Global Energy Forum
The New Africa: Strategic Opportunities in Security and Energy
General James L. Jones,
President, Jones Group International;
Chairman, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council; former US National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama
J. Peter Pham,
Vice President for Research and Regional Initiatives and Director of the Africa Center, Atlantic Council
The Hon. Karim Keita,
Chairman, Commission on National Defense, Security, and Civil Protection,
National Assembly of the Republic of Mali
Founder, Chairman, and CEO,
Location: Liwa Ballroom, Four Seasons, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Time: 10:15 a.m. Local
Date: Friday, January 13, 2017
Superior Transcriptions LLC
GENERAL JAMES L. JONES: (In progress) – say a few words about. I want to – in addition to just extending a welcome to you, to thank Dr. Peter Pham for asking me to introduce the important topic of the role of strategic opportunities for security and energy in Africa. I’m particularly pleased to see a panel on Africa framed in the context of opportunity. Africa’s challenges are well known and frequently discussed, but I have long maintained that Africa is the continent of the future and holds tremendous opportunity and challenge.
Energy development in particular holds significant promise, but also, as I mentioned, a great challenge for Africa itself. The African continent is, as you know, rich in energy resources but poor in energy supply for its citizens. In sub-Saharan Africa alone nearly 300 million people out of 900 million lack access to electricity, for example. Yet the continent’s growing youth population and urbanization will require massive investments in energy and infrastructure to close the alarming energy poverty gap in many African nations.
One area where Africa has particular potential is the energy sector – in the energy sector is renewables such as hydroelectric power, solar energy or geothermal. Africa is a continent poised to suffer greatly from the effects of climate change. Greater investments in the renewable space will not only allow Africa to make its own contributions to meeting international climate targets but also to achieving greater employment prospects in a key growth industry. Closing Africa’s energy poverty gap will be critical to the future prosperity of the continent. The International Energy Agency suggests that 450 billion dollars in investment in the power sector out to 2040 could bolster the sub-Saharan economic growth by up to 30 percent. Yet for Africa to attract the capital required to close this gap, governments and private sectors will need to take steps to enhance security and strengthen transparent governance.
I believe that under a new U.S. administration the United States can and must continue to play an important role in shaping – helping to shape Africa’s security and energy future, both through its diplomacy and through the innovation and engagement of its private sector. I’m pleased that under Dr. Peter Pham’s leadership the Atlantic Council has produced a new strategy paper proposing measured steps for U.S. engagement in Africa, and I very much agree with the key points in the paper and share Peter Pham’s belief that holistic American engagement, leveraging the tools of the public and private sectors alike, can play an important role in helping African governments and people realize their tremendous opportunities and potential in the 21st century.
So, I know I join all of you in looking forward to this discussion and hearing thoughts from two important leaders in the region that will be introduced by Dr. Peter Pham.
Thank you very much.
J. PETER PHAM: Thank you very much, General, for that kind introduction and for introducing this panel. Just a few housekeeping announcements before we get started with this discussion. This session is on the record, and if you’re tweeting use the hashtag #ACEnergyForum to tweet out, and copies of that paper that General Jones referred to, “A Strategy for the Incoming Administration on Africa,” I think, are available in the back of the room.
I’m very delighted to have two friends – not just colleagues but friends – join us on this panel with General Jones. First, I’d like to introduce The Honorable Karim Keita, a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Mali and chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on National Security, Defense and the Protection of Civilians in that country. Karim, thank you for making the journey all the way from Bamako for this discussion.
And also, Atlantic Council International Advisory Board Member Tewodros Ashenafi, the founder, chairman and CEO of SouthWest Energy Holdings, which is – works in Ethiopia. So, Tewodros, thank you for joining us and for your support of the Atlantic Council.
I’d like to also acknowledge the presence in the room of board members – several board members who are joining us. Certainly, Ahmed Charai from Morocco, a very strong supporter of the Atlantic Council and our work in Africa as well as the publisher of a glossy magazine on Africa, Pouvoirs d’Afrique, a bilingual magazine on politics and people transforming Africa. And also, delighted to have Franco Nuschese, Atlantic Council board member and very dear friend, here. Thank you for joining us.
And acknowledge also the person who kind of pushed us to have a session on Africa at this meeting, Atlantic Council International Advisory Board Member Mehmet Nazif Gunal joins us. His company does a number of things in Africa – investments as well as constructions – and he certainly gave us the impulse to do this.
I just want to throw a few things out and then really open it to a discussion with this very distinguished panel. In the arc of my own career working on Africa over two decades, we’ve gone from, when I was beginning my career, a U.S. Defense Department document on strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, which in 1995 declared that there was very little strategic interests in Africa. “America security interests in Africa are very limited,” 1995. The year 2000, during the election campaign, then Governor George W. Bush told Jim Lehr on PBS News Hour that – and I quote – “Africa may be important, but it doesn’t fit into national strategic interests as far as I can see them.” Yet, just a few years later that same President Bush led – ordered the creation of the U.S.-Africa Command, and then fast forward to 2012, under President Obama a national strategy security document said that the U.S. strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa – it was more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community and the United States, in particular.
So, what has changed? I think part of the picture is clearly economic and we’ll discuss that today. In the half decade between 2011 to 2015, five of the top 20 fastest growing economies in the world were African countries. In the current quinquennial between 2016 to 2020, 11 of the 20 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Why this growth? I think we know the reasons, as General Jones mentioned – natural resources, most certainly, including reserves of petroleum have gone up 40 percent in the last decade. The largest natural gas find in the last decade was off Mozambique, and the recent find off Senegal and Mauritania is the largest natural gas find in West Africa ever. Ninety-five percent of the platinum group of minerals, the reserves, are in Africa; 90 percent of the chromite or 80 percent of the phosphate – and I could go on and on.
But it’s not just fossil fuels or minerals to be exported, but also, I think at this conference it’s worth noting Africa’s potential in renewable energies. If I can cite the example of Morocco, an African country which hosted the COP22 conference recently, last year the – inaugurate the newer one – solar plant in Ouarzazate, in the desert there; 160 megawatt capacity, which with the – coming online this year and next year – phase two and three of that same project, an additional 350 megawatts of solar power, so that by 2020 Morocco will get a majority of its energy needs off renewable energy, which is quite extraordinary for a country which, until very recently, was the Middle East region’s largest importer of fossil fuels, relying on fossil fuels for 90 percent – 97 percent of its power. Certainly, demographics are part of the opportunity in Africa; the population doubling to 2 billion by 2050, the lowest median age of any region in the world. By 2050, one in four workers in the world will be in Africa and thus the need for energy as well there.
And then energy for technology – mobile phone use. I remember my early days working in Africa in the early 90s. The continent had fewer than 15 million mobile phone users. By 20 – 2000, that was up to 50 million; today over a billion people – with some countries having over 100 percent penetration rates and the technologies that go with it. So, all sorts of reasons why there’s extraordinary growth and opportunity on the continent, which requires two things, of course, which are the topics of this panel – security and energy.
And with that, let me take a seat and then – and begin the conversation with the distinguished panels who you really have come here to talk with.
Let me begin by turning to my good friend Karim Keita. Karim, you come from a country that is land-locked, a country that has had conflict in recent years, and yet one that harkens back, also, a great history of – a time of – when Africa was much more central in the world. One thinks of the ancient empires, especially Timbuktu, and some of the great history that comes out of that. As you look at the – these mega trends, I pointed out, on the energy, the natural resources, the demographics, the technology, what are you seeing and how do we – what’s your picture going forward?
KARIM KEITA: I think that we have to be really optimistic. I am really optimistic, you know, especially when you are talking about Mali. We went through a huge crisis, and we are still facing security issues, actually, but as you pointed out, the population in the youth of Africa, I think, is one of its best assets today, and with that youth being educated and thanks, also, to that new technology, we will be able to, fortunately, to develop the continent. And also, regarding energy, we have to be more regarding on knowledge and also education and schools to produce more engineers – African engineers and to be able to develop that sector for our needs. As you pointed out, we – less than half of the continent is electrified today, especially West Africa. Most of the electricity is in the North Africa and Southern Africa. You really have most – half of the population that haven’t access to domestic electricity and are still using biomass, and also for industry to develop you need electricity. So we are really in lack of that, and we are seeking for investment in that sector. But also investment for sector that you pointed out, about the reserves, about raw materials we still have, mainly in the energetic. You talked about – you talked about phosphate, you talked about cobalt, but also we have uranium. You talked about gas between Senegal and Mauritania, but you forget Mali and Mauritania about the Taoudeni Basin, which experts say that we might have huge reserve of oil.
So, I think that when some expert says that there is a new scramble for Africa, it’s also our part as Africans to create that opportunity for them to come, and I think that this place, Abu Dhabi, is also a huge window for us to make that call for people to come and to help us.
OK. This is what I want to say for now.
MR. PHAM: OK. Let me follow up very, very quickly, and then we’re going to Tewodros.
Karim, can you tell us a little bit about some of the programs that have been put in place by the government of Mali – precisely that – to encourage and attract that investment?
MR. KEITA: We created an agency, it’s a national – it’s a development agency called Investment Promotion Agency. We have also different department regarding that, actually, we just opened one month of ago in the Embassy of Mali here.
And also, you know, it’s very difficult when you have been facing a crisis like it happened in Mali. So it’s a state in rebuilding today, and we are trying, also, to strengthen our capacities for people to come.
And there is a huge (accent ?), also, to be put in communication. You know, when you open the TV everything you see about Mali is only terrorist attacks, instability, all that – no. And I am so happy to say that today is opening the French-African Summit in Mali that I am going to miss because I prefer to be with you today. So, I will say to you that there is a big part in how to market our countries, how to market Africa. So, I think this is also our challenge and it’s our duty.
MR. PHAM: Thank you very much, Karim.
Let me turn to Tewodros. Tewodros and SouthWest Energy work in Ethiopia, which, I think, is an interesting combination of a country – I know you don’t speak for your government because you’re in the private sector, but it’s an interesting combination where you’re exploring for fossil fuels and finding it, but the government is also investing heavily in renewables. Just recently the opening of the Gibe III Dam, which will be exporting electricity; one of the few African countries exporting electricity. So perhaps you can tell us about the energy sector there.
TEWODROS ASHENAFI: Yeah. Thank you very much, Peter. Your work on Africa has been outstanding at the Atlantic Council.
Ethiopia, as you know, is an interesting country with a lot of, let’s say, dichotomies. You are correct – we have major hydrocarbon potential, about 40,000 megawatts potential of electricity, and the government, I think, has done an excellent job of developing the renewables and certainly in the green initiative we’re taking a big role. At the same time, we have unbelievable unexplored opportunities in the oil and gas and the hydrocarbon space. For a number of reasons this has not been developed in the past, but I think we are on the right way of developing oil and gas.
When you look at energy and when you look at the region, when you look at Ethiopia, it intersects both the security and economic aspects of development. As you know, the Horn of Africa is in a difficult area. We have – we’re the second – we’re, actually, the largest hosts of refugees in Africa. Ethiopia contributes the largest number of troops to the U.N. peacekeeping force. So, Ethiopia plays a very important role in the region. And so, energy and energy security and development, I think, is a big opportunity, and that opportunity includes cross border regional development, which energy can be used for, I think, positive outcomes in the area. Of course, when you create jobs and you have stability, you have – non-state actors won’t have the space to really recruit and grow their territory. So, energy is very important and the region – Ethiopia plays a very important role.
And thirdly, we haven’t touched upon this very much, but China plays a big role in the energy sector in Ethiopia, and there might be scope for U.S. and China to cooperate in this realm – in energy realm in East Africa. And it’s not something that’s maybe talked about a lot, but it might be an interesting thing to think about.
MR. PHAM: Thank you, Tewodros. It was certainly very interesting, a provocative suggestion given some of the rhetoric and some of the things that have come out of the U.S. in recent times about China.
General Jones, if I could ask you for your prognostications or – you’ve been – it’s ahead of the curve. The Atlantic Council has an African center because of your vision and work pushing this when you our chairman of the Board back in 2008. So, you’ve been ahead of the curve in seeing the strategic opportunities as well as the challenges. How do you see Africa going forward, as, I think, many people wonder with the transition about to take place in a week’s time?
GEN. JONES: Well, thank you, Peter. You know, very simply, I believe that the African continent is the continent of the 21st century. I think China and Asia is, perhaps, the “today” continent, if you will, that we seem to worry about the most, but if we take our eye off of Africa and its immense potential – and I mean this positively; I don’t mean this alarmingly. I think – I look at it as a tremendous opportunity. Then I think the statistics that you make and your studies, you know, and your work every day at the Atlantic Council are just so overwhelmingly obvious that we have to pay attention.
The United States, in particular, for the last 60 years at least, or maybe even longer, has had an East-West strategy to the absolute disadvantage of the southern – maybe even the northern – the North-South axis as well, in Europe and in our own hemisphere. If you look, the U.S. policy in South America has been largely reactive; you know, go in, fix the problem and leave. And in Africa, you know, it’s stunning – one of the most stunning revelations in my military career was to discover that in the title U.S.-European Command, that I somehow had responsibility also for most of Africa, except for the Horn of Africa, which was the Central Command’s responsibility. And yet, in the title U.S.-European Command, the word “Africa” wasn’t even mentioned. When I was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and the commander of U.S.-European Command, I made the recommendation to our administration that we – that the responsibility was too big, over 80 countries, and I said, please, let’s create an African Command. And I also suggested to then-Secretary Rumsfeld that whatever you do, don’t call it a combatant command because if you do, it will never be on the continent of Africa. What country in Africa is going to say, oh, we’d love to have an American combatant command in our country? And so, to show you how much influence I had, they went right ahead and called it a combatant command – (laughter) – and now you know why AFRICOM is in Stuttgart, Germany – (laughs) – because the Germans didn’t pay any attention to us. (Laughs.)
So – but this gets back to the point that, in my view, honestly, one of the best things – and one of the most interesting periods of my life was the years that I spent in Europe and Africa and particularly the African focus to learn and understand Africa as best I could, to think about Africa like the Africans think about Africa, in terms of five pretty distinct regions, and to do whatever I could in my retired life to help elevate the potential – the awesome potential of the African continent in the 21st century.
If we fail – as a family of nations, if we fail to understand this, then we become reactive to the problems, then we will certainly fail collectively, and so that’s why I favor that – on security, on economic development, and governance, and rule of law and everything that would come under those three legs; to include energy security and cyber security, and food security and water security, and things that those of us who are fortunate enough to have been born in countries where this is taken for granted. We need to apply that knowledge, and we need to help wherever we can, but understanding that ultimately the responsibility is for African governments to be the driver in this. And so, I think it’s a tremendous opportunity. I’m delighted that I had a small part to do with the creation of the Africa Center, and Peter, you’re to be congratulated on your leadership. And to my partner, to my left and right here, you can, I think, count on the Atlantic Council to keep this effort going, particularly with the new administration as well, and I think it’s extremely important that they understand that the East-West strategy focus has got to be complimented by a North-South strategy as well.
MR. PHAM: Thank you very much, General. And before turning to questions from our audience, let me pick up on the last point you made, General, which was those three pillars. You mentioned security, economic development and rule of law, and with rule of law, let me just take on the elephant in the room. We often hear – whenever I try to talk up Africa and opportunity, we hear instantly raised, reflexively, by many people, the issue of corruption. So, I’d like to invite – because they come from two different sectors – Karim from the government and Tewodros from the private sector – if you want to take that head-on since it’s something that always rears its head even if people genially dance around it, and respond to that.
MR. KEITA: I think that corruption is universal. You have it everywhere in the world, it’s not only Africa. But from what I know about Mali, we have taken – we have been taking several measures for corruption, and we also have observatories – national observatories for corruption, and I think that we have been doing many efforts. You also have standards now that Mali has been able to reach toward that. So, I think that – I wouldn’t say that we are a free country of corruption, but I think that we are doing our best and many countries also in Africa. But I think the corruption policies also come with democracy. When you have a good democracy, when you have good alternatives, change of power, shift of power, then you have less of that – of that bad thing that we call corruption.
If you may permit, I would like to comment a bit about what the General has said, you know. I think that regarding African relations, mainly West Africa and Mali with the United States, I think we have missed a point. We have been granted help from the United States in the early 2000s, even before AFRICOM was set up. We had joint exercises. But for Mali today, in my position as chairman of the Defense Committee, it’s really sad for me because I do think that if we really had focused on that we could have prevented – we could have anticipated what happened in my country, and I think, also, today it’s maybe a call as a politician, you will say, it’s not too late. It’s not too late to still have that bridge, to still establish those strategic relations.
For Africa, for example, what we don’t do – from my point of view, what we we’re missing sometimes with Western countries, with developed countries, with super powers – like European – some European countries like the United States it’s like we don’t do enough common enemies together. We don’t do enough prospective together. If we have done – if we had done – (audio break) – that prospective together, what is happening today in Libya wouldn’t have happened. The consequences of what happened in Mali and the consequences is the immigrant issue that is happening in Europe. So, it was bad consequences for both sides, what happened. So, this is what I wanted to add, sorry.
MR. PHAM: Thank you.
MR. ASHENAFI: Yeah, I think – as you know Peter, Ethiopia is slightly different because – at least at the high – at the senior levels, corruption is really not a factor, maybe in the petty civil servant levels. But I think the narrative is more perception than reality. There are a lot of international companies that do business in Africa, and great entrepreneurs like Mo Ibrahim, who have built major companies without paying any bribes or corruption – it’s possible to do. So, I think it’s more of that general kind of narrative of not understanding Africa and having a perception which maybe is not real. Again, you know, as General Jones says, I see a lot of opportunities on the continent; and if you go to, you know, a pension fund manager in Iowa and if you say, you know, why don’t you invest in Africa, there’s a lot of opportunities, you know, that will probably be difficult for that pension fund manager to actually see the opportunity and take some action on that. But, you know, the opportunities are there.
GEN. JONES: Well, Tewodros, thank you for that. You know, I – we’re speaking to a very informed audience here, but there’s a wider audience out there, and I think that – I’ll speak about my country. I think very few people really understand in the United States just how big Africa is, and there’s a tendency when you read something that’s happening in Africa that’s bad to think of Africa as a country and not a continent. I mean, I’m talking about Main Street USA. And so, they say – their knee-jerk reaction is, oh, look what’s going on in Africa; we can’t invest there. It’s like saying – it’s like if the rest of the world said, there’s a murder in Chicago, we shouldn’t invest in the United States. There’s a murder every day in Chicago, you know. So, there’s a question of fairness here, but it’s also a question of knowledge. If you look at the globes that you buy in a store, they’re not according to scale. If they were according to scale, the African continent would dominate most of the globe. I mean, you could put all of China, all of Russia, most of Europe and still have a quarter of a continent left over.
So, one of the things is – I mean, European countries would become a microdot on the globe. You couldn’t even find France or Germany or anybody else, so let’s – I mean, we need some education here about the African continent, number one. Very few people understand that if you superimposed the entire United States on the African continent it would just – it would take five countries across sub-Saharan Africa and that’s it. I mean – so the proportion is just staggering. But if we fail to do what Peter and our panelists here – and most of you know, if we fail to pay attention to this and Africa is allowed to continue to drift in a less than favorable way – what’s going on in the Congo right now with President Kabila refusing to step down as a result of his mandate – this is something that washes on the whole continent, unfortunately. It’s not fair, but it’s one of the things that colors perceptions in the rest of the world. So, we all have to work together to pull on this to make sure that it receives the attention that it deserves and the focus that it deserves and instilling hope for the future and for the people of that continent, and that – ultimately that hope is the key instrument that will defeat radicalism.
MR. PHAM: Thank you, General. And I couldn’t echo more your encouragement to develop knowledge. It’s amazing how – you know, just throwing an anecdote before we turn to questions – how lack of knowledge even drives major financial decisions with regard to Africa. I remember, Karim, your country the coup occurred in March 21, 2012, the day before one of the gold miners in your country, the shares were trading at about 108 dollars; the day after the coup, they were trading at 72. And the location of the mines was a thousand kilometers from where the fighting was, and it was pure panic, lack of information. Now, I have to say, knowing your country’s geography it helped me recover from the great recession, my own personal portfolio, but it’s amazing that major trading houses panicked and went in that direction.
But let’s open it up to questions from the audience. I will have you wait for the microphone.
Q: Thank you. I am Kun-mo Chung. I am senior adviser to KEPCO, Korea Electric Power Cooperation.
And I am impressed with your comments, but I’d like to mention of the – about the recent progress in East Africa, particularly, and also South Africa because, as you know, for example, in Kenya they do have Vision 2030 and once slowed down but now picking up the speed of development. For example, Mombasa industrial project is going on and the Lamu project is ambitiously taken over, and also, as you know, the Kenyan government decided to develop (a donation ?) based on science technology, so Konza City project is going on. But the point is this, we have – at this meeting renewables have been the focal point; however, it’s very great to have renewables for residential sector and the distributed load. But if nation wants to develop industrial base and you need a strong, big base supply of electricity in coming years, you have to have, you know, a parallel strategy.
So Kenya just formed the Kenya Nuclear Energy Board, and they have been training senior experts, like 30 of them already. So Africa, as General Jones mentioned, in this country we may just see at one point. Like East Africa, the networking of the electricity, like Rwandan development, Uganda and Ethiopian development – so this is really exciting area for the future. So, I think, as you are trying hard, Atlantic Council should inform this frontier movement, Vision 2030 of Kenya and all this effort to industrialize and linking with the global economy by this continent. And this is why I want panelists point of – I want to hear your view. In this kind of very forward-looking movement in Africa, what do you see? Now, oh, this is something that may not happen or it will happen and we should gather together? In my country like Korea, we want to share our experience. So, it’s not just a market – no. We want to collaborate together with African experts to work together. So, I’d like to hear your view about that.
MR. PHAM: Thank you. Quite a number of questions there, everyone. Since we started in East Africa, if Tewodros wants comment and if anyone wants to comment on any of those questions the gentleman raised.
MR. ASHENAFI: Yeah, I think those are great points. As I mentioned earlier, Ethiopia is – has a regional energy strategy. For example, we are going to be selling electricity to Kenya. We are already selling to Djibouti electricity. We’re selling to our neighbors. So, I think when you trade across border, you will develop a scenario and an environment where you will have less conflict and less issues. So, it’s a very, very important strategy that we have.
And one of the other strategies that Ethiopia has is to really develop our manufacturing base, and you can’t do that without electricity. And so, actually, a lot of production is going to be moving from China and Asia to Ethiopia because our labor costs are one third of Chinese labor costs, and you can’t do this without electricity. So, our actual electricity plan and vision is quite comprehensive, and what’s unique about the Ethiopian government, actually, is it’s executing their vision and building out. I mean, there are one or two issues with the Grand Renaissance Dam, but I think that will be resolved in a diplomatic manner between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. But the main message is: regional integration through energy is beneficial for our region and should be definitely promoted.
GEN. JONES: One of the things that the United States has to do – and I completely agree with the gentleman’s question – but one of the things the United States has to do is reconcile the relationship between the public and the private sector. For some reason the country that helped rebuild Europe, The Marshall Plan, and rebuilt Japan after World War II achieved a military victory, but it was followed immediately by economic reconstruction, and governance, and rule of law. That’s why I used those three legs to keep the stool balanced. But for some reason, in the aftermath of World War II, we forgot that, and even in the Obama administration, being very close to it, I was stunned at the resistance to getting involved with the private sector.
The American private sector, frankly, is an instrument of our foreign policy and should be. It has enormous potential, and I think it’s widely respected around the world. And whenever I travel in Africa, and particularly in other parts of the world as well, people are saying, where are you? Right? Where are you? Why aren’t you here? Why aren’t you competing for these opportunities? And the reason is – one of the reasons is, is that our government, historically, has not engaged with our private sector to push them in that direction. That has got to change. I mean, I really – I think that’s one thing that we really have to do better, and that’s one of the reasons why we get questions like: where are you, why aren’t you here? Other countries don’t have that problem. Other countries when they visit, they come with the private sector cards and the presidents kind of say, OK, here’s what I’m – here’s the business we’re interested in. The United States has not done that, and we need to fix that.
So, that would be my two cents.
MR. KEITA: You pointed out East Africa and mainly there are differences between East Africa and West Africa – the programs they have, they also have different agendas – but as a politician, I will be more precise for you. There’s a difference between ex-French colonies and ex-British colonies. There is a different type of mind. Sometimes we even wish we had maybe been colonized by others, you know, because they are more pragmatic, they are more open, they are more being helped. Sometimes we think – and I’m really trying to lighten my words here, you know, because I know what I’m saying – OK. And we have the will sometimes. We came out with so many programs in Mali, but we know that there are ways – sometimes they are squashed. It’s non-verbal; it’s not said, but we know. You’re talking about electricity, we’re talking about railways for countries like Mali, land-locked countries with seven neighbors.
Also, you have certain areas in our regions, other agendas that can be bad consequences for your own country not to be developed. We want to do more. We want to do better. We want to go with the United States. We want to go with China. But when I was talking lately about perspective, the way I see Africa – sometimes people talk about China, sometimes people talk about Asia, but I think that in the near future the struggle will be between U.S. and Europe because African society is today more seduced, more attractive by U.S. society. I think, in my opinion, the shift can be done in less than 20 years. We’re not seduced anymore by Europe, nothing in Europe. I might be the last generation of people – I’m 37 – the last generation to have that culture. My son, he can do better with my iPhone than me. My wife, she is more attracted by U.S. soap operas. You know, we shoot guns, we wear jeans, we cool – that’s it. This is the new youth of Africa, and some others have other thinkings how to live in that way, to still have influence into that.
So, I think that everybody wants to have happiness. Everybody wants to have development. Everybody wants to have better infrastructure. But sometimes it’s not just easy.
MR. PHAM: I’ll just make one quick point on East Africa. One of the interesting things you mentioned, Sir, East Africa – how countries themselves in the East Africa community have come together to lower – on their own initiative – and I think it’s a wonderful example for the rest of the countries – lower the barriers to commerce and integration between themselves. The five countries of the East Africa Community, EAC, have lowered the time to take a shipping container from Mombasa to Kigali or Kampala – it used to be about 22 days, ridiculous. Now it can be done in several – in two or three days it can be moved and that’s all been self-initiative, and I think that integration is, I think, another key to it.
We’re running low on time, so let’s take several questions together and then give it to the panel.
Q: My name is Mohamed al-Har (ph). I am special risk analyst in an international petroleum investment company.
We can see a lot of economic corridors merging in the Eastern Hemisphere in the first half of this century: China-Pakistan economic corridors; we have one road China – one road, one belt (sic); India north-south transport corridor; Middle East GCC rail network. So all of these investments, they’re coming in the first half. How do you see African countries – North African countries, specifically – aligning their strategy to exploit this opportunity in the coming years?
Q: Thank you. I’m Julie Doherty with the U.S. Department of Energy on our Africa and Middle East team.
And my question is: With respect to how to best share technical best practices, what recommendations you have.
Thank you very much for holding this panel. And, General Jones, thank you very much for your comments related to the toolbox we have as a U.S. government for outreach in Africa. We’re the nation’s largest science organization: 17 national laboratories, 100,000 employees. We have a number of sort of standalone outreach with Africa. With have a Clean Energy Solutions Center run by National Renewable Energy Laboratory, one of our labs in Colorado. Right now, we have interns from Kenjin (sp), reservoir engineers at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California. We just completed a liquefied natural gas handbook for East Africa, a resource for the world but we hope it can be of most use to public sector officials making decisions related to natural gas. But again, these are stand-alone initiatives that we usually have because of a direct request, and so from more of a holistic approach of how to share these best practices, we would be interested in your recommendations and thoughts.
MR. PHAM: Questions?
Let me go down the –
GEN. JONES: You might want to –
MR. PHAM: Yeah, you want to answer?
GEN. JONES: Why don’t you guys take the first question, and I’ll take the second.
MR. PHAM: OK.
MR. KEITA: I think that we are seeing partnership with countries like India’s – like win-win partnership since we have – we are benefitting from technology transfer. Actually, in Mali we have internet connection – electricity and internet connection programs between Burkina Faso, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, and it’s being done by Indian companies, I think – Mohan (sp) and Angelique, and they’re sponsored and financed by Ex-Im Bank of India. So we are doing good. We are also today benefitting today from scholarships from the Indian government.
I think that we can do better, but for now there is a good bridge that’s really working between Africa and India, mainly Mali, because we also have political ties. We just had visits from your parliament, because I think the vice president of Indian parliament is a Muslim, so he was visiting Mali two months ago. I think that we’re doing good so far. We wish we could do better, of course.
MR. ASHENAFI: Yeah, we’re also creating a corridor in East Africa. For example, LAPSSET, which is the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia corridor to get hydrocarbons out. We just finished a major railway between Ethiopia and Djibouti; we have road networks, which is integrating the region. Without, I think, these corridors, I think it’s very difficult to have the type of development that governments envision in terms of job creation and so on and so forth. Again, I see massive opportunities in this field, and if one was to look at specifics in projects, there is a lot to do.
On the U.S. – on the U.S. side, I think when you look at, in the last eight years, I don’t think, for example, hydrocarbons has been on the top of the administration’s agenda, while, of course, you know, Power Africa and renewables has been pushed. You know, maybe the incoming administration will have a different view on the hydrocarbons and, kind of, outreach – business outreach to the continent. And I repeat, I think there is an opportunity for the U.S. and to China – and for China to collaborate. I think Africa might be one theater where they could collaborate and get positive outcomes from the ground.
GEN. JONES: Well, I want to thank you for your service, and the men and women in the Department of Energy. I am a big fan of Secretary Moniz and Liz Sherwood-Randall and what they’ve – what they’ve done and tried to do while they were – while they were in office. You know, I think what we have is a fundamental structural problem that will – we won’t be able to address the things that you raised until we organize ourselves properly. One of the things that technology has inflicted on the United States is the ability to try to control everything from Washington all the time – strategic, operational and tactical. And because you have the ability to do that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, and so I’m a big believer in Washington being a strategic center and delegating trust and authority to our embassies around the world. And for anybody who has worked with our government, you know that we don’t do that very well.
And so the answer to your question, I think, is, it lies in how we organize ourselves to do that. So Africa is a huge continent, five distinct sections. My vision for the future would be that we have very senior representation from the Department of Energy, in your case – affiliated with our embassies in every region, and that they work to do the things that you just talked about. But on the – in the time zones and the regions that – where we have relations, trying to overcontrol everything from Washington has been a real setback for us in our foreign policy, in the State Department.
And believe me, the resistance to what I just said is overwhelming, so I’m not naïve about it. I’ll give you an example. When I became national security advisor, I noticed that there was a difference in how we look at maps in the Defense Department and the State Department in particular, and I made a proposal that we take North Africa – which is included in the Middle East in the State Department view, but in the Defense Department is not. The Defense Department basically looks at Africa as the Africans look at Africa. Try to – just try to do that. Well, that’s being done in this administration. I’ve just heard this morning the Trump administration has decided to treat North Africa as part of the African continent, which is, you know, great. But you can bet that at the State Department, they’re really not happy with it. So I’m not – I’m not naïve to the challenges, but it’s that kind of – that kind of focus that we need to regionalize and empower our representatives in the time zones that we – where we want to work, and unless and until we do that, I think it’s going to be difficult, but I think it’s a great idea.
MR. PHAM: Thank you, General.
And before thanking our panelists, let me just add one thing. If what you said is difficult, General, I think the next step is even more difficult, which is relying on African partners whom we can leverage for best practices across the continent. If we’re not good at delegating to our own interagency and intergovernment, we’re even worse at delegating to partners, and it’s actually more efficient. A good example – example of cooperation for technical issues is JICA, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, for a number of years – for West Africa, has partnered with Morocco to train sanitation and water engineers for West Africa. It’s more efficiently done; the Moroccan (markets ?) have more (entre ?) and it actually is more cost-effective. But that type of triangulation, we talk about it, but we’re not very good at it.
But before thanking our panel, just a few housekeeping details: a reminder from – to wear your credentials at all times. For those who are going on the Masdar City bus tour, the buses are leaving now from the lobby, so please head there directly after this. And then, the next session of the forum reconvenes at 2:00 here in this ballroom; it’s the Energy-Water Nexus so – at 2 p.m. So please join me in thanking Tewodros Ashenafi, General Jim Jones and Karim Keita for this wonderful and provoking panel discussion this morning. (Applause.)