How the Belt and Road Initiative is transforming Africa’s economy

THIS year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In his speech delivered at the opening ceremony of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), President Xi Jinping announced eight major steps China will take to support high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, namely building a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network, supporting an open world economy, carrying out practical cooperation, promoting green development, advancing scientific and technological innovation, supporting people-topeople exchanges, promoting integrity-based Belt and Road cooperation and strengthening institutional building for international Belt and Road cooperation.

Themed “High-quality Belt and Road Cooperation: Together for Common Development and Prosperity,” the third BRF was held in Beijing from 17th to 18th October, attended by over 10,000 registered representatives from 151 countries and 41 international organisations. Dr Natu El-maamry Mwamba, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Finance of Tanzania, who represented Minister for Finance Hon Dr Mwigulu L. Nchemba, attended the Forum.

During the Forum, a total of 458 outcomes were achieved, including important cooperation initiatives and institutional arrangements such as the Beijing Initiative for Deepening Cooperation on Connectivity, the Beijing Initiative for Belt and Road Green Development and the Beijing Initiative on the Belt and Road International Digital Economy Cooperation, etc.

The outcomes also include specific targets including providing 100,000 training opportunities on green development for partner countries by 2030 and increasing the number of joint laboratories to 100. Commercial agreements worth 97.2 billion US dollars have been concluded at the CEO Conference, which will help generate jobs and growth in relevant countries.

The Forum also decided to establish a BRF secretariat to facilitate institution-building and project implementation. Since its launch a decade ago, the BRI has been a distinct path to drive common development and shared prosperity.

It has increased connectivity between China and the rest of the world through infrastructure investment and regional cooperation.

It is important to note that, although the BRI was proposed by China, it belongs to the world and benefits the whole of humanity. The empirical evidence demonstrates that the BRI has accelerated the economic development of African countries and promoted regional integration of the continent.

During the past ten years since the launch of the BRI in 2013, the cumulative volume of China-Africa trade has exceeded US$2 trillion. Thanks to the opening of direct flights between Nairobi and central China’s Changsha city, Kenya’s flowers can be sold to Chinese traders in Changsha and neighbouring regions.

With trade facilitation under the BRI, Tanzania’s soybean exports to China has increased by 14 times within one year, reaching 17,900 tonnes in 2022. According to Chinese Foreign Ministry, China’s investment in Africa has seen steady growth.

In the first half of this year, China added USD 1.82 billion in FDI to Africa, up by 4.4 per cent year-on-year. More than 3,000 Chinese enterprises have invested deeply in Africa, of which over 70 per cent are private companies, the mainstay of Chinese investment in Africa.

Statistics from the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) show that from 1997 to August 2023, a total of 1,195 Chinese projects had been registered with a total value of US$10.73 billion and 141,530 jobs created.

The BRI has contributed to the poverty reduction in Africa. A report from the World Bank says that the Initiative has contributed to lifting 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million from moderate poverty globally.

Through Belt and Road cooperation, Chinese companies have participated in the construction of over 6,000 kilometres of railways, 6,000-plus kilometres of roads, 20 ports and more than 80 large-scale power facilities in Africa.

In Tanzania, we have seen Chinese contractors undertaking numerous flagship infrastructure projects, including Lot 5 and Lot 6 of the Standard Gauge Railway, the new Msalato airport, the Kigongo-Busisi Bridge, etc.

These strategic infrastructural projects will greatly facilitate the movement of goods and people in relevant areas, reduce the cost of energy consumption and telecommunication and improve the investment climate of our country. Despite the aforementioned benefits, some Westerners claim that China is using the BRI to exploit Africa. They fabricated such concepts as “debt-trap diplomacy” and “opaque pricing” to tarnish the image of the BRI.

These accusations are totally baseless because looking at the African infrastructures, the BRI is helping Africa to transform itself, and none of the African states has fallen into the so-called “debt traps.” For many years, African countries failed to make progress due to poor infrastructure and lack of the willingness of traditional partners to help finance the construction of important infrastructure.

However, since China emerged as an economically great power, it has been actively participating in financing the construction of strategic infrastructures which have contributed to the economic growth of African countries.

With its effectiveness, Africa’s traditional development partners with a long history of exploiting Africa find it difficult to compete with the China-proposed BRI because this Initiative is based on long-term friendship and win-win cooperation.

It is quite evident that, the BRI has provided a platform for low and middle-income economies in Africa to register significant growth in terms of infrastructure development, job creation and increased trade opportunities.

As President Samia Suluhu Hassan said when she met with President Xi Jinping in Johannesburg this August, “Tanzania and other developing countries have benefited enormously from the Belt and Road Initiative and other major initiatives proposed by President Xi Jinping.” We Africans know what we need and who are our true friends.

The badmouthing of the BRI by some Westerners won’t affect our judgment on this grand strategy proposed by China but shared by the whole of mankind.

(The writer is a Dar es Salaam-based analyst on international politics and foreign relations, Email: cleophacegeorge@gmail.com)

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