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This article appears in the July 20, 2018 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

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Partnership, Inclusive Growth, and Infrastructure in Africa

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Sébastien Périmony
Helga Zepp-LaRouche addresses the Institut Mandela conference in Paris, July 6, 2018.

Schiller Institute President Helga Zepp-LaRouche spoke at the Institut Mandela in Paris, July 6, 2018, as part of its African Economic and Consular Days—just days before Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday on July 18—at the invitation of its President, Dr. Paul Kananura. An edited transcript follows.

Helga Zepp-LaRouche: Merci bien. Ladies and Gentlemen:

There is a profound reason for optimism for the African continent, because with the rise of China, and especially the New Paradigm that emerged with the Belt and Road Initiative, the world has been changing, especially in the last five years at an incredible speed. What China has done with the New Silk Road is to develop a new model of relations among nations, and it is an initiative which is open to all nations of the world.

New bridges and tunnels [Figure 1] are now beginning to unite all the continents, and so the new world map is becoming a map of uniting all continents through tunnels and bridges. African development is an integral part of this world development.

With China’s offer to have a win-win cooperation, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reports that 140 nations are now participating, in various degrees, in the spirit of the New Silk Road, which has captured the imagination of many countries in Africa, in Asia, and in Latin America, who see for the first time the concrete possibility of overcoming poverty and underdevelopment, in the short term.

In the last ten, but especially the last five years, China has acted to create development potentials, after centuries of colonialism and decades of IMF conditionalities that had been designed to prevent African and Third World development.

Africa Transformed into Global Powerhouse

With this change in the strategic situation, there is a serious perspective for turning Africa into a global powerhouse. A study published last November indicated that Africa is going to be the next factory of the world. The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) has just published new figures showing the positive role of China in the development of Africa. In 2000, the total trade between China and African states was $10 billion only. In 2014, China was already Africa’s main trading partner, with a trade volume of $200 billion, and in 2017 China made additional loans of more than $100 billion.

One of the projects recently completed with Chinese help is the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway. The railway is 750 km long, and now food aid can be brought to areas hit by drought, which was not possible before. And this is just the very beginning. China also has established a China-Africa Development Fund, financed by the China Development Fund. Many other Chinese state banks have been involved in direct investments. Over the last decade, China took part in the creation of more than 100 industrial zones, 40% of which are already operational. By the end of 2016, they had helped to build 5,756 km of railway, 4,335 km of motorways, 9 ports, 14 airports, 34 power stations, and 10 large and 1,000 small hydroelectric power stations.

This coming September, there will be a big China-African Union summit which is expected to take this relationship to a new level.

There is a fundamental change taking place in Africa. The Western countries had refused to invest in a real way in Africa, but with the second largest economy of the world now involved, there is now the prospect for African nations to replicate the Chinese model of development, each in their own African way. However, in terms of infrastructure and industrial development, African nations can take China as a model, which after all, in the last 40 years has undergone an incredible transformation, from being a very, very underdeveloped country, to now being an absolutely breathtaking, dynamic economy.

Africa Challenges Europe and the EU

This is the positive side. On the other side, we are confronted with unprecedented challenges: terrorism, financial turbulence, migrations. A large percentage of the 68.5 million refugees worldwide are migrating from Africa, trying to get through the Sahara, many dying of thirst, or drowning in the Mediterranean, where in the last years, thousands if not tens of thousands have drowned.

Since the refugee crisis escalated in Southwest Asia and Africa in 2015, it has become very clear how deeply disunited the European Union is. Especially in the recent weeks a total government crisis in Germany nearly ended the political career of Chancellor Angela Merkel. There was demonstrated a complete erosion of the EU: No unity, no solidarity, tensions between France and Italy, total tensions between Eastern Europe and Western Europe.

And it is very clear that the EU cannot come up with any solution, because all they could propose at their recent summit was a complete brutalization of the migrant issue: They want to militarize Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to supposedly keep the refugees out of the EU. There were even proposals to use the German army or even NATO forces, to put the refugees into “disembarkment camps,” as they call them, either within Europe or in North African states, all of which have already refused to be the hosts of such camps. Pope Francis has compared these camps to the concentration camps of the Nazi period.

What has happened to Western values? What about human rights? What about democracy? The proposals coming out of the EU are barbarian proposals; they’re not only inhuman, but they also will not work. They will not work. While EU officials are constantly talking about the need to look at the root causes of the refugee crisis, they never do.

The Singapore Summit Model

So, I have a proposal how this can be changed: I call it the “Singapore Summit model.” We all have witnessed the very historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently in Singapore. It is very clear that it is the New Silk Road Spirit which has changed the environment in Asia, which made this summit possible in the way it took place, and it is also an example of how you can change, within a few months, a hostile adversarial relationship, rife with the potential trigger of a large nuclear war, which was the situation between the United States and North Korea, and turn it into cooperation.

This agreement now includes the denuclearization of North Korea, in exchange for the promise from the United States, China and Russia to help to develop North Korea economically, and turn it into a prosperous nation.

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Map of proposed highways. Rail routes will follow the same or similar routes.

My proposal was that the EU should have changed the agenda of their just concluded summit, and invited Chinese President Xi Jinping, and the African heads of state who have already successfully cooperated with China, and together should have presented a comprehensive crash program for the development of the infrastructure in Africa. [Figure 2] The presence of Xi Jinping would have given such a program credibility because China has a record of delivering on development. The idea behind the proposal is to present such an integrated, continental transport plan, a trans-African transport network, which already has been proposed by Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2014, and reiterated in 2016.

If these leaders—European, African, and Chinese leaders—would announce that it is their intent to institute a crash program for such a development, it would be a signal to the young people who are now running away, risking their lives in drowning in the Mediterranean, or ending up in concentration camps, to participate in the economic buildup of their own countries.

At the recent visit of French President Macron to Ghana, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo basically told Macron that, Ghana doesn’t need France’s development aid crumbs; what Ghana needs is real investment. He called on youth—rather than trying to get to Europe—to use their youthful energy to build up their own country. This would require training centers, very much like what Franklin D. Roosevelt set up: training, educating, and putting to useful work especially young people in the Civilian Conservation Corps program as part of his New Deal. Such a summit today, with such a declaration of intent, could be like the Singapore Summit, a complete turnaround.

I think we have to also use Xi Jinping’s notion of “sustainability.” Not meaning “appropriate technologies,” however, which in reality means no technology, and not meaning “green” solar and wind power, but instead total infrastructure and industrialization as the new definition of sustainability.

African nations do not have to repeat all the levels and phases of the industrialization of the Western countries, but like China they can leapfrog to the most advanced technologies, such as focussing on high-speed trains, on magnetic levitation, on fourth-generation nuclear power. This plan should include, first, a regional infrastructure investment bank, an African Infrastructure Investment Bank, like the AIIB for Asia. That bank should be paired with national credit mechanisms, or national banks, to manage the internal financing of infrastructure.

Second, there should be an integrated network of high-speed trains, waterways between rivers and lakes, the full development of hydropower projects, fourth-generation nuclear electricity generation, and desalination of large amounts of ocean water for irrigation. Also, as the Ambassador from Ghana already said this morning, there needs be not only the export of raw materials, but the production of high-end petrochemicals and metallurgy, and semi-finished and finished products for internal use and for export, that upgrade the value chain in the country.

In addition, there should be a Green Revolution, not in the sense of the Greenies of Europe, but in the sense of the Green Revolution of Jawaharlal Nehru, who transformed the agriculture of India with disease- and drought-resistant plants, and modern food-processing.

Large-scale projects are also needed, such as the proposed tunnel through the Strait of Gibraltar, an eminently doable project. A feasibility study has already been concluded, and a state treaty between Spain and Morocco already exists, so construction could begin almost immediately. A bridge or a tunnel connecting Sicily and Tunisia, which has also been proposed, could be built, with a couple of islands planted in between. These two projects and others like them will serve to integrate the development of Europe with that of Africa. The high-temperature nuclear reactor project in South Africa should be promoted.

The biggest infrastructure project ever, in the history of Africa, is Transaqua. [Figure 3] In February of this year, a big conference took place in Abuja, Nigeria, with the presidents of all of the countries of the Lake Chad Basin, who concluded that the only way to save Lake Chad, which now has dried up to only about 10% of its original size, is to refill with waters from some of the tributaries of the Congo River, flowing from 500 meters above the lake.

By gravitation, these waters could be made to flow all the way to Lake Chad. Not only will such a scheme create an inland shipping lane for all the participating countries, but up to 100 billion cubic meters annually of water flow can be used not only to refill the lake and for area irrigation, but also to drive turbines to produce electricity. Lake Chad will once again reach the size of 25 square km.

Transaqua was adopted at the Abuja conference, and a treaty was concluded between PowerChina—a large Chinese engineering firm famous for having built the Three Gorges Dam, so they are very knowledgeable and experienced in making such big projects—together with the Italian engineering firm Bonifica. Italian government representatives at that conference announced that Italy will pay 1.5 million euro to produce a feasibility study within one year. Transaqua is a perfect model for a tripartite cooperation among African nations, China, and in this case, a European nation, Italy.

Construction of Transaqua will be not a long-term project. PowerChina, the lead engineering contractor for the project, announced at the conference that it is confident that it can finish this project in 12 years. It will be an industrialization right in the heart of Africa that will be completely transformational.

Last August, People’s Daily carried an article about Transaqua, giving credit for the project to the LaRouche movement and the Schiller Institute, because of our work over the last three decades in many conferences, advertising this to many people, and finally getting PowerChina and Bonifica together on it. It’s now a state treaty between China and Italy. That article emphasized our role in those efforts.

Transaqua is just one of the results of our decades’ long work to help to industrialize Africa. Our book-length 1976 report, The Industrialization of Africa, is a total plan for the industrialization of Africa, and it was published as a book in 1978. [Figure 4] So as you can see, today’s exciting developments are not just coming out of the blue. Our movement, from its very beginning, based on the ideas of my husband, Lyndon LaRouche, has stood for the industrial transformation of the southern hemisphere, because it’s the only way to alleviate poverty, and create a decent living standard for all people.

When the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa was published in 1980, my husband wrote a commentary on it, which brought in a very important conceptual approach to tackling the problem of underdevelopment, by creating a continental infrastructure plan, new cities, and science cities, with a strong focus on the education of the youth. We campaigned for this, for four decades. The total work of that 40 year effort went into The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge, which we published in 2014, after Xi Jinping announced the New Silk Road. And just about one week ago, we released the pre-prints of The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge, Volume 2, which has an updated plan for how to do this. [Figure 5]

We have conducted conferences in Sudan, for the five countries around the Nile, discussing how they could work together on development. And I also addressed an economic summit in Abuja in 1997. [Figure 6] In Europe we conducted many campaigns under the title “The Future of Europe Lies in Africa.”

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Zepp-LaRouche in Sudan (above) and Nigeria (below).

Application of the Singapore Model

I think the application of the “Singapore model” is quite possible. Austria’s new Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who until the end of the year is the president of the European Union Council, has announced that he wants to conduct an EU-Africa summit before the end of the year. Now Austria, while having a hard line on the migrants, on the other side, has in the document of the two coalition parties in the government, a chapter discussing Austria’s desire to become a hub for the New Silk Road. And there are also many Central and Eastern European nations, Balkan nations, Southern European nations that want to be hubs. For example, Spain and Portugal not only want to be the terminus of the Eurasian Silk Road towards the West, but they want to be hubs to the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking countries around the world.

If they all cooperate on the New Silk Road, this would be the way to do this, and since the refugee crisis will not go away until the policy is fundamentally changed toward an industrialization of Africa, I think this crisis can be turned into an opportunity. Right now the Schiller Institute—and I would encourage all of you to help us carry this out— is pushing for a full mobilization of all European and African nations that agree, to put pressure on behalf of this perspective and present the EU at its upcoming summit with a concrete outline of the necessary investments, with the participation of China, but also involving other countries, such as India, Japan, even the United States, to do likewise.

Approach it the way China does. China builds a high-speed train—and I saw it with my own eyes, from Lanzhou to Urumqi, in half a year—not by building it one step after the other, but by building it simultaneously from 10 or even 20 different places. So, “Partnership, Inclusive Growth and Infrastructure in Africa.” If such a concrete plan existed, building could start at many places at the same time.

We have outlined the projects in our two reports. [Figure 7] A satellite image of Africa at night [Figure 8] shows almost no light emitting from the continent. If we go in the direction I have just suggested, that is, extending the New Silk Road to Africa through a collaborative effort of all nations, then Africa will light up its night sky in a way comparable to the way the United States and Europe do.

Implementing our development approach will turn Africa into a modern, prosperous continent, where all citizens enjoy a safe, and happy and long life. So if we all act together in that spirit, Africa will be the new China with African characteristics. [applause]