E.I.R. SEMINAR, March 23, 2016 in Frankfurt, Germany
in cooperation with the Consulate General of Ethiopia in Frankfurt
The Critical Role of Egypt in Bringing the New Silk Road to Africa
Seminar Presentation by Hussein Askary
Hussein Askary recounts a visit to Abu Dhabi of Lyndon LaRouche in 2002, where he advised ministers to fund real development.
Hussein Askary, E.I.R. Arabic language editor and member of the Schiller Institute, made the following presentation to the March 23 E.I.R. seminar in Frankfurt on the theme "Solving the Economic and Refugee Crises with the New Silk Road!" He spoke right after Helga Zepp-LaRouche's keynote address.
I came back from Egypt two days ago from a one-week visit there, to launch the Arabic translation of the E.I.R. Special Report The New Silk Road Becomes the World Land-Bridge. I personally, and other people, decided that Egypt should be the place from which to launch the Arabic translation of this massive global development idea, because of the importance of Egypt. Egypt is the most important Arab country, but it's also one of the important countries in Africa.
The idea of the report and joining the Silk Road was actually highly welcomed by the highest levels of the Egyptian government, because they realize now that this is the only solution for the deep economic crisis in Egypt, as well as in the entire region of Southwest Asia, the so-called Middle East, and Africa, by joining forces with China and the BRICS countries to develop their countries internally and utilize the connection to the world economy and the development dynamic which was launched by China with the idea of the New Silk Road.
Helga [Zepp LaRouche] mentioned the Saudi bombardment of Yemen today. At this moment, there is a similar seminar in the capital of Yemen, in Sana'a, by a group of Yemeni experts and patriots to also launch the Arabic translation. They printed the Arabic version. The seminar is headed by one of the best modern Yemeni poets, Abdulaziz al-Maqaleh. It's organized by our friend, Fouad al-Ghaffari. Right under Saudi bombardment, they established a committee for coordination with the BRICS, and now they are promoting the idea of the New Silk Road and how Yemen will benefit from this.
Use Oil Revenues to Fund Development
The Arabic version of the E.I.R. report was launced at a seminar on March 17 in the Egyptian Transport Ministry, presided over by Transport Minister Saad el-Geyoushi (on the left). To his right is Hussein Askary.
These are some of the ideas which I presented in Egypt for people there. The launching was sponsored by the Egyptian Transport Ministry in the presence of the Minister of Transport, Saad el-Geyoushi. But I told people that our idea is not to build the New Silk Road. We had presented the idea of the New Silk Road 25 years ago, as Helga has said, and China adopted it as its policy.
Our idea is to go from the New Silk Road to the World Land-Bridge, where we connect Africa and the Americas to the Eurasian Land-Bridge. That's the concept. Red lines are where we have a deficit in infrastructure and a deficit in development. This is what is missing in the global map, but also a lot is missing in the Americas, even in North America and Europe right now. This is the new concept, not simply the New Silk Road, it is the World Land-Bridge. We can unite all nations of the world around one concept of economic development and cooperation.
I had the honor to be in the Schiller Institute and E.I.R. in 1996 when the first Eurasian Land-Bridge/New Silk Road [was conceived]. I worked with Helga and others. I was still a young man. But the idea was a complete transformation.
I had joined the Schiller Institute in 1994 because I was living in Norway, and the Schiller Institute came to Oslo where Arafat and Rabin and Peres were meeting. The Schiller Institute people said, "Look, if you don't develop the economy of the Palestinians, the Jordanians, the Lebanese, and the Israelis, there will be no peace." And I immediately joined, because that's the right concept. We have problems in the Middle East and Africa where people say the problem is the regime that if we get rid of the regime, everything will become good. Therefore, we need to change the policy and then the economy will solve itself.
But that's a complete lie. However, this is what Europe and the United States are advocating.
People, including in Egypt, now completely understand that the question of the New Silk Road is not trade, it's not moving goods from A to B. The idea is to build development corridors to develop all the areas between A and B. That's the concept. And this idea of a development corridor, all these development corridor lines should be 100-150 km wide, with transport, energy, electricity, oil and gas, water, and building new agricultural and industrial centers.
Mr. Lyndon LaRouche was in Abu Dhabi in 2002, attending a conference about oil and gas. There were four oil ministers in attendance. This is the oil minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. LaRouche shocked everybody by saying the Gulf countries should gradually stop exporting raw oil. They should use the oil as an industrial material for petrochemicals, chemicals, plastics, and other things, since the value of one barrel of oil transformed into an industrial product would be worth many, many times more than than it would be worth selling it as raw oil, or burning it. And Mr. LaRouche said, "You should utilize your position as a crossroads of the world."
And this is exactly the point which we are trying to promote in Southwest Asia, since this is a unique area. There is no other place on Earth which has the unique characteristics of the region in this zone. It's between three continents. It has more than two-thirds of the world's oil and gas reserves. But more importantly, it has more than 450 million people; most of them are under the age of 30.
Therefore, they have the whole future in front of them. They also have natural resources. In addition, these are old nations with very, very ancient cultures: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Syria. These are people who have a very clear idea of their culture and their civilization. In addition, they know that scientific development is the way forward.
But all the advantages of this region have been turned into disadvantages, because it has become the center of global conflict and proxy wars. In this region, we propose -- in our Arabic report -- the establishment of an Arab Infrastructure Investment Bank, with which the nations of the region would be able to develop the region.
In the Gulf countries, not only is there oil, but there is also the sovereign funds of the Gulf countries, amounting to about $2.5-3 trillion these countries have in hard currency funds.
But it's being used in financial markets, real estate markets in London, in Switzerland, in New York, and similar places. Instead they should establish a joint development bank like the Chinese did with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This region has unique capabilities of being transformed very quickly economically, but the region's nation should utilize the idea of the New Silk Road.
Syria Can Launch a New Policy
Helga referred to the visit by President Xi Jinping in January to Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. At that moment, Iran and Saudi Arabia were about to enter into a real war, and the Chinese intervened with the idea of the New Silk Road. This was not a warning, but they said, "What the hell are you doing? You are going to destroy the world economy? This is not the way to do things, with crazy religious conflicts. You should work together. We will help you to build your countries, but also help you to work together for development."
Like in Egypt, everybody was saying, "Oh, the Silk Road will compete with the Suez Canal traffic," for many, many years. So, the New Silk Road was completely blacked out in Egyptian political and media circles. But now, President Xi Jinping brought back the idea of the New Silk Road as actually beneficial for Egypt; which we can explain quickly.
In the Arabic version of the report, we have the plan for the reconstruction of Syria. As I said, as Helga said, there will be no peace, there will be no end to terrorism, there will be no end for political oppression, unless we develop this region. And therefore, Syria, ironically, could be the perfect place to start to establish, to practice the new economic ideas which we have designed in this report; utilizing Syria's position as a crossroads with Africa, Europe, and Asia. But also, being a nation which is just coming out of war, they actually have no obligation to listen to either the IMF, the World Bank, the EU, the U.S., or anybody! They can establish their own development bank and issue their own credit. They are not obliged to pay any debt at the moment; and this puts Syria in a perfect position to start to launch a completely new economic policy. And from Syria, you can actually project that idea into many other nations; when you succeed, many other nations will do it, too.
So, we're not going to go through too many details, because we're short on time, but the Egyptian model could become a model; because Egypt is a very important nation. And with President el-Sisi coming to power, Egypt has transformed its self-identity and what it should do to solve 30 years of accumulation of economic and social problems. But they are in a conflict to do small solutions here and there, or go for the big change; and I think the Egyptian Presidency and leadership -- as I have understood it -- they are going for the big change. Not to solve it with small projects here and there, NGOs, EU donations, so on and so forth.
So, the idea is they will focus on mega-projects like the new Suez Canal, which they built in one year instead of eight years. They will build up new agro-industrial zones in the desert, reclaiming the desert of Egypt for demographic expansion. They will use high technology; now they have an agreement to build nuclear power plants with Russia, which will start the first nuclear power plant. But also high-speed railways and so on. So, they will not start from zero; they will start from where China and other nations have reached, and utilize that technology, rather than starting from scratch.
And the idea of internal financing: The new Suez Canal was built by the Egyptian people mobilized by their government to internally raise the money -- $8 billion to finish the project in one year. The same way Ethiopia is doing with these dam projects; the Millennium Dam and other development projects, which is the correct idea. But there is still a conflict on to how to proceed with the other projects; whether it will be done by Egyptian financing, or foreign investment is needed, or loans from the IMF and World Bank. So, there is still a conflict inside Egypt as to which way to go; but they have the right idea.
And of course, utilizing Egypt's position between Asia, the Arab world, and Africa, is actually now on the agenda; especially after my visit.
So, this is a disastrous demographic map of Egypt; 90 million people; 95% of the people live on only 5% of the land; and 95% of the land is empty. And the United States spends billions of dollars to reduce the population of Egypt by family planning programs, by this and that, but there was no idea to open new areas for the population to live in! They said the solution is to reduce the population of Egypt. And this is what the IMF, the World Bank, the UN, and the United States were pushing billions and billions of dollars to do; rather than building new development projects.
Great Projects for Africa
But the Egyptians have a different idea. These are some of the main projects they have, like the new Suez Canal; and they are building an industrial zone around the Suez Canal and using it as a development corridor for all of the Sinai, but also the eastern part of Egypt, east of Cairo will have new industries. We added to the concept which now the Egyptian Transport Minister himself raised, "We're going to do the extension to Africa; we're going to do the extension to North Africa. And we will have to think now about connecting to the Arabian Peninsula. And also develop the areas on these lines."
This is an idea which is presented by an Egyptian scientist, Dr. Farouk el-Baz, who worked in NASA to build a parallel line to the Nile and move the concentration of the population from the Nile Valley to the new Nile Valley. By building railroads and roads and connecting them to the major cities. I added the green zones where the Egyptian government intends to reclaim 4 million hectares of land, and give it to young people and companies to settle there. They build houses for them, they build the infrastructure, and they give them a loan for the first three years so they can grow food and other small industries. So, the development corridor should be a bit further into the desert, so you can transform the demographics and economic situation in Egypt.
The Cairo-Cape Town Highway
And then comes the idea of connecting Egypt to Africa. There are projects which have been on the drawing board since the 1970s in the Lagos Plan, for example; but nobody did anything to build them. So, now the Egyptian government and the South African government are intending that, from south and north to support the idea of connecting all of East Africa from north to south; the Cairo-Cape Town Railway. Now, this is being considered actively. It of course intersects Ethiopia, Sudan, the landlocked countries, into Kenya which is not landlocked; but Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, and so on; all these nations to be connected to new transport, to find outlets into international markets.
Then the Nile River and the other rivers in Africa could be connected together to have a river transport corridor from the north to the south; like the Rhine-Main-Danube are connected now, and you can have transportation from East Europe and Western Europe. So, the concept is the same.
We have our friend, an engineer in Egypt, who has developed the concept of building the Africa Pass he calls it, which goes close to the Libyan border. It is complete desert today, but there are enormous water resources there, there is fertile land; and there is no reason why that part of Egypt is not being developed. There are attempts to build outlets for the nations in the Great Lake region, for both exports and imports of goods and technology; and open up that whole region for development.
There is also, I think, a connect from east to west; from the Port Sudan in Sudan, or Djibouti, to Dakar in Senegal. To connect all this Sahel region with modern infrastructure. This idea is supported by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, but no financing has been forwarded to it.
Now, China comes into the picture, and transforms the situation. They say, okay, this is an enormous economic development potential; it's rich with raw materials. It has also large populations, agriculture, every aspect you need to develop that region, but it lacks infrastructure. So the Chinese have offered to build these transport corridors from the ports in Mombasa and Lambu on the Indian Ocean, and open up all these landlocked countries. Ethiopia, South Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. These nations only need to develop infrastructure and educate the labor force. The Chinese are even training the Ugandan Army to turn it into an Army Corps of Engineers; so instead of beating the people or shooting the people, they can build the railways!
And then you have the Transaqua project, which I will not go through so much. Dr. Vichi is the person who thought that up. But this is the kind of concept I was presenting in Egypt, to say the time of mega-projects is back. The Chinese have proven it; you can build these massive major infrastructure and development projects which have been undermined by the West, saying these mega-projects are romantic ideas. A military dictator wants to become famous in history, he will build a huge football stadium and call it "President So-and-So" Stadium. But they pretend the same is true of these mega-projects; but mega-projects are back now on the map, and all these have potential to be implemented. This is the idea of saving Lake Chad.
And then, Africa could be transformed from the colonial system to the modern sovereign, community of sovereign nations system.
So, here is just the video report ; this is the Transportation Minister of Egypt, Dr. Saad El-Geyoushi; he personally said "I have to present this report to the Egyptian people." But he also announced for the first time in this press conference, that Egypt intends to invest 1 trillion Egyptian pounds, which is about $100 billion, in the next 14 years, on roads and railways and logistic centers. He also announced that Egypt is discussing with other nations in Africa, building a 50,000 km network of roads and railways; which is under negotiation. This was information coming out for the first time. But he said, "Our intention is to integrate Egypt's vision;" they have a plan for 2030; "we will integrate our internal development with the idea of the New Silk Road." So, there are clear intentions.
Hussein Askary gave a detailed briefing on the world land-bridge project to the Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Admiral Mohab Mamish, who oversaw the prodigious building of the new Canal.
Then, we were invited to the Suez Canal Authority. Admiral Mohab Mamish is a military general in the navy and a close friend of President el-Sisi. He was the general who made sure that the new Suez Canal was dug in just one year, as the President had ordered, to prove to the world that Egyptians can do these massive projects. They can raise the money for them; they can build them. Of course, they got technical help from other countries, but the concept is that Egypt can do these things, but they need support.
We were also taken on a boat trip in the new Suez Canal; but the point was that they welcomed this idea very, very much. It's not the first time they have heard about it, but it's the first time they have heard, and seen a concept which they themselves had in their minds; but they never believed it could become a reality on a global scale. So, when we presented the idea of the New Silk Road, what the Chinese are doing, what the BRICS nations are doing, and what the Egyptians themselves can do; then the whole situation is transformed. We had four or five seminars; we had seminars every day -- televised events. But the gentleman there is the former Prime Minister of Egypt, Essam Sharaf; he said "I was just in China, and I'm very, very happy to see this idea here in Egypt." He was surprised, and he said, "This is the right way for Egypt to go. We have to study this and implement this, because for 30 years we have not done enough for the development of Egypt."
Also we had other seminars, but I think I should stop here. Thank you very much.
Report on the E.I.R. Seminar, Frankfurt, March 23, 2016:
Solving the Economic and Refugee Crises with the New Silk Road!