Proposal for Nigeria’s future
As the “Winds of Change” swept across the African content in the 1960s, the world witnessed dozens of African nations declaring their independence from colonial rule.
Many in Africa and around the world had hoped that Nigeria would lead the continent forward.
Unfortunately, two major events occurred that derailed the promising course of Nigeria’s First Republic.
The first was the 1966 coup that lead to the Biafra War, resulting in military rule. The second was the overthrow of the military regime of then General Muhammadu Buhari.
Following his removal from office Nigeria’s economy was destroyed by the Structural Adjustment Programs–(SAPs), imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and the “Washington Consensus.”
Legitimately, Nigeria should be the western hub for regional and transcontinental development, joining Ethiopia and South Africa, as the eastern and southern hubs for the African continent.
A New Dawn has arrived for Nigeria following the successful transfer of leadership of the 2015 Presidential election.
Nigeria’s population is projected to grow to 400 million by 2050 with potentially 50% of its people thirty-five years or younger.
This is an opportunity for Nigeria to assert its leadership on the continent and in the world as the most populated and accomplished “Black” African nation.
To meet this challenge, Nigeria needs to embark on the most aggressive infrastructure program in its history.
Over a $1 trillion will be needed for the expansion of hard infrastructure projects in energy, water, rail, and roads.
Nigeria’s ability to employ its youth and build strong agriculture and manufacturing sectors will depend on the quality and density of its integrated infrastructure platform.
Below I highlight the key sectors that are the linchpin to secure a prosperous future for Nigeria, and therefore require immediate action.
It is estimated that Nigeria has upwards of 12,500 megawatts of installed capacity, and delivers approximately 4,000 megawatts of power per day.
Only 45% of the population has minimal access to the national grid.
Due this sparse amount of available energy, Nigerians rely on inefficient and costly individual generators and batteries for their homes and businesses when they can afford them.
The Mambilla hydro-power plant to begin construction this year will add another 3,050 megawatts of power to the nation’s grid when it is completed.
However, when Nigeria’s population doubles to 400 million it will require minimum of 400,000 megawatts just to provide I kilowatt hour of electricity per person.
Solar power and small off-grid energy projects are totally inadequate to power a fully employed industrialized Nigerian economy.
A crash program for energy production is necessary, and must include building nuclear energy plants, which are the most efficient form of energy to power an economy.
Nigeria should not accept “second class” status when it comes to utilizing the most advanced technologies, such as nuclear energy.
Nigeria has suffered for almost a century from sparse and inefficient rail lines installed by its British colonial master.
Recently, especially under the administration of President Buhari, there has been a concerted effort to expand Nigeria’s deficient rail transportation network.
Prior to this renaissance in rail, Nigeria had only 3,505 kilometers of the narrow gauge, and 507 kilometers of the wider standard gauge.
Progress has been made on the long overdue 1,100 km line connecting Lagos, the largest state and port, to Kano the largest state in the north. The 187 km portion from Abuja to Kaduna has already been completed.
There are also plans to build a new rail line along Nigeria’s southern coast from Port Harcourt to Calabar.
Nigeria is contemplating spending between $40 to $80 billion on new and refurbished track as they aspire to connect the capitals of all its 36 sates.
China is providing a major portion of the financing and the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company is heavily involved.
Africa should have completed an East-West railroad several decades ago.
Nigeria is situated to become the focal point for the building of railroad that would connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Eden and Indian Ocean.
When completed, Africa’s transcontinental railroad would revolutionize the economies across Africa’s girth and transform the entire continent.
The nexus of the East-West and North-South rail lines in Sudan, would be instrumental in securing vital infrastructure required for the African continent to lead the world in economic growth.
The Nigerian government has a responsibility to feed its present and expanding population.
The sovereign ability to feed its own people should be treated as a matter of national security. Nigeria is spending over $20 billion for imported food, with imported wheat and rice compromising over 90%.
Nigeria cannot continue to allow this amount of money to spent outside the country when it has the potential to be self-sufficient.
Out of almost 80 million hectares of arable land, only 40% is under cultivation, with little amount irrigation.
I have travelled throughout Nigeria; there is no objective reason for Nigeria not to be able to feed its people. Action in this sector is imperative.
With the proper amount of infrastructure, Africa can meet all its own domestic food requirements and become a net food exporter.
Poverty is the Enemy
To eliminate poverty, produce economic dividends, and provide Nigeria’s youth with productive employment, and hope for a better future, the government should outline an inclusive national economic program that extends to all thirty- six states.
Nigeria should adopt Ethiopia’s outlook on poverty, which they consider the nation’s number one enemy: “poverty is not too be managed but eradicated.”
To overcome ethnic fault lines, which become accentuated under economic hardship, the Nigerian Nation State must fulfil its obligation to provide for the general welfare of all its citizens and their posterity.
Ethnic, religious and geographical distinctions can be overcome by recruiting the population to trust that the Nigerian Nation State is committed to a plan of action that will make their lives better tomorrow than they are today.
Transaqua Water Project: Nigeria’s Mission
Nigeria should adopt a national mission that will not only inspire its people, but demonstrate its leadership in Africa: reversing the contraction of Lake Chad, and transforming the Lake Chad Basin.
Expanding Lake Chad will provide needed relief to the more than 30 million African famers and fisherman, and pastoralists living in the basin, who are suffering from the lake’s drastically receding shoreline.
Recharging Lake Chad is also a necessary component of an effective strategy to combat violent extremism.
Because of President Buhari’s personal leadership, an International Conference to Save Lake Chad was convened in Abuja from February 26-28, 2108.
The three-day proceedings concluded with a summit of the Heads of State from the nations that comprise the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
The official document of the conference, The Road Map, adopted the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project as the preferred solution to save the shrinking lake.
The design of Transaqua not only provides for the refurbishing of Lake Chad to its 1963 area of 25,000 kilometers from its present size of 2,500 km, but uniquely proposes the creation of a super economic development zone.
Transaqua envisions building a 2,400 km long navigable gravity canal by siphoning 5% of the water from the tributaries to the right of the Congo River.
This new canal will connect to the Chari River that flows into Lake Chad.
Thus, the dozen or so nations of the Lake Chad Basin and Great Lakes region will become economically integrated, creating new levels of trade, commerce, hydro-electric power, irrigation, and much more.
Resulting in the economic transformation of one third of Africa’s land mass.
I have advocated the Transaqua project for over two decades. I was able to discuss it with then President elect Buhari in March of 2105 in Abuja, immediately after he was confirmed as having won the election.
We are finally approaching the point that a feasibility study will be conducted to determine the future of this project.
Nigeria’s continued championing of this transformative project will be viewed as a crowning achievement by the rest of Africa and the world.
China and Nigeria
Africa has benefited greatly from its relationship with China especially over the recent decade, much to the consternation of the West.
China is not the new colonial power in Africa, but has become an important partner is building vitally needed infrastructure.
Although Nigeria is not officially part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative-(BRI), it has been a prime recipient of China’s commitment to extend infrastructure connectivity throughout Africa.
In the first half of 2017, 303 new infrastructure projects valued at a minimum of $50 were initiated in Africa.
China is funding 15.5% of these projects and building 28.1%. Appropriately 167 are in the energy & power, and transportation sectors.
Over 26% (79 out of 303) of these undertakings are in West Africa, valued at $98.3 billion.
Nigeria has the largest share with 30, which is 38% of the West African regional total. China is funding 35%, and building 50% of all projects in West Africa.
China has performed an invaluable function in contributing to Nigeria’s growth, particularly in infrastructure.
However, given the huge deficits in hard and soft infrastructure across Africa, there is unlimited opportunities for the West to join China in development this vast continent.
Let Nigeria lead the way forward over the next two generations to make Africa a shining light of progress.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission.