China’s Belt and Road Aids Africa’s Growth in New Globalization

(China’s CGTN published my article today, on the eve of the historic 2nd Belt and Road Forum)
Opinion-April 24, 2019

Belt and Road Initiative: Another path to globalization

by Lawrence Freeman

Editor’s note: Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On the eve of the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF), it is irrefutable that the world has been transformed in the five years since Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).China’s archetype for global development is based on the more elevated concept of each country contributing to the “common destiny of all nations” and mankind’s “shared future.”

By focusing on “global connectivity” through massive investments in infrastructure, linking China to the rest of the world through its land and maritime new Silk Roads, China has presented the world with a new paradigm for development – in effect, redefining globalization.

According to the World Economic Forum (September 2018), “the BRI will encompass 70 percent of the world’s population (4.4 billion) and 63 percent of the world’s GDP (21 trillion U.S. dollars),” primarily from construction of rail lines, highways, ports, airports, hydro-energy plants and pipelines.

The first BRF held in May 2017 included 29 foreign heads of state, 11 heads of international organizations and over two dozen attendees on the ministerial level. Because of the expansion of the BRI over the last two years, already 40 world leaders have confirmed their attendance for this year’s conference.

Awakening the Sleeping Giant, Africa

Nowhere, outside of China itself, are the positive effects of China’s BRI more evident than on the African continent. At the 2017 BRF, the only African heads of States who attended were Ethiopia and Kenya, and ministers from Egypt and Tunisia. With Nigeria, the most populated nation in Africa, officially joining the BRI in 2019, and increased collaboration with China throughout all geographical sections of Africa, participation at this year’s BRF from Africa will undoubtedly be higher.

Engineers from the Addis Ababa Information & Communication Technology Development Agency in Ethiopia, Africa, train on Huawei’s networking equipment at the training center at Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China, September 15, 2011. /VCG Photo

Prior to the announcement of the BRI, China had already forged a close working relationship with Africa by convening China-Africa Summits (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) every three years beginning in 2000, rotating the venues between China and Africa.  At the seventh summit held last year in Beijing, all but one of the 54 African nations attended.

Unfortunately, the West lost its vision of development for Africa after the death of President John F. Kennedy, instead adopting a no-infrastructure policy. What Africa has needed most since the 1960s “Winds of Change” liberation from colonialism is infrastructure, water, energy, rail and roads. China has a different view on this.

Ambassador David Shinn, a respected scholar on Africa, wrote last month: “China has been indisputably the single most important builder of infrastructure in Africa since the beginning of the 21st century.”

Take, for example, Djibouti, which is a BRI hub. China is building the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port and international free trade zone in this northeast African nation, strategically located right off the Indian Ocean and on the Gulf of Eden. It is estimated that one-third of global shipping passes by this port.

In 2016, the first electrically driven train in sub-Saharan Africa, connecting Addis Ababa, the capital of landlocked Ethiopia, to the port city of Djibouti was inaugurated. This rail line built by Chinese companies utilizing and training African laborers and engineers is key to the develop-ment of the Horn of Africa, providing Ethiopia a port to export the products of its nascent manufacturing sector.

Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority, told Xinhua that “projects involving cooperation with China are helping Djibouti promote trade in Africa as well as distribution across the East African region… which couldn’t be achieved without developing proper infrastructure, such as seaports and railway connections.”

Chinese workers help to build a new train station in Beliatta in a southern province near Hambantota, which is Chinese managed and designed in Beliatta, Sri Lanka, November 18, 2018. /VCG Photo‍

Hadi called the “debt-trap” propaganda against the BRI, “complete nonsense, as benefits generated from infrastructure construction will far exceed the investment.”

African nations are attempting to industrialize their economies with growth in their manufacturing sectors. China is assisting by creating special economic zones, industrial parks, and industrial zones in Nigeria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, Morocco, and Rwanda. Industry and infrastructure generate jobs, raise skill levels and transfer technology.

Will the West Join the BRI?

Africa’s requirement for infrastructure is enormous, allowing Western nations the opportunity to join with China to industrialize this vast undeveloped continent, which is projected to have 2.5 billion people by 2050. President Xi, at the first BRF, said: “We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation” and “development holds the master key to solving all problems.” Regrettably, western nations have been hostile to joining the BRI. However, last month’s ground-breaking signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by Italy – the first G-7 nation to join China’s BRI – portends a potential change towards a new constructive dynamic.

Read: China’s New Approach to Globalization

China’s Belt & Road Redefining Globalization & International Relations for Belt-Road Forum

April 10, 2019

Preparations for the Second Belt and Road Forum

On March 29, Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, spoke at length with the media about preparations for the late April Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping addressing 1st Belt Road Forum on May 15, 2017. (image credit: Reuters/Nicloas Asfouri)

“Since its inception, the BRI has received strong endorsement and warm support of the international community. So far, a total of 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. Most recently, during President Xi’s visit to Italy, the two countries signed an MOU on promoting BRI cooperation, giving a new impetus to this process. Meanwhile, the BRI vision has been included in documents of major international institutions including the United Nations, the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Indeed, the BRI has proved a popular and worthy cause that goes along with the trend of our times and responds to the shared aspiration of countries for development through mutually beneficial cooperation. Looking back at this pursuit over the last few years, I would draw your attention to the positive role the BRI has played in the following three ways…

“The BRI has created new impetus and opportunities for global growth.

“Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis in 2008, to create both new growth drivers and a new cycle of global growth has become a common task for the international community. The BRI aims to address the fundamental issue of promoting development by enhancing all-round connectivity. It has helped countries involved to remove development bottlenecks and implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative has thus become an important way for boosting global growth.

“The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2% and those of trade along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor by 10.2%. What is more, it will contribute at least 0.1% of global growth in 2019….

“As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the BRI aims to replace estrangement with exchanges between different civilizations, replace clashes with mutual learning and replace a sense of superiority with coexistence; and it aims to boost mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust among different countries. So the BRI is a sure path toward peace and cooperation for win-win outcomes.

“The vision of building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind is an important component of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. The BRI champions mutual respect, consultation on an equal footing, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual benefit. It is an approach to global governance featuring consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. And it aims to promote connectivity the world over. These are all important dimensions of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and a new type of international relations….

“The BRF is the highest-level platform for Belt and Road cooperation where all parties concerned meet to build consensus and adopt plans for future cooperation. We have set up a BRF Advisory Council consisting of leading international figures to provide advice on the growth of the Forum. In addition, China and other participating countries have in recent years set up platforms for multilateral cooperation on port, shipping, finance, taxation, energy, culture, think tank, the media and other areas and launched initiatives on a green Silk Road and a clean Silk Road….

“The opportunities come with the BRI’s growing international influence, moral appeal and cooperation potential. Against the backdrop of mounting protectionism and unilateralism in the world, the BRI principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits has gained wide recognition. Support for the BRI is the mainstream view of the international community, and the opportunities created by BRI cooperation are widely appreciated in the global community….

“The opportunities come with the accelerated industrialization of a vast number of developing countries, a process which generates new demands in infrastructure connectivity and industrial investment, and promises huge potential for international cooperation…

“We have noticed that some people have expressed different views about the BRI, claiming that the Initiative is China’s geopolitical tool and could cause some countries to fall into a debt trap. Such views are less than objective or balanced. They are simply a misunderstanding, misrepresentation and even biased view of the BRI….

“China and other 27 countries have jointly adopted the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road, which highlights the need to ensure debt sustainability in project financing. In case our cooperation partners face difficulties in servicing debts, China will properly address this issue through friendly consultation, and will never press them for debt payment. As a matter of fact, no country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, it is through participating in BRI cooperation that many countries have got out of the trap of no development….

“The theme of this year’s BRF is: ‘Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future,’ and the Forum events include the opening ceremony, a leaders’ round-table, a high-level meeting, thematic forums, a CEO conference and other side events. “Representatives from over 100 countries, including about 40 leaders of foreign governments, have confirmed their attendance. As the host country, we will, together with other Forum parties, take stock of what has been achieved and draw a blueprint for future cooperation to further enrich BRI cooperation….

“BRI cooperation is not a talk shop, but an action-oriented initiative that delivers real outcomes. The second BRF is expected to produce a full range of outcomes, including both governmental cooperation agreements and initiatives, and concrete cooperation projects involving participation of the business sector. All these will be included in a list of deliverables and be released in due course. We are confident that the second BRF will produce even greater numbers of cooperation outcomes that are of still higher quality.”

Italy, China, and Africa Busting Apart Old Geo-Political Regime

March 23, 2019

Italy and China Sign Groundbreaking MOU on Belt and Road Initiative

 

 

Italy and China have signed the famous Memorandum of Understanding on Belt and Road cooperation today, together with 10 economic agreements and 18 institutional agreements (19 with the BRI MOU). The MOU is a milestone and is said to already be being studied by other countries that want to follow Italy.

The MOU says at the outset that “The Parties will work together within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to translate mutual complementary strengths into advantages for practical cooperation and sustainable growth, supporting synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and priorities identified in the Investment Plan for Europe and the Trans-European Networks, bearing in mind discussions in the EU China Connectivity Platform.”

With the MOU, Italy is the first large industrial economy to join the Belt and Road, as Chinese media proudly stress. The signature of the MOU occurred in spite of trans-Atlantic pressures and open hostility by Italy’s “partners” in the EU. Italian Minister for Economic Development Luigi Di Maio, who signed the MOU together with his counterpart He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, stated that “today is for us a very important day, in which the Made in Italy is winning, Italian firms are winning. We made a step to help our economy to grow. Italy came first with China.”

The economic agreements include: a strategic partnership between the Italian Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Bank of China to finance Italian firms in China; a MOU between the Italian oil company ENI and the Bank of China for explorations in China; Ansaldo Energia signed two agreements, one to develop gas turbines with UGTC and another one for the supply of a turbine to Shanghai Electric and Benxi Steel; the Port Authorities of Trieste and Genoa signed an agreement with the construction giant CCCC. Cassa Depositi and the natural gas utility Snam signed a deal with the Silk Road Fund for investments along the Silk Road; the Institute for Foreign Trade signed a deal with Suning to create a platform to promote Italian lifestyle in China; and the Danieli group signed a contract with China Camc Engineering for the construction of a steel plant in Azerbaijan.

The institutional agreements, besides the MOU on the BRI cooperation, include cooperation on innovative startups and electronic trade, as well as cooperation between the two space agencies, agriculture and culture, health and media.

Read article

Italian Finance Minister Tria on Italy-China-Africa Cooperation

In an op-ed in {China Daily}, entitled “As Belt and Road Opens New Doors Across Globe, Italy To Play A Key Role,” Italian Finance minister Giovanni Tria emphasized Sino-Italian cooperation to develop Africa.

After praising the BRI as a way to relaunch global economic integration, Tria recalled that “In September, the Italian government signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s National Development and Reform Commission for joint cooperation in third countries. This way, Italy and China are committed to collaborating in important geographical areas such as Africa, which in the near future will be a top actor for demographic reasons and due to its prospects for economic growth.

“Playing a role in building and restoring large infrastructure is an invaluable opportunity for Italian companies. There is an astonishing variety of areas of expertise where Italy can provide a competitive, paramount contribution. Beyond those more strictly linked to the physical construction of infrastructure (machiner), logistics and plant construction), Italy has strong capabilities in the provision of high-quality technical services such as consulting, feasibility studies, design, engineering services, security, finance and insurance.

“Italy believes in the prospective cooperative development of the BRI. This process will help to identify the paths of action and the main projects. Italy also enjoys a strategic geographical position along the current and future frames of commercial relations between the East, the West and Africa. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Italy is the second-largest manufacturing country in Europe, leading in technological innovation and equipped with high-quality ports and road and rail networks. These features make Italy the ideal southern gateway to continental Europe and for the trade routes between Europe and China.

“By opening new connections and intensifying trade relations, the BRI will help improve the competitiveness of Italian and Chinese companies operating in each other’s markets and together toward third markets, leaving the respective governments with the task of providing adequate support to foster a business-friendly climate that can enhance their expertise, strengths and innovative approaches.

“I believe that developing physical connections, while enlarging and strengthening cooperation networks and partnerships, represents a valuable opportunity to face the challenge of sustainable growth and to avoid backtracking toward protectionism and nationalism. Commercial synergies and relationships of trust represent the path we want to take to counter international tensions and to favor wider and more widespread global well-being.”