discussions and the result of the international conference on Lake Chad shall open some new ways of addressing contemporary African problems while at the same time laying the foundation for future African peace, development, and integration.
I wish to end this address by pointing out to our critiques that at this stage the people of the Lake Chad basin countries are only looking at the technical and economic feasibilities of all ideas to restore the Lake Chad. The Lake Chad basin countries also want to concretize a new partnership with our fellow Africans in the Congo basin countries to create a giant transportation, energy and agricultural infrastructure for the central African and the Sahel regions to create jobs for millions of our youth and lay the basis for the future developments for socio- economic integration, peace and security for the African continent.
There is no solution to the shrinking of the Lake Chad that does not involve recharging the Lake with water from outside the basin. The issue in our opinion is which option will be the most effective and the most beneficial to both the donor and receiving basins.
Therefore, inter-basin water transfer is not an option; but a necessity, otherwise we are faced with the possibility of Lake Chad disappearing and that would be catastrophic for the entire Africa continent.
Poverty, misery, loss of hopes and the spread of violent extremism, human trafficking and, migration in the Lake Chad Basin, which I have sadly witnessed, has endured for too long. It must come to end. That is the task before all of us, who are gathered here today at this historic conference.
Long live sub-regional cooperation ! Long live African solidarity ! Je vous remercie pour votre amiable attention !
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi Reiterates Egypt’s Orientation Is Toward Africa
President el-Sisi, in a timely reiteration of a theme in his 2014 inaugural address, told the UN General Assembly Sept. 19 that “Africa lies at the heart of Egypt’s foreign policy.” He also condemned the current world order for its hypocrisy and its reliance on “conflict and zero-sum games,” and had sharp remarks about the state of affairs in Libya and Syria.
Concerning Africa, el-Sisi said, “As Egypt’s geographical home, Africa lies at the heart of Egypt’s foreign policy, for it is in Africa that our historic roots lie, and it is from Africa that we derive pride in our identity and our deep sense of
belonging. This continent has also become subject to the same security threats facing the Arab region, and constitutes a major example of the crisis in the current international economic order, which cements poverty and economic disparity. This global order bears a major responsibility in the economic, political and social crises that threaten international peace and stability, rendering any discussion on sustainable development goals futile.”
Leaders in Black Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, the era of African (political) independence–such as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and Senegal’s Cheikh Anta Diop–looked to ancient Egypt and the Egypt of their contemporary, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, as a source of inspiration.
El-Sisi repeatedly condemned the current world order, and pointed to the alternative, saying in one place, “Force and zero-sum games cannot remain as a means to realize interests, especially in today’s world, which is based on mutual interdependence among nations, and where significant horizons for cooperation and understanding exist to achieve the common interests of everyone….”
“This requires,” he said, “involving developing countries more in the international economic governance structure and facilitating their access to easier financing, markets, and technology transfer.”
Turning to the Arab region’s crises, with emphasis on Syria, he said that these crises can only be resolved by “upholding the notion of the modern nation-state.” There will be “no salvation for Syria except through a consensual political solution amongst all Syrians at the core of which is the preservation of the unity
of the Syrian state, the maintenance of its institutions, and the broadening of their political and social base to include all factions of the Syrian society, and to decisively counter terrorism until it is defeated.”
On Libya, Iraq, and Yemen, he said: “Egypt will not allow the continuation of attempts to tamper with the unity and integrity of the Libyan state, or to undermine the capabilities of the Libyan people. We will continue to work diligently with the UN to achieve a political settlement based on the Sokhairat Agreement. The aforementioned logic applies to the Egyptian strategy regarding the crises in Iraq and Yemen.”
South African President Zuma’s Message at the UNGA: No More Regime Change, Anywhere!
President Jacob Zuma’s assertive address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 20 included a denunciation, in detail, of regime change as a threat to world peace and development. It seems clear that his message was directed especially to U.S. President Donald Trump.
He said in part: “In 2011, the African Union called for dialogue to resolve the crisis in Libya. Unfortunately, some among us here opted for guns and bombs. Today those countries are making little effort to promote stability in Libya. The major focus and preoccupation has become how to deal with the flow of migrants arriving in Europe from our continent and the Middle East, which are just mere symptoms.
“The war in Libya contributed a great deal to the destabilization of the Sahel region and all the way to Central Africa, creating a corridor for illicit trafficking in arms as well as terrorist activities.
“In fact, had our warning been heeded, that the supply of arms to civilians in Libya and the arming of civilians in Syria would cause loss of life, great instability, and mayhem, the world would be more peaceful today.
“South Africa continues to call for an immediate end to the violence and for a Syrian-led political transition and a negotiated settlement reflecting the will of the Syrian people.
“In both instances of Libya and Syria, we strongly cautioned against seeking to resolve internal challenges of sovereign states by imposing foreign solutions through military means.”
Regarding North Korea, he said:
“We continue with our call for calm in the Korean Peninsula. The situation cannot be allowed to get out of hand. …. It can no longer be acceptable that some few countries keep arsenals and stockpiles of nuclear weapons as part of their strategic defense and security doctrine, while expecting others to remain at their mercy.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Speaking on October 1.
Below are excerpts from President Buhari’s address to the Nation of Nigeria on the 57th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule
“Recent calls on re-structuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate, has let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country. We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy. As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2m lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are agitating for a re-run were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict which we went through
“December last year, this Administration has produced over 7 million 50Kg bags of fertilizer. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.
“Furthermore, a new presidential initiative is starting with each state of the Federation creating a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths, again with the aid of CBN’s development finance initiatives.
“Power remains a huge problem. As of September 12th, production of power reached an all — time high of 7,001 Megawatts. Government is increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial log jam bedeviling the industry. We hope to reach 10,000 Megawatts by 2020.
“Key priorities include better energy mix through solar and Hydro technologies. I am glad to say that after many years of limbo, Mambilla Power Project has taken off.
“Elsewhere in the economy, the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements has proved very effective. Since April, about $7 billion has come through this window alone. The main effect of these policies is improved confidence in the economy and better investment sentiments.
“The country has recorded 7 consecutive months of lower inflation, and the Naira rate is beginning to stabilize, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today. Broad-based economic growth is leading us out of recession.
The July 30th Sunday edition of the New York Times, published an article by its Africa reporter, Jeffrey Gettleman, entitled, “Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa.” The analysis, and conclusions of this article are all wrong, because they are based on false and ideologically driven axioms regarding the development of Africa. Essentially, Gettlemen and the New York Times are steeped in the “Zero Growth” culture which became prevalent in the United States and the West in 1970s.
In the aftermath of the 1963 assassinations of President John F Kennedy and the ensuing “rock-drug-sex” counterculture, the groundwork was prepared for the onslaught the environmental movement. With its no-growth, anti-science, anti-industrialization outlook that dominated the thinking of the baby-boomer and succeeding generations, cultural pessimism became pervasive. This ideology combined with the looting of Africa’s natural resources by the financial predators of Wall Street and the City of London resulted in a policy of no development for Africa that has continued to the present.
Today Africa has the largest deficit of infrastructure per capita and per square kilometer on the planet. The lack of electrical power, railroads, water management, and modern highways is literally responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans each year. Only since the entrance of China into Africa in the past decade with its commitment to build physical infrastructure, have we witnessed a change in the dynamic on the continent.
It is no accident that the US and Europe have not contributed to the construction of vital infrastructure projects; it’s their flawed policy. Infrastructure is not just one of several possible good ideas; rather it is an indispensable, irreplaceable ingredient to the success of any agro-industrial economy. Infrastructure drives an economy forward and upward by incorporating new scientific advances in technology that improve the productive powers of the workforce, yielding increased economic output of wealth for society. The most wicked and pernicious feature of the Zero-Growth ideology is the denial of the unique creativity of Mankind. For thousands and millions of years Mankind has transformed his surrounding environment to make it more propitious for human expansion. Like the discovery of “fire,” a million years ago, the Neolithic revolution 12,000 years ago was a revolution in Mankind’s knowledge of the universe and led to a population explosion. This non-linear growth pattern has been repeated many times over the last 10,000 years, as a result of the unique power of discovery by the human mind.
The essential underlying cause of the problems in Africa today is not over population, or loss of arable land, but underdevelopment. The failure to grasp this elementary concept by the New York Times and others is the reason for the abysmal conditions of life in Africa’s that contributes to the easy recruitment to terrorist movements like Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region.
For example, Gettleman cites the:
“overwhelming degradation of agricultural land throughout Africa, with one recent study showing that more than 40 million Africans are trying to survive off land whose agricultural potential is declining.” He continues, “More than in any other region of the world, people in Africa live off the land. There are relatively few industrial or service jobs here. Seventy percent of Africa’s population makes a living through agriculture, higher than on any other continent, the World Bank says. But as the population rises, with more siblings competing for their share of the family farm, the slices are getting thinner.”
Why is agricultural potential of the land declining? Why are there relatively few manufacturing jobs? Why are the slices of land getting thinner?
The answer is not the Malthusian argument that Africans breed too fast and that this huge continent – almost three times the size of the continental US- has too many people trying to exist on a shrinking pie of arable land. The proper question to ask is; why after half century since the “Winds of Change” liberation from the colonial powers, Africans still do not enjoy the fruits of modern industrialized economies with a modern standard of living, instead of large pockets of abject poverty? Any poor-quality farm land, even the Sahara Desert, can be made productive with water. Less than 5% of cultivated land is irrigated In Africa. With manufacturing plants to build the irrigating machinery and sufficient energy to pump the water, millions of hectares of arable land can become fruitful. Nuclear powered desalination could provide fresh water from the Mediterranean and Red seas to the North African deserts. US farmers, among the most productive in the world, experienced huge increase in yields of food production including in the former desert of southern California by utilizing new technologies, fertilizers, irrigation, and abundant energy under President Franklin Roosevelt’s economic recovery.
Why has the US and the West not assisted African nations in acquiring the necessary infrastructure and new technologies to expand its cultivated land and build a substantial manufacturing sector as part of an integrated modern economy. In his brief Presidency, John F Kennedy collaborated with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana to build the Volta Dam hydro-power and industrial smelting complex. This what we should have continued to do over the last 50 years, and if we had, Africa would look completely different than it does today.
Population Reduction Is Not the Solution
In the concluding section the article, the New York Times and its reporter reveal the depraved thinking of the Zeitgest of western culture; we have too many people using up the fixed natural resources of our planet.
“Africa’s land pressures may seem overwhelming, maybe even unstoppable. But scientists say there are solutions within reach. For example, the continent has the highest fertility rates in the world, but more African governments are pushing contraceptives, saying the best answer for densely populated countries is smaller families.
‘The problem is too many people, too many cattle and too little planning,’ said Iain Douglas Hamilton, a wildlife activist in northern Kenya.”
This view echoes Henry Kissinger’s infamous “National Security Study Memorandum 200,” written 1974-1976, which advocated reducing the population for “Third World” nations to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of vital natural resources to the West. For centuries, the British raciest imperialist school has targeted Africa’s population as inferior and as an impediment to their access of Africa’s precious minerals.
The birth a child can never be a problem for society. Each new human being, by the fact that it is human, intrinsically has the potential to contribute to new discoveries that can change the world, or contribute to the progress of society in more humble manner. Why not take up the challenge of developing the vast continent of Africa with its soon to be multi-billion population, and its rich untapped wealth? Presently we are witnessing the construction of desperately needed infrastructure on the Africa continent, with the assistance of China. Yet, Africa’s requires hundreds of gigawatts of electrical power, East-West and South-North railroads, high speed trains connecting the capital of each nation, and much, much, more. If the US joins the new paradigm of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and collaborates on eliminating poverty and hunger, and expanding Afrfia’s unrealized agricultural potential, the continent will be able to sustain an expanding population at a standard of living commensurate with that of the advanced sector nations.
Let us act on the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, when he told his son at the Casablanca Conference during World War II, that if we divert water into the Sahara Desert: “It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch.”