How the Belt and Road Initiative is transforming Africa’s development landscape

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 15 October 2023 at 03:59

In a world driven by global cooperation and mutual growth, one initiative stands at the forefront of transforming Africa’s development landscape. It’s the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), unveiled by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. Today, we explore the remarkable impact of the BRI on Africa’s economic and social progress.

The BRI has become a pivotal platform, connecting nations and building a shared future. With 151 countries, representing almost 75% of the world’s population and over half of the global GDP, joining the BRI as of January 2023, its potential for global economic growth is nothing short of extraordinary.

Experts project that by 2040, the BRI could increase the world GDP by a staggering $7.1 trillion annually, benefiting world trade by overcoming the frictions caused by inadequate infrastructure.

Over 50 African countries have joined the BRI, embracing the rewards of improved infrastructure, reduced unemployment, and expanded trade opportunities.

Driven by the BRI, Chinese companies have undertaken awe-inspiring infrastructure projects in Africa. Over the past 23 years, they have constructed or upgraded more than 10,000 kilometers of railways, nearly 100,000 kilometers of roads, approximately 1,000 bridges, and 100 ports.

These transformative projects have not only enhanced trade, but they have also created over 4.5 million jobs, breathing new life into African communities.

Through the BRI, China and Africa share their development experiences. Successful projects in different corners of Africa exemplify the positive outcomes of this collaboration. Lives have been transformed, incomes have grown, and prosperity has flourished.

Noteworthy Belt and Road projects in Africa include the development of El Hamdania Central Port in Algeria, the continent’s second deep-water port. The Export-Import Bank of China has played a crucial role by lending approximately US$1 billion to Djibouti, funding almost 40 percent of its substantial infrastructure and investment projects.

The Belt and Road initiative has brought significant advancements, bridging Ethiopia and Djibouti through the Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway and Ethiopia-Djibouti Water Pipeline. Furthermore, Djibouti has witnessed numerous infrastructure developments, including a military base and ships deployed from China’s South Sea Fleet.

In Egypt, the Belt and Road has introduced various projects, such as a Chinese industrial zone in the Gulf of Suez, an electric train system for the new capital, and investments in the Western Sahara. Kenya experienced a transformative moment when Premier Li Keqiang signed a cooperation agreement in May 2014 to construct the Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway, Kenya’s most significant infrastructure project since independence, costing US$3.2 billion.

Among others, Nigeria witnessed commercial operation of the Abuja-Kaduna railway line in July 2016, constructed by China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), representing one of Nigeria’s first standard gauge railroad railway modernization projects.

Sudan received China’s assistance in establishing its oil industry and providing agricultural support for the cotton industry. In Tanzania, a momentous $2.2-billion contract was signed with a Chinese company in December 2022, aiming to build a railway line connecting the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam to Mwanza on Lake Victoria, with future links to Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda.

Chinese companies have contributed to Uganda’s development by financing two major hydroelectricity projects - the Karuma Hydropower Project and Isimba Hydroelectric Power Station, with loans from the Export-Import Bank of China covering approximately 85 percent of the funding, while the government of Uganda provided the remaining 15 percent.

Rwanda has also experienced significant transformation due to Chinese investments, particularly in infrastructure facilities. Projects like the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College (IPRC) Musanze, Masaka District Hospital, and road upgrades, including the 13km Bugesera Airport highway and flyover in Kicukiro district, have contributed to Rwanda’s economic and social development.

The Belt and Road Initiative continues to drive remarkable progress in Africa, forging strong ties between China and African nations, while fostering economic growth and cooperation across the continent.

Rwanda has also experienced significant transformation due to Chinese investments, particularly in infrastructure facilities.