The AU and the Chinese mission held a high-level seminar Friday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, with the participation of senior AU officials, officials from African countries, Chinese government officials, members of the diplomatic community in Ethiopia and academia, among others.
While addressing the seminar, Albert Muchanga, the AU commissioner for Economic Development, Trade, Tourism, Industry and Minerals, said the BRI is a signature program of international development cooperation.
Ten years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative. Ten years on, the BRI has evolved from broad strokes to refined details, and become the most popular international public good and largest-scale international cooperation platform with remarkable achievements.
China has signed BRI cooperation documents with more than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations. It has established more than 3,000 cooperation projects and galvanized nearly 1 trillion U.S. dollars of investment, creating an array of national landmarks, livelihood projects, and milestones of cooperation. According to the World Bank, by 2030, BRI transport infrastructure, if fully implemented, is expected to increase global real income by 0.7 percent to 2.9 percent, lifting 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million people from moderate poverty.
Muchanga said the initiative has connected and integrated countries, while facilitating intra-country, regional, continental and global trade, consolidating interdependence and globalization. He stressed the BRI has spurred worldwide interest in upgrading infrastructure to facilitate faster and cheaper movement of people, as well as the flow of goods and services.
"Africa is part of these benefits, which are, but a sample of several projects in the varied areas of transportation, logistics, communications, trade facilitation, finance, soft quality infrastructure, among others. Virtually all African countries have Belt and Road Initiative projects, some of a regional nature," he said.
The AU commissioner acknowledged China’s cooperation with the AU in the development of quality infrastructure under the BRI. "Through this support, we are developing the Made-in-Africa standard, which will greatly contribute to high standards of manufacturing and agro-processing as well as elimination of Technical Barriers to Trade in the African Continental Free Trade Area," he said.
Hu Changchun, head of the Chinese Mission to the AU, said that over the past decade, the BRI has opened up a new direction for China-Africa cooperation and set a model for building a community with a shared future in the new era.
Hu said China will promote market-oriented, enterprise-led and win-win investments in Africa, fostering important growth drivers for Africa’s independent and sustainable development. He also underscored the need to enhance synergy between the BRI and Agenda 2063, Africa’s development blueprint to achieve inclusive and sustainable socioeconomic development over a 50-year period.
Cong Liang, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission of China, addressed the seminar via video link, hailing the successful China-Africa cooperation under the BRI over the past decade. "With the joint efforts made by China, African countries and the AU, cooperation under the BRI between China and Africa has flourished, and has become a fine example of South-South cooperation in the new era," he said.
Temesgen Tilahun, deputy commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC), said under the framework of the BRI, Ethiopia has strengthened cooperation with China to accelerate its economic development. He said Ethiopia-China economic and trade cooperation has been expanding in scale, diversifying in areas and improving in mechanisms.
Taking the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway as one example of Ethiopia-China cooperation, Tilahun said the improved infrastructure has boosted the East African country’s productivity in the agricultural and industrial sectors.
At the high-level seminar, participants also shared their experience in promoting investment within the BRI framework and exchanged views on deepening pragmatic cooperation.