The article below written by a friend of mine is a useful over view of the African Union’s plan to build High Speed Rail-lines in Africa. High-Speed Rail together with the production of abundant supplies of energy are indispensable for the continent’s development and the industrialization of African economies. The link to the entire article that is worth reading follows the excerpts.
“The vital plan for an African Integrated High-Speed Railway Network (AIHSRN), approved by the African Union (AU) in 2014, appears to be going forward energetically. But in fact, Africa is getting only half a loaf at best. Standard gauge rails are being built, but to “save money,” they are not being built to standards permitting the high speeds that the African Union had specified. These “higher”-speed lines are not “high-speed” by any accepted standard. Or, worse, existing lines of the old colonial gauge are being rehabilitated—again because “there is not enough money.”
“Yet having “enough money” is not the problem it seems to be: The principle of Hamiltonian credit—credit extended by government, on the strength of nothing but the skills of the population, and earmarked for projects sure to produce leaps in productivity—has been known in theory and practice for 200 years, even if suppressed by the business schools.” Read my post from earlier this year on Alexander Hamilton: Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy
“AIHSRN is not a master plan for all rail transport in Africa. It is, rather, a plan for rapid rail transport across long distances. And Africa has long distances. To go from Cairo to the Cape of Good Hope by road or rail is more than 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles)—the equivalent of going from New York to San Francisco and back again.
“Yet with the AIHSRN, an express train could depart from Cairo at 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning, travel at an average of only 220 km/h (137 mph), make only five half-hour stops—at Khartoum, Nairobi, Dodoma (Tanzania), Harare, and Johannesburg—and arrive in Cape Town in time for an early breakfast on Wednesday. The east-west trip from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Dakar, Senegal—“only” 8,100 km—will be quicker. The implications of such speed for the African economy—and for African integration in all respects—are enormous.
“The continental plan is for six west-east routes from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean/Red Sea, and four routes that run from north to south—a 6×4 grid (see map).
“Because of their high speeds, the trains must run on dedicated, standard gauge lines that will not usually accept traffic from other, slower lines of the sometimes denser, surrounding rail network.
“The plan includes the construction of railway manufacturing industries, parts suppliers, maintenance facilities, and the building up of railway training academies.
“The AIHSRN is part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, a fifty-year plan for the economic, social and cultural development of the entire continent, born in 2013”
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.”
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 !