EU Should Develop Transaqua, with the Chinese

On the eve of Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani’s visit to Beijing amidst speculation that Italy would pull out of the 2019 MoU on the “New Silk Road” with China, former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi made the case for Italy-China cooperation to develop Africa. Prodi, who is also a former European Commission President, specifically called on the Italian government to give substance to its “Mattei Plan” for Africa, by promoting the Transaqua water transfer project, which would bring water to the Sahel from the Congo River basin.

Prodi said: “Transaqua could be a wonderful proposal, and Italy, which today is working on a Mattei Plan for Africa, could lead the way because it cannot do it alone. A strong healthy lobbying effort is needed, appealing to Europe, the United Nations, the African Union, the United States and even China if needed. We need everyone’s cooperation and a paradigm shift. It is time to end the separate approaches in Africa, for which, everyone can now see, France is paying a very high price.”

These quotes are reported in an article dedicated to Transaqua published in the Italian defense magazine Analisi Difesa on Aug. 30. Journalist Francesca Ronchin reviews the entire history of Transaqua up to today, and exposes the opposition from France, Great Britain and the EU Commission over the years.

One example of the latter Ronchin mentions is a 2020 report funded by British Commonwealth and French government institutions (Soft Power, Discourse Coalitions, and the Proposed Inter-Basin Water Transfer Between Lake Chad and the Congo River), which goes so far as to accuse Italy of ‘neo-colonial aims.’ According to the made-in-Canada study, Transaqua’s goal, making the waterway part of the larger African transportation system, would be ‘in line with Italy’s previous expansionist dreams for the Sahel region’. In short, for Italy, a glorious return to the imperialistic ambitions of the past.” She calls this view “paranoid”, since not even the €3 million needed to carry out the feasibility study have as yet been found.

This is not the first time Romano Prodi has endorsed the Transaqua project. But in this intervention, he took on the neo-colonial opposition. “The French objections are rather curious ones, as if infrastructure interventions should not be made in Africa”, he commented. ”This is about helping nature recover a situation of internal balance for the benefit of African peoples. And to understand the importance of Transaqua just consider that the Lake Chad basin covers one-eighth of the African continent.”

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