How is the BRI shaping and advancing Africa's development?
CGTN's Beatrice Marshall
Over the last decade, China has spent billions of dollars constructing roads, railways, ports and industrial economic zones in Africa aimed at boosting the continent's trade and development. Moreover, at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit last year, China announced a new 60-billion-U.S.-dollar fund towards the continent's development in eight areas. Key among these were industrial promotion and infrastructure connectivity.
"It's a gate towards bringing on board everyone. The current trend of development on the planet is a development that cannot afford to leave anyone behind and I believe that is what China is trying to promote,” said Mustapha Koroma, Lt. Colonel from the Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
The Belt and Road Initiative is forging economic, political and security linkages between China and Africa. Already, East Africa through Chinese funding of ports, roads and railways has developed into a central part of the Maritime Silk Road. In the north, the Egyptian Suez Canal's economic zone is integrating with China's Belt and Road Initiative to boost connectivity and global trade. And, the Chinese funded Djibouti Addis Ababa railway is connecting Ethiopia to the maritime trade routes of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Alongside these, the African Union's development agency NEPAD recently unveiled an ambitious multi-billion project, the African Integrated High-Speed Railway Network aimed at connecting African capitals by building and improving existing national networks.
"The Belt and Road is a mechanism very important for Senegal. Because it is developing highways and links between regions as we build highway from Dakar to Touba," said Biriane Dieye, Lt. Colonel, chief of the Senegalese delegation.
The Maritime Silk Road will establish economic passages through a chain of seaports from the South China Sea to Africa that will direct trade to and from China. Already, about 37 African countries have signed documents on Belt and Road cooperation. The BRI is also happening at a time when the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) is set to come into force, bringing with it a market of 1.2 billion people and the promise of greater trade with China.
"I think it will facilitate greater connectivity between different countries. I think also, for example, it's very difficult to transport things between the countries, so it will make that easier and the connection will also be easier," said Rafilwe Mahlaku, Lieutenant from South Africa.
It is estimated that Africa will need over 100 billion U.S. dollars annually for 10 years to meet its infrastructural requirements. Now the African Development Bank says if the continent positions itself well, it can source some of this from the Belt and Road Initiative, and channel it to the African Union's master plan. So through the BRI, Africa's interests are converging with China's and at the end of the process, they are helping shape and advance Africa's development priorities.