This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Soon, China will host the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) from October 17th to 18th. H.E. XI Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, together with delegates from more than 110 countries including Rwanda will gather in Beijing to sum up the experiences of the 10 years of cooperation and map out its blueprint for the next stage.
In 2013, President XI Jinping for the first time put forward the Belt and Road Initiative. Over the past ten years, the Initiative has been turned from a vision into reality and become a widely popular global public good. It concentrates on achieving inter-connectivity, aims to provide platform for international economic cooperation, and injects new impetus to global economic and social development among countries.
The Belt and Road Cooperation is open and inclusive. Guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, more than 150 countries and 30 international organizations, including 52 African countries and the AU Commission have signed cooperation documents under the Initiative with China. This helps to keep all participants motivated and fully taps into their strengths. Just as a Chinese proverb says, "A tower is built when soil on earth accumulates, and a river is formed when streams come together." It has strength because it mobilizes the widest support.
The Belt and Road Cooperation focuses on tangible results. Projects in areas such as infrastructure, poverty alleviation, vocational education and green energy were implemented in various countries. Up to now, more than 3000 projects have been implemented under the Belt and Road Cooperation, and promoted close to one trillion US dollars investment. The World Bank estimates that the implementation of the transport-related projects will increase the global economic output by 0.7% to 2.9% by 2030 and lift 40 million people out of poverty.
The Belt and Road Cooperation adheres to high standards. It adopts widely accepted rules and standards and encourages participating stakeholders to follow general international rules and standards in project development, operation, procurement and tendering and bidding. It mainstreams in environment and biodiversity protection, anti-corruption, green development and digital economy. Commercial and fiscal sustainability of all projects is being put at an important place so that they will achieve the intended goals as planned.
China and Africa are natural partners for Belt and Road Cooperation. As early as the beginning of the 15th century, the Chinese Navigator ZHENG He sailed to the east coast of Africa continent, engaged in trade with local people, and opened the maritime Silk Road. China’s engagement with Africa since the very beginning has always been peaceful, harmonious and mutually beneficial. This historical brotherly bonds and good spirit will no doubt make the Belt and Road Cooperation between the two a fine example.
Actually, the cooperation between China and Rwanda has already been an excellent example in this aspect following a MoU under the BRI signed. Looking at the five pillars of the Belt and Road Cooperation, namely policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and People-to-people bonds, we two countries have achieved significant progress.
On policy coordination, both our two countries have great leaders and a good and long-term vision. In 2017 and 2018, President XI Jinping and President Kagame achieved historical mutual visits and lifted the bilateral relations to new heights. President Kagame has noted that the strong friendship and cooperation between the two countries can be attributed to their common philosophy of mutual respect, solidarity, mutual benefit and win-win outcomes. China highly appreciates and shares this vision. Both our two countries aim to create a sound environment for realizing our respective development visions by promoting a just and equitable international order, practicing true multilateralism and unequivocally opposing vestiges of colonialism and hegemonism in all forms.
On infrastructure and facility connectivity, there is needless to emphasize the important role of infrastructure in modern economic society, an area that China has a lot to contribute in Rwanda. We can’t forget the 10 Chinese workers sacrificed their lives for the economic and social development of Rwanda by building roads and bridges. A lot of aid projects such as the NYABARONGO II Hydro-power Plant, IPRC Musanze, 200-borehole project, the expansion of Masaka Hospital and so on are being completed in recent years or are under construction. As an important focus of Belt and Road Cooperation, China will continue to support the improvement of infrastructure in Rwanda.
On unimpeded trade, China is Rwanda’s largest trading partner. In 2022, the bilateral trade volume amounts to nearly 500 million US dollars, an increase of 30% compared to the previous year. This is a remarkable progress despite the global economic downturn and the tense geopolitical situation. Since September 2022, 98% Rwanda products are exempted from tariff to enter China’s market. Rwanda’s quality products such as coffee and chili are being live-streamed on China’s e-commercial platforms and are widely popular.
On financial integration, China is the top source country of FDI to Rwanda according to figures published by Rwanda Development Board. This year has witnessed some big Chinese investment coming to Rwanda, for example the installment of a large cement factory, Anjia Prefabricated Construction Rwanda Company Ltd, in August, which will make Rwanda an important supplier of construction materials in the region. The success story of Chinese companies tells well that Rwanda is a business friendly country, and will attract more investment in Rwanda.
On people-to-people bonds, China and Rwanda also registered significant progress this year. Mutual visits of people are becoming frequent, cementing the friendly ties between our two countries. 23 medical teams and more than 300 Chinese doctors received hundreds of thousands of patients and performed more than 10,000 surgical operations in Rwanda over the past 40 years.
This year, 80 Rwandan students won the Chinese Government Scholarships, the highest number in recent years. In August, I joined a group of Chinese Hong Kong Polytechnic University students visiting Rwanda and worked with them to install around 400 solar panels for villagers suffering darkness without electricity. This impressed and moved me very much, and makes me firmly believe that the people-to-people friendship is the inexhaustible power for bilateral interaction.
Under the three new initiatives, namely Supporting Africa’s Industrialization, Agricultural Modernization, and Cooperation on Talent Development announced by President XI Jinping two months ago, China is ready to channel more resources towards African brothers and sisters in the above-mentioned 5 pillars, and join hands for modernization.
We are confident that the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be a splendid gathering of friendship, a great event of cooperation, and a powerful refuel of global development and energy. We believe that with the Belt and Road Cooperation going deeper, we can better build a global shared future.
Upon my 6-month arrival, I am impressed by what our Rwandan brothers and sisters have achieved, the solidarity and power of making things happen. Let us work together, learn from each other, and help each other, to make our modernization happen faster. Let us strive for a better and bright future for all!