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Belt and Road Initiative transforming Africa’s development landscape : experts

By IGIHE
On 25 août 2022 at 07:29

Experts and scholars have said that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has contributed immensely toward transforming Africa’s developing economies through infrastructure development, unemployment reduction and improved trade, among others.

They made the remarks on Wednesday 24th August 2022 at a one-day virtual forum, titled "The importance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to Africa."

The forum brought together African, Chinese and Pakistan experts.

The virtual meeting was the first of its kind organized by Africa-China Review publication which focuses mainly on cooperation between the African continent and China.

Mohamed Libaahe, the Minister of Livestock and Animal Husbandry, Puntland State of Somalia, who was the guest of honor commended the win-win cooperation between China and Africa and called for deepening the cooperation in various areas.

Speaking at the event ; Chinese ambassador to Rwanda, Wang Xuekun, noted that initiatives including the BRI, China’s Global Development Initiative (GDI), Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), as well as the 2021 Initiative on Partnership for Africa’s Development, provide effective platforms to deepen the bilateral relations and advance the beneficial cooperation.

“Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, China has been working with countries involved to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in line with the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. As of July this year, more than 140 countries have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. A large number of practical cooperation projects have been launched and benefited the local economy and people’s livelihood,” Amb. Wang said.

The envoy further stated that Africa is one of the most active directions for participating in BRI cooperation where 52 African countries and the African Union (AU) Commission have signed cooperation documents with China.

He also highlighted that expended efforts have yielded tangible and substantial progress.

According to Amb. Wang, China has become Africa’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years since 2009.

In 2021, the bilateral trade volume between China and Africa reached US$ 254.3 billion. Chinese enterprises have built or upgraded for Africa more than 10,000 km of railways, nearly 100,000 km of highways, nearly 1,000 bridges, 100 ports and more than 80 large-scale power facilities.

Among others ; Chinese firms have also helped countries in Africa build more than 130 medical facilities, more than 170 schools, and trained more than 160,000 professionals in various fields.

“We have made good progress in implementing the BRI. The people in Africa are getting real benefits,” Ambassador Wang noted.

Frederick Golooba Mutebi, a Ugandan independent researcher and analyst observed that Africa and China have been enjoying a win-win cooperation.

"China is not here to exploit Africa as the western world perceives, because looking at the African infrastructure development side, the BRI is helping Africa to transform itself. China comes with the help Africans need," he said.

Mutebi highlighted that China is significantly contributing to Africa’s infrastructure development which is one of the major constraints of economic transformation on the continent.

"China through Belt and Road Initiative has come at the right time when Africa is in critical need of infrastructure development and improved global trade opportunities," said Mutebi.

He pointed out that Africa’s traditional development partners with a long history of exploiting Africa will find it difficult to compete with the China-proposed BRI because the initiative is based on mutual cooperation and friendship, not exploitation.

Speaking at the forum, Mustafa Hyder Sayed, the executive director of the Pakistan-China Institute, said that BRI has introduced a wide range of projects that are currently beneficial to African economies.

"Through Belt and Road Initiative, roads, railways, bridges, hospitals, schools and airports among others, have been constructed in Africa, which has boosted trade, increased job creation, improved transport services and education and health among African countries," he added.

BRI has positively impacted local residents by providing them with job opportunities, especially those employed in the construction projects, said Sayed, adding that BRI is a global development initiative based on cooperation and multilateral development, not a debt trap as termed by the western world.

Generally, participants dispelled the “debt trap diplomacy” claims by western countries that accuse China of chocking African countries with heavy debts. The participants called the claims western propaganda aimed at tarnishing the image of China. Instead, they argued that Africa is more indebted to western countries that China.

Gerald Mbanda, a researcher and publisher at Africa China Review is among experts who reminisced on China’s commitment to help Africa clear its debts.

“One day ago, Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi announced that China will forgive 23 interest-free loans to 17 African countries and will also provide food assistance to the struggling nations. This is one example depicting how China helps African countries out of debts, rather than being the cause,” he said.

Speaking at the meeting, Zha Daojiong, professor of international political economy at the School of International Studies and Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development with Peking University, China, said that BRI is focused on facilitating international trade and enabling a smooth global supply chain.

"China’s Belt Initiative has provided a platform to low and middle-income economies in Africa to register significant growth in terms of infrastructure development, job creation and improved trading opportunities," he added.

Adhere Cavince, a Kenyan scholar of international relations with a focus on China-Africa relations said that the BRI has enabled China to share its development experience with African developing countries.

"The Kenyan government has worked closely with China, which yielded great results like the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, which played an important role in boosting Kenya’s economic growth," he said.

Cavince said that the BRI has delivered jobs and opened avenues for increased digital cooperation, adding that the initiative has the potential to move the entire continent of Africa forward.

Speaking at the forum, George Nsamba, an independent risk management practitioner based in Johannesburg, South Africa, said that China through BRI has introduced a lot of construction projects in southern Africa which has improved the lives and incomes of many people in southern Africa.

"BRI made a significant improvement in developing Africa’s infrastructures and launched projects that lead to the growth of agricultural productivity. During COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese doctors provided medical support to hospitals and a wide range of hospitals were constructed in southern African countries to accommodate COVID-19 patients," he said.

Nsamba explained that BRI has led to an increase in infrastructure projects in Africa through the construction of shopping malls, bridges, railways, schools and hospitals, which has boosted Africa’s social and economic transformation.

Mweusi Karake, former head of public relations/corporate communication at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) expressed a firm belief that BRI has a huge potential for African countries to improve intra-African trade and boost global import and export supply chains.

"It is easy for Africans to relate to Africa because if China has made it, Africa can make it. The fact that the Chinese were able to build their country from scratch and get where it is today, should inspire African countries," Karake stressed.

Proposed by China in 2013 to promote common growth and gain shared benefits, the BRI involves infrastructure development, trade and investment facilitation and people-to-people exchanges aimed at improving connectivity on a trans-continental scale.

China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for more than a dozen of years. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, the two sides have multiplied their efforts to cooperate.

Gerald Mbanda, a researcher and publisher at Africa China Review is among experts who reminisced on China’s commitment to help Africa clear its debts.
Mweusi Karake is among researchers and experts who attended the event.
Frederick Golooba Mutebi, a Ugandan independent researcher and analyst observed that China is significantly contributing to Africa’s infrastructure development.
The virtual meeting was the first of its kind organized by Africa-China Review publication which focuses mainly on cooperation between the African continent and China.
Participants of the forum dispelled the “debt trap diplomacy” claims by western countries that accuse China of chocking African countries with heavy debts.
The forum brought together African, Chinese and Pakistan experts.

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