October 20, 2018—On October 16, a huge step forward was taken for the African continent, with the signing of an agreement between Italy and the Lake Chad Basin Commission to fund a feasibility study of the Transaqua water project. Francesco La Camera, director general of the Italian Environment ministry, and Mamman Nuhu, Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, signed a document that certifies an Italian government grant of 1.5 million Euros to finance the study for the project to refill Lake Chad and build a water, transport, electricity and agro-industrial infrastructure in central Africa. The project was developed by the Italian firm Bonifica more than 35 years ago.
The formal signing follows the decision announced last February 29 at the International Lake Chad Conference in Abuja, Nigeria. There will be further bureaucratic steps before the grant can be delivered and the feasibility study can start.
“It is a historic step”, said Bonifica CEO Romina Boldrini. “Italy is giving money for Transaqua. Everybody is expecting Bonifica to start the feasibility study now”.
Lawrence Freeman, author of the Africa and the World blog, and a long-time advocate for Transaqua, made the following comment on the event:
Today a huge step forward was taken for the Africa continent with the initial funding for a feasibility study of the Transaqua water project. Transaqua, a transformative inter-basin water transfer project to re-charge the shrinking Lake Chad, was first proposed over thirty years ago, to create a super-economic development zone between the nations of the Lake Chad Basin and Great Lakes Region. Expanding this lake is crucial for the Sahel and will help to turn back the desert. The success of Transaqua, a Pan African infrastructure project, will be bring peace and stability to Nigeria, and to the other member states of the Lake Chad Basin, and as well create new levels of economic wealth.
Such “greening the desert” projects were once advanced by the United States, especially President Franklin D. Roosevelt. 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!”
The fact that FDR’s vision was not taken up after World War II has been a tragedy not only for Africa, but also for the United States. The perspective of great projects to create new resources for mankind can easily be revived, if the United States would take up proposals such as the National Infrastructure Bank, which is now circulating in Congress in search of a sponsor.
For more on the Transaqua project, see Save Lake Chad With Transaqua: Presidents Roosevelt and Nkrumah Would Concur.