United Nations Conference: The Lake Chad Basin Should not be ‘Managed’; it Should be ‘Transformed.’

August 19, 2019

United Nations Headquarters, August 5-6, 2019

On August 5-6, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Third International Conference on the Lake Chad Basin Region: SDG Implementation-UN System and Non-State Actors Exploring New ways of Cooperation.” The two-day conference at the United Nations Headquarters was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations, under the guidance of Dr. Ibrahim Umar. The assemblage was first addressed by ambassadors from three of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin; Permanent Representatives from the UN Missions of Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Lawrence Freeman with Dr. Ibrahim Umar, Nigerian Mission to the United Nations

The convening of this UN session is in response to the worsening living conditions for approximately 30 million Africans living in the Lake Chad Basin, whose livelihood is centered around the shrinking Lake Chad. Today the estimated area of Lake Chad varies from 1200-1300 square kilometers to upwards of 2,000; a 90% contraction from its 1963 level of 25,000 square kilometers.  During the afternoon panel of the first day, the conditions of Lake Chad were addressed by Charles Ichoku, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Howard University, and this author, who is Vice Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Lake Chad Basin Commission.

Transforming is Superior to Managing 

Dominating the conference were speakers representing NGOs and international organizations, who accurately depicted the extent of the horrific humanitarian, refugee, and food crises prevailing in the region in detail. Regrettably, there were those who accepted the diminutive size of Lake Chad as unalterable. Some of the participants offered short term solutions and others believed that the recharging of the lake is not an easy or viable option. However, they miss the point; that to comprehensively address the issue of the Lake Chad Basin will require nothing less than the full recharging of Lake Chad. It is only in this way that the humanitarian issues, poverty and underdevelopment can be tackled in the long run. In my presentation I challenged some of the pessimistic thinking in the conference by stating unequivocally: “None of the solutions that have been discussed will work, unless the lake is recharged.” It should be noted that United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has pledged to collaborate with President Buhari of Nigeria, to raise the $50 billion necessary for the recharging of the lake.

Lawrence Freeman addressing the United Nations Conference on the Lake Chad Basin on the first day

My slide presentation demonstrated how the lake can be recharged to its previous level through Transaqua, an inter-basin water transfer project. Transaqua, designed in 1980 by Dr. Vichi of the Italian engineering firm, Bonifica, proposed to build a 2,400-kilometer canal created from 5-8% of the water in the Congo River Basin. The navigable gravity-driven canal would connect to the Chari River, in the Central Africa Republic, which releases its flow into Lake Chad. This bold innovative project is a “win-win” for the twelve nations of the Lake Chad and Congo River Basins, and for all of Africa. Responding to the necessity of recharging the shrinking Lake Chad, the project provides a unique opportunity to create a super economic “development zone” amongst the nations of the two basins. Trade, and commerce would increase by orders of magnitudes, hydroelectric power would be produced, millions of additional hectares would be irrigated, new roads created, new fisheries and manufacturing centers would be built. This author also presented to the audience the conclusions from the three-day International Conference to Save Lake Chad, held in Abuja Nigeria-February 26-28, 2018, at which the Heads of State from the nations of the Lake Chad Basin, endorsed Transaqua as the preferred method to expand the lake.

Both before and after my presentation numerous presenters spoke out against “big projects” and “diverting water” as if the Africans suffering in the region want the lake to remain at 10% of its previous level. International intervention and technology to alleviate the conditions in the basin were also eschewed in favor of local projects and listening to the so called “voice of the people.” Manage! Manage the existing deplorable conditions; don’t even dare think of changing-improving was echoed repeatedly.

On the second day, this author was compelled to speak out against the condescending attitude that assumes Africans do not want to enjoy the same standard of living as all the speakers from the US and Europe. I asked, if they thought that those people struggling for daily survival within the Lake Chad Basin wouldn’t desire clean running water, and having access to 1,500 watts of electricity 24 hours a day all year?

 

A slide presented by Mr. Freeman at the UN conference displaying the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project

Underlying Cultural Beliefs About Mankind

Approximately five to six thousand years ago Lake Chad was a mega lake comprising 1,000,000 square kilometers. There are reports that several hundred years ago, Lake Chad almost disappeared. The lake sits on top of three aquifers and are adjacent to the gigantic Nubian Sandstone Aquifer.  Clearly the growth and shrinkage of the lake over millennia predates so called anthropomorphic caused climate change. Lake Chad is fed by river systems from Nigeria and Cameroon, the most significant contributor being the Chari River from the Central African Republic. With the southern movement of the Tropical Conversion Zone there is less rainfall thus reducing the flow of water into the lake. The closest source of water to refill and maintain Lake Chad is the super moist Congo River Basin, hundreds of kilometers south. A feasibility study should confirm the Transaqua hypothesis for the potential of a continuous flow of water into Lake Chad, resulting in transforming the entire region.

The failure to test and analyze the Transaqua proposal for almost four decades, even though many people were concerned about the worsening conditions resulting from the shrinking lake, leads us to examine a deeper cultural problem.

Over the last half century, Western societies have become victims of cultural pessimism. Our cultural paradigm has shifted away from one of optimism and confidence in human’s ability to discover new scientific principles that lead to technological revolutions for the betterment of humanity. In the years following the historic 1969 landing of humans on the Moon, inspired by the leadership of President John Kennedy, our culture has been dramatically altered for the worse. The previously discredited Malthusian dogma reasserted itself, with false assertions that if population growth was not stopped the planet would run out of resources. This was accompanied with hysterical calls for population reduction. Over time, as our culture became more decadent, the very progress of our society was assailed with attacks on science, technology, and industrialization.  In this new perverted ideology humankind, (made in the image of the Creator) became the devil-the source of evil itself in the world.

Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad Bande speaking at a reception hosted by the UN Nigerian Mission for the Lake Chad Basin conference

Contrary to declarations  that humans are destroying the environment, there is no such adversarial relationship. The physical universe is organized on the principle of continuous development and is predisposed to respond positively to the intervention of human creativity. Humankind is not just a caretaker or a steward. Humanity was created to interact with the universe for unending growth. Reflect on the biblical injunction in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Yes, we can and must transform the Lake Chad Basin. We can end suffering, hunger, and poverty in that region, and across the African continent. That is what humankind was created to accomplish. Let us not reject our fundamental human essence: to willfully transform our planet (the universe) for the perpetuation of our uniquely creative species.

 

Distributed at the UN conference reported on above: UN Statement on Transaqua for Lake Chad

Distributed at the Abuja, Nigeria conference 2/26-28/2018:  Now Is the Time to Think Big and In the Future 

Africa Moving Forward With Infrastructure: Nigeria and Ethiopia

July 28, 2019

President Buhari has maintained his commitment to recharging Lake Chad, which he discussed with me after he was elected to his first term as president in Mach 2015. The International Conference to ‘Save Lake Chad’ held in Abuja, (February 26-28, 2018) adopted the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project as the preferred solution to reversing the shrinking Lake Chad and transforming the economy of the Lake Chad Basin.  President Buhari has received support form the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, for the recharging of Lake Chad. I am certain there will be further discussion at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in September regarding Lake Chad, and restoring economic vitality to the Lake Chad Basin. 

Nigeria reiterates commitment to recharge Lake Chad

For more on Transaqua read:

Transaqua Water Project to Save Lake Chad: Roosevelt and Nkrumah Would Concur

The Time Has Come For Transaqua

Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway wins acclaim for driving Ethiopia’s import-export needs

I had the privilege to attend the inauguration of the Addis-Djibouti electrified railroad and travel on its maiden trip on October 6, 2016. 

Xinhua-July 24, 2019

“The Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway on Tuesday received acclaim for driving Ethiopia’s import-export endeavors as it leveraged the growing transportation needs of the country.

“The railway, which connects landlocked Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa with ports in Djibouti, mainly garnered the praise for its contribution in the transportation of the much-needed imported agricultural inputs to the East African country.

“According to figures from the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Company, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, over the past few months period, had transported about 70,000 tons of fertilizer from the Djibouti port to Ethiopia as the main harvesting season approaches.

“”We do this under the agreement with the Ethiopian Agriculture Works Corporation, and as fertilizer is considered to be an important commodity which has to be transported very quickly,” Ethiopia’s state-run news agency quoted Aminu Juhar, EDR Planning Manager, as saying on Tuesday.

“The 756-km railway, which officially commenced its commercial operations for both passenger and freight services between the two countries in January last year, has been instrumental in leveraging transportation needs of Ethiopia from its neighboring Red Sea nation of Djibouti.

“Juhar, who noted the railway’s “significant role in delivering fertilizers needed by farmers on time,” stressed that the much-needed fertilizer have been transported in 26 rounds with the capacity of transporting 2,590 tons of fertilizer in a single trip.

Continue reading

China-Africa Debt Trap Refuted Again. Belt and Road Building Infrastructure-Developing Africa

July 12, 2019

President Xi and African Heads of State (courtesy of Al Jazeera)

This excellent article, once again refutes the slander that China is imposing a ‘debt-trap’ on African nations. The author, Ehizuelen Michael Mitchell Omoruyi, executive director of the Center for Nigerian Studies at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, shows how China through the Belt and Road is developing vital infrastructure for Africa. 

“Millions of articles have been written on China-Africa engagement that involve the terms “Sino-optimism,” “Sino-pragmatism” and “Sino-pessimism.” With that said, somehow, China has also been mentioned in some Western media in a negative light, including headlines with phrases such as “Can China circumvent the middle-income trap?” “China’s trapped transition,” “The Thucydides Trap” and the “debt trap.”

“As for the debt trap, the term refers to the idea that Chinese loans in the continent of Africa are a strategy by the Middle Kingdom to extract concessions and purchase allegiance. I do not concur! China’s involvement with African nations is far beyond building railways, bridges and roads…

Continue reading: Belt and Road Offers Development not Debt Trap

China Announces $1 Billion Belt and Road Africa Fund Led by South African

Announced July 3 on the sidelines of the Summer Davos Meeting World Economic Forum in Dalian, China, this $1 billion investment fund also achieves another first–in that it will be not be run by the state government–thus being China’s first “NGO.” It will also notably be led, not by a Chinese, but by a South African.

Intended to be up and running by September, this fund–to be capitalized by wealthy Chinese businessmen and their families–will be headed by Dr. Iqbal Survé, “born and educated in Cape Town” (according to his website). Survé had started his own, Sekunjalo investment fund in 1997, leaving his medical career at the call of Nelson Mandela, who was seeking local investors to lead the development of the economy. Dr. Survé had become “affectionately known as the ‘Struggle Doctor’ because of his provision of medical care towards victims of apartheid brutality,” says his “about” page.

Since then Survé came to serve as chair of the BRICS Business Council for South Africa, and most recently as a member of the Business Council Chairman for the five BRICS countries. A hedge fund operator he definitely is not. Commenting from China, Dr. Survé said, “The discussions that we’ve had with Chinese business people, state-owned enterprises and family offices, have resulted in the establishment of this fund. Africa is ready to grow and is heading towards a $5 trillion economy. The [Africans] have seen how China was able to grow from 1980, when China made up only 2% of the global GDP when compared to today, where China makes up 19% of the global GDP.

This fund is a great boost for the development of Africa.” The fund will be overseen by a Belt and Road Business Council, eventually to grow to 1,000 Chinese and African members.

Africa Enters New Era of Trade and Development with AfCFTA

July 9, 2019

(Courtesy Africa Feeds)
12th Extra-Ordinary African Union Summit in Niamey, Niger, July 7, 2019. (Courtesy Africa Feeds)

China Global Television Network, or CGTN  published my article on the African Union’s creation of the Africa Continental Freed Trade Area-AfCFTA

Read below.

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.

 Continue ReadingAfrica Enters New Era of Trade and Development-with-AfCFTA

For more on the AfCFTA watch this video interview with Amb. Chihombori-Quao: 

AU Amb Chihombori-Quao: “The African Sleeping Giant is Rising”-The Significance of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area

In Africa, the Belt and Road Is Generally Spurring Socio-EconomicDevelopment

Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor project, also known as Lamu corridor is a transport and infrastructure project in Kenya that, when complete, will be the country’s second transport corridor

May 12, 2019

The Belt and Road strategy of international cooperation already up and running and phenomenally redrawing the global development map. With outlaying economic corridors and tremendous added value it is also putting Africa in the front-line of emerging global economic hubs, wrote Charles Onunaiju, Director Center for China Studies, Utako, Abuja, in his article, “Africa and China’s Belt and Road Strategy,” that appeared in {The Sun} of Nigeria on May 8.

Elaborating the contribution of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa, Onunaiju wrote: “Since the action plan of the Belt and Road strategy was rolled out, key infrastructure projects have sprung up in Africa taking shape from its concessional funding support and inspirations of facility connectivity. In respect of overland construction, Chinese companies through concessional financial support have built the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway in Ethiopia, which is the first electrified railway in Africa, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway in Kenya, the Abuja-Kaduna Railway in Nigeria, Benguela railway in Angola, and many others, including the Lagos-Ibadan-Kano-Abuja [railroad] under construction.

“With regards to the maritime component of Belt and Road Initiative, Africa features eminently in the key infrastructure projects. So far, Chinese companies have constructed the port of Bagamoyo in Tanzania, the No. 19 berth of the port of Mombasa and three berths of port Lamu, all in Kenya, the New port of Pointe-Noire in the Republic of Congo or Congo Brazzaville, the Lekki Deep Seaport in Nigeria, the Kribi Deep seaport in Cameroon, and the port of Tamatave in Madagascar.

“Under the framework of the Belt and Road strategy of international cooperation, the port of Cherchell in Algeria has been built and is in operation, while the Port of Luanda in Angola is under construction. The distinct feature of each of these ports is that they either have access to major road connections or sit near the sites of industrial parks, thereby having significant impacts on economic development of the coastal areas of Africa.”

Read the entire article below.

Africa and China’s Belt and Road strategy

African Union Affirms High Speed Rail For Africa Moving Forward

FILE - A train conductor walks inside a carriage as passengers ride inside a Nairobi Commuter Rail Service train from the Mutindwa station in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 12, 2018.
FILE – A train conductor walks inside a carriage as passengers ride inside a Nairobi Commuter Rail Service train from the Mutindwa station in Nairobi, Kenya, Nov. 12, 2018 

“Plans are on track for a high-speed rail network connecting the continent’s borders by 2063, the African Union’s Development Agency says. The ambitious multi-billion-dollar project aims to ease the movement of goods and people across African borders, but the AU warns that corruption could derail that goal.Road, rail, and air traffic connections are so poor between some African countries that it is better to transit through Europe than to travel directly between neighbors.

Intra-African trade is less than 15% of total trade, says Adama Deen, the head of infrastructure at the AU’s Development Agency.

“You cannot have integration without connectivity, whether it is road or rail connectivity, especially when we are talking about the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, where you need a single market and connectivity to move goods, persons within the market,” Deen said

READ: African Union High Speed Rail Network On Track

 

The Urgent Need for a New Paradigm in Africa

Re-posted from africanagenda.net

Below are excerpts from a useful presentation that provides an overview on crucial areas of development in Africa. It echoes many  of the ideas I have written about over the years, and has helpful maps on energy, water, and rail transportation. The presentation concludes with a discussion on the Transaqua water project, which I have advocated for over 20 years with a modest level of success.

 

“In contrast, is the really exciting development of relations between China and the nations of Africa. Every three years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meets, alternating between China and the capital of an African nation. At the last meeting, which was held in 2018, the meeting was in Beijing, and in 2021 it will be held in Senegal. What China has been doing with its cooperation with Africa, has been making available large amounts of credit for the kinds of projects that just make sense: rail lines, power systems, water systems, transportation, road networks, industrial parks—these kinds of significant investments.

“This is not charity; this is not a case of somebody saying “We’re going to step up to the plate and donate to those poor Africans who can’t help themselves.” That’s not the case. The United States is a bigger donor to Africa than is China. But I think if you speak to many African nations in terms of which nation is doing more at present to provide a long-term future, it’s not aid that lasts for a year; it’s taking the lid off and saying, “We’re going to develop a full economy here, not perpetually slightly alleviate poverty; that’s not a future…

“Compare that with National Security Study Memorandum 200, authored under Henry Kissinger in 1974, which stated, for about two dozen countries in the world, that the growth of their populations represented a threat to U.S. strategic interests. Because it would be more difficult, essentially, to get materials from countries that were developing and prosperous than countries that are disarrayed and poor.

“Compare this to when the British ran their official empire. Consider India, for example. Some people say that at least Britain helped develop India, building railroads, and so forth. No, Britain ruined India. India was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cloth, for example, and had a major ship-building industry, which was destroyed by the British. Empire destroys the economic potential of its colonies, and that is the reason that development has been deliberately held back in the world

Read: The Urgent Need for a New Paradigm in Africa

China Friend or Foe? Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Below is my article on China: Friend or Foe?-January 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 65 (85 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine  

By Lawrence Freeman

January 1, 2019

          The short answer is a China is friend and contributor to Africa’s progress. Ignore all the propaganda, ignorance and outright lies claiming that China is the new colonizer of Africa. There is absolutely no truth in the contorted comparison between China’s involvement in Africa today, and 500 years of slavery and colonialism by Western nations.

          Following the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, we have witnessed an escalated disinformation campaign alleging that China is attempting to snare African nations in a new “debt-trap.” New vicious rumors have emerged that China is taking over ownership of key infrastructure projects in Africa. Every African Head of State who has spoken out, has refuted these allegations and praised their cooperative relationship with China.  

According to a report by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” China is owed a minority of external debt. Their figures compiled from the World Bank and the China Africa Research Institute show that 20% of African government external debt is owed to China in contrast 32% to private lenders, and 35% to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.

Of these 14 countries that have they examined: 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe); and three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).

The proponents of the “debt-trap” accusation conspicuously, egregiously omit from their chronicle the history of the financial imprisonment of the then newly independent African nations by the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, and their kith and kin in the City of London and Wall Street. Through manipulation of terms of trade, controlling prices, and forcing currency deviations, African nations found themselves shackled in several hundred billion dollars of new debt to the West shortly after African nations achieved liberation from imperialist colonial masters. Western debt replaced slavery and colonialism as the new method of looting Africa of its wealth, reinforced by the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programs-SAPs, otherwise known as the “Washington Consensus.”

So, who is kidding whom about a “debt-trap?”

Debt for Infrastructure is Necessary

Railroads from the colonial period versus railroads of the future. The East-West and North-South railroads are long overdue

Credits issued for hard infrastructure; energy, railroads, ports, roads, bridges, and soft infrastructure in well equipped; schools, libraries, universities, and hospitals will always result in an increase in productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. By employing advanced technologies embedded in new capital equipment, including infrastructure, farmers and workers can produce more efficiently. Simply providing abundant energy, high-speed railroads, and water inputs to an African nation would lead to a jump in economic output.

All nations that have experienced real economic growth and raised the living standard of their citizens have created credit i.e. public-sector debt or borrowed debt at non-usurious interest rates for targeted physical economic growth.

China is the single largest nation contributing to financing and constructing of infrastructure projects in Africa according, to Deloitte’s 2017 edition of Africa Constructive Trends. The report examines 303 infrastructure projects begun in the first half of 2017 that costs over $50 million. Appropriately, energy& power, and transport comprise 167 of these projects-over 55% of the total. While African governments fund 27.1 % of the funding, China accounts for 15.5% of the funding and 28.1% of the construction for these projects. The US accounts for 3% and 3.3% respectively. Both Italy and France are larger than  the US percentage in building infrastructure in Africa. 

African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, speaking on November 28, 2016 accurately linked the deadly migrant crisis to deficiencies in Africa’s economic development and infrastructure.

“I believe that Africa development deserves significant support, even in the midst of these challenges. We must not forget that the reason several thousands of Africans have been (illegally) migrating to Europe, is because of the lack of jobs and shrinking economic opportunities at home. Our result must not be to reduce support, but to increase support to help build greater resilience, boost its economies, address its structural challenge, such as closing its huge infrastructure gap, strengthening intra-related trade, and creating jobs for its teeming youths.”

A study done by the AidData Research Lab at William and Mary College in Virginia that analyzed China’s investments in the developing sector between 2000 and 2014, concluded:

“We find that Chinese development projects in general, and Chinese transportation projects in particular, reduce economic inequality within and between sub-national localities,” and “produce positive economic spillover that leads to a more equal distribution of economic activity.”

China has come to know, what the US has forgotten, that infrastructure is the sine qua non to drive economic growth. 

Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit is the causal factor for widespread poverty, and insecurity across the continent, precisely that which China has begun to address over the last decade. The Western financial system that dominated Africa from 1960-2000 contributed almost nothing to help African nations industrialize and failed to help create vibrant agro-manufacturing sectors. China with its Belt and Road Initiative has presented the world with a new paradigm to guide political-economic relations among nations; Africa is the beneficiary.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

President Trump’s Non-African Strategy: Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Below is my article on President Trump’s Non-African Strategy, January 1, 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 109 (129 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine  

 

 

Lawrence Freeman

January 1, 2019

After waiting almost two years for President Trump to articulate his policy for Africa, last month he unveiled his US-African Strategy, through the mouth of National Security Adviser John Bolton.  It should be called the Non-Africa Strategy because it has little if anything to do with the continent of Africa itself. Rather, it is essentially a geo-political tactic aimed primarily at China and to a lesser extent Russia. President Trump has put his stamp of approval on the age-old British inspired geo-political ideology that views foreign policy as a “global zero-sum game”-a world with only winners and losers among the super-powers. All other (lesser) nations are treated simply as movable pieces in their fantasy game. In other words, in this administration’s policy, Africa is a pawn on their geo-political chess board. Sadly, this so-called African stratagem shows no concern for well-being of the African people, doing nothing to improve the conditions of life on the continent, nor does it enhance US security.

Bolton explicitly attacks China’s new paradigm in foreign policy-the Belt and Road Initiative-while threatening African nations who do not support the US position on China and Russia. Blinded by their geo-political world view, the Trump administration displays disdain for the fruitful collaboration of China (primarily) with Africa nations in building vitally needed infrastructure across the African continent. In many cases constructing new railroads for the first time since the days of imperialist-colonial domination.

The Trump/Bolton policy has already failed from the start. It is too late to stop Africa’s momentum for economic development with its allies. However, if the Trump administration were more thoughtful, it would formulate a strategy to assist African nations in reducing their massive deficits in crucial categories of infrastructure.

Return to a Real American Strategy for Africa

The promotion of human life should (must) be the most important goal of all foreign policy. Human beings uniquely possess the cognitive-creative mental capacity to transform the physical universe. Only through new scientific discoveries by a sovereign human mind, can we ensure the continued material-biological propagation of our human race. Thus, the promotion of physical (not financial) economic growth, which sustains human progress, is the core of any competent “good neighbor” foreign policy.

Presidents John Kennedy and Kwame Nkrumah, Washington DC, March 1963

President John Kennedy was our last president who identified with and supported the development of the newly liberated African nations. His unique friendship with Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah resulted in securing the funding for the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River which provided hydro-power for aluminum smelting and electricity for the people. This project stands as a monument today in Ghana (and Africa) in contradistinction to the El Mina slave dungeon, and other “slave castles” along Ghana’s coast.  We should remember that it was the African liberator, President Nkrumah, who was the very first Head of State invited by President Kennedy to Washington DC on March 8, 1961.  Four months later, the pro-African President invited Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister of the newly independent Republic of Nigeria to the White House.

Not one of the ten US Presidents following the death of Kennedy have emulated in practice his genuine concern for the advancement of the African people. However, President Kennedy was not original in his vision for Africa.

President Franklin Roosevelt famously scolded British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during their war-time conferences, for Britain’s imperialist exploitation of Africa. He drove Churchill into an apoplectic fit, when he threatened to do away with British Imperialism and its eighteenth-century methods, after the war was won.

President Roosevelt expressed his vision for Africa’s development when told his son Elliott, that with the re-creation 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!”

This is the way US leaders true to our American System of economic progress used to think.

Africa’s Future

Africa’s population is projected to expand to 2.5 billion people in 2050- a generation and a half generation from now. The continent is well situated to become the center of world commerce, with its expanding population, vast tracts of arable land, and its abundance of natural resources. To secure this future, Africa needs trillions of dollars invested in infrastructure. There is no “zero sum” competition. Africa’s friends should cooperate in promoting the limitless number of infrastructure projects that Africa desperately needs. If, Africa and its allies fail to fully develop its enormous potential, and African nations are unable to productively employ and instill hope for a better future to the continent’s projected 2050 population of a billion young people, then we should anticipate perilously new levels instability and insecurity.

It should be obvious to all, including President Trump and his advisers that there will be no security without economic development.

It would be best for both the US and Africa, for President Trump to jettison this terribly flawed policy and advance a real American vision for the continent.  This should include collaboration with China on building transformative infrastructure such as the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project to refurbish the shrinking Lake Chad.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

 

China is NOT Exploiting Africa, But Investing in its Future: The Case of Nigeria

The article below, “Nigeria’s balanced and diverse relationship with China is key to sustainability,” provides a useful examination of the healthy bilateral relationship that China has developed with Nigeria, especially during the administration of President Buhari.  It is also important to note that Nigeria has officially joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in January of this year. (excerpts below followed by a link to complete article)

1)    Infrastructure

Nigeria has one of the largest infrastructure deficits in the world; two thirds of the population still does not have access to safe water and over half of the population has no access to reliable electricity. Logistics costs are also extremely high; it costs more to transport a good from Lagos in Nigeria’s South to Kano in the North (1000km), than it does to ship a good from Shanghai to Lagos (over 12,000 km).

Nigeria’s government is investing in infrastructure, but external funding is needed. As cited in the National Integrated Infrastructure Master-plan (NIIMP) developed by Nigeria’s Ministry for Planning in 2015, it is estimated that the country requires $3 trillion over the next 30 years, with $500 billion required in the first 10 years. This estimate, which has wide sectoral scope, is reached by comparing Nigeria’s core infrastructure stock of around 20-25% GDP to international benchmarks of around 70%. Yet, even as the government increased its budget allocation for capital expenditure to 30% in 2017, this remains at least 80% short of the annual amount prescribed by NIIMP.

Alongside self-funding new infrastructure, Nigeria has also looked to the World Bank, European Commission and African Development Bank as sources of infrastructure capital. Yet while they might have the risk tolerance and investment horizons, their capital remains diluted over a number of countries. In its 60 years of operation in Nigeria, the World Bank has invested on average $100 million on infrastructure a year – significant but still a drop in the ocean versus Nigeria’s needs…

3)    Manufacturing    

While Nigeria is the richest economy in Africa, with the largest population and one of the better educated work forces, 4 in every 10 people still remain unemployed. Nigeria needs more inclusive industrialization that creates jobs for all, as opposed to focusing solely on sectors such as oil. Opportunities lie in the manufacturing sector, which creates more jobs through stronger forward and backwards economic linkages than any other sector.

Nigeria is again leveraging its relationship with China here. Some Chinese manufacturers have started relocating production to Nigeria, partly in response to rising wages in China and to take full advantage of the size of Nigeria’s domestic market. Sun Ceramics is one such example; they produce ceramics the size of 10 football fields every day, employ over 1,000 locals and also source all their raw materials from Nigeria. If it weren’t for Nigeria’s difficult business environment, Chinese firms claim they would commit greater amounts of investment.

Stronger ties to stand the test of time.

Nigeria, however, has managed to…build a balanced and more diverse relationship with China. Nigeria’s relationship with China extends beyond resources and infrastructure to security, financial planning and sharing of best-practice in manufacturing, to name a few areas of cooperation. Particularly in the realms of security cooperation; the Chinese have found an area that helps win them local support on the ground in Nigeria given a near-universal desire to eliminate insurgent forces. Nigeria also recognizes that the size of its domestic market offers the largest opportunity in Africa for Chinese companies; and that has helped to improve the balance in the relationship.

It is this combination of balance and diversification that is key to a sustainable relationship with China.

 

Read: Nigeria’s Balanced and Diverse Relationship with China