China’s Belt & Road Initiative Truly is Helping Africa Develop

Below are edited excerpts from a new report by the China-Africa Research Initiative-at Johns Hopkins in Washington DC (Brief #23, 2018). It provides a useful analysis that refutes the misinformation that China is “stealing” Africa’s resources.

“Silk Road to the Sahel: African ambitions in China’s Belt and Road Initiative”

Yunnan Chen

Where Does Africa Fit?

THE BRI SIGNIFIES A SHIFT IN CHINA’S economic engagement with Africa, away from the resource trade characterized by the boom of the 2000s, towards a greater emphasis on infrastructure, industrial cooperation, and connectivity. From single bilateral infrastructure projects, there has been a new term ‘corridorization’ of infrastructure: creating economic corridors and networks at a regional scale to promote cross-border trade and integration.

East and North Africa have been the focus of the BRI in Africa, though countries in West and Southern Africa have also signed cooperation agreements under the framework of the BRI.  As part of the ‘maritime silk road’, Chinese actors have been linked to several major port and transport projects. Chinese firms have invested heavily in Egypt’s Suez Canal corridor, with plans to expand to a second canal as well as new terminals at the port of Alexandria.

China’s Maritime Silk Road connecting Asia to the East-coast of Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Djibouti has emerged as a BRI hub. As well as being the location for its first overseas naval facility, China has financed multiple economic infrastructure projects totalling US$1.8 billion in the small African state, including a new multipurpose port at Doraleh (with specialized terminals for livestock and LNG), as well as a new free trade zone complex adjacent to the port, commissioned in July 2018 . In Kenya, Chinese firms have also won construction contracts for three berths for the new deep-water port in Lamu.

Politically, the BRI’s presence in Africa has been expanding. The most recent Johannesburg Forum of China Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC)  declared as one of its goals: “[to] actively explore the linkages between China’s initiatives of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Africa’s economic integration and sustainable development agenda”. Countries linked to the BRI; Morocco, Egypt, and Ethiopia, have also been singled out in FOCAC among ‘industrial cooperation demonstration and pioneering countries’ and ‘priority partners for production capacity cooperation countries’; these countries have seen a rapid expansion of Chinese-built industrial zones, presaging not only greater trade but also industrial investment from China. However, it may also suggest further stratification in China’s political engagement with Africa as a region, increasing the geopolitical importance of select countries.

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Rwanda and South Africa Sign Deals With China and India Before BRICS Summit

Xi Jinping Arrives in Johannesburg, South Africa for BRICS Summit

July 24, 2018

China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in South Africa today for a bilateral meeting President Cyril Ramaphosa, to be followed by the July 25-27 Tenth BRICS Summit. As is his custom, Xi wrote an op-ed in the local press before his arrival, titled “For a New Era of China-South Africa Friendship.” In it, Xi began by emphasizing that “Our peoples forged a deep friendship during our common struggle against imperialism, colonialism and racism.” He then wrote:

“Over the past six years, our two countries have worked closely as co-chairs of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to advance the comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Africa. Our bilateral ties have thus served as a model for China-Africa relations, for South-South cooperation, and for unity and cooperation among emerging market countries, and offered valuable experience for building an even stronger community with a shared future between China and Africa and a new type of international relations
featuring mutual respect, fairness and justice, and win-win cooperation….

“We must strive for new outcomes in our practical cooperation. We need to promote complementarity between our development strategies, and make full use of bilateral mechanisms, FOCAC-(Forum on China-Africa Cooperation), the Belt and Road Initiative, BRICS cooperation, and other platforms to deepen cooperation in key areas such as industries, production capacity, resources and energy, infrastructure, finance, tourism, and digital economy and deliver more benefits to our peoples.”

On the bilateral front, South African President Ramaphosa announced that the two countries signed “several agreements and memorandums of understanding that are intended to further deepen our relations, including investment commitments that have been struck to the value of $14.7 billion.”

Xi Jinping and Rwanda’s Kagame Sign Multiple Agreements Strengthening Belt and Road Cooperation

Chinese President Xi Jinping met on July 23 with Rwandan President Paul Kagame on the third leg of his tour of Africa and the Middle East, which so far has taken him to the U.A.E. and Senegal. Xi travelled to South Africa today (for the July 25-27 BRICS summit), and he will then stop in the Indian Ocean island-nation of Mauritius on the way back to China.

Xinhua reported that “after their talks, the two heads of state witnessed the signing of multiple agreements on bilateral cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative and other areas.”

In the meeting with Kagame, Xi stated, according to Xinhua, that “Beijing is willing to work with Kigali to translate their traditional friendship into concrete benefits for the two countries and the two peoples, and open a new chapter in their friendly cooperative relations.” As he has done on his other stops, Xi called on the two countries to “strengthen the link between their respective development strategies, give full play to their complementary advantages, and …cooperation in more areas and at deeper levels.”

Xi told Kagame, Xinhua wrote, that “China welcomes Rwanda’s participation in the international cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, and encourages more Chinese investment in Rwanda to help advance its industrialization and modernization.” Xi also talked about broader China-Africa relations, which “have always been defined by sincere friendship, unity and cooperation. The two sides have become a community with a shared future going through thick and thin together as well as a community with shared interests dedicated to win-win cooperation.”

Kagame, for his part, called China “a reliable friend who shares weal and woe with Africa. Kegame said it is of great importance for Rwanda and Africa to develop friendly ties with China. He spoke highly of China’s valuable assistance for Rwanda in such areas as infrastructure construction, agriculture and education, adding that China’s helping hand has made positive contributions to his country’s reconstruction and livelihood improvement.”

Xinhua further said that Kagame emphasized that “Rwanda is willing to enhance cooperation with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, which offers a significant opportunity for both Rwanda and Africa. As the [African Union] AU’s rotating chairman, Kagame stressed that China’s long-standing firm support is of great value to Africa’s development. The African side, he said, looks forward to attending the Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in September, and stands ready to jointly push forward the development of FOCAC, so as to generate more benefits for the people of both sides.”

Modi in Rwanda Witnesses Signing of Economic and Defense Agreements

On his way to attend the 10th anniversary BRICS Summit over July 25-27 in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Indian Premier, Narendra Modi, stopped in Rwanda and, along with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, witnessed the signing of seven bilateral pacts at Village Urugwiro, the President’s office in Kigali, by Indian and Rwandan officials, reported Rwanda’s {New Times}.

Prime Minister Modi is the first Indian head of government to visit the East African nation, which is considered an important gateway for India to eastern Africa. Modi is on a three-nation tour, beginning with Rwanda and Uganda, and thence to Johannesburg for the BRICS summit. He arrived in Rwanda just as Chinese President Xi Jinpig was leaving that country.

Agreements in the area of trade, defense, dairy cooperation, agriculture, culture, leather and allied sectors and two lines of credit worth $200 million for expansion of the special economic zone and irrigation scheme were signed, IANS reported.

“During the talks, both leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation and expressed satisfaction at the excellent relations between Rwanda and India in the overall context of Strategic Partnership,” India’s Foreign Ministry stated. Ties between India and Rwanda were elevated to the level of  Strategic Partnership in January last year, IANS reported.

Africa Collaboration With China’s Silk Road Good for the Continent

Nigeria And China Are In Dialogue On The Belt And Road Initiative

–The Round Table Dialogue held recently in Abuja, organized by the Center for China Studies and chaired by Nigeria’s former Foreign Minister and former ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, Alhaji Aminu Wali, discussed the strategy of connectivity across countries, and within countries. The Belt and Road Initiative will spawn an elaborate network of land, rail and maritime transport arteries and industrial clusters along its now-inclusive global routes, Charles Onunaiju wrote in his article, Nigeria and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, published in “The Sun” on March 28.

“The dialogue recognized that the core feature of the Belt and Road, which is essentially connectivity, is at the heart of the contemporary challenge of Africa, and therefore urged Africa in general, and Nigeria in particular, to play decisive roles in the mechanism of the Belt and Road by appropriate policy engagement.”

The Deputy Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Nigeria, Li Jing, speaking on that occasion, said “the continent’s development agendas are therefore in synergy with the Belt and Road initiative, and there is no doubt that Africa and Nigeria, through appropriate policy facilitation, could align to the central features of the Belt and Road to advance her modernization and industrialization.”

Belt and Road Initiative and the African Continental Free Trade Area Provide Opportunities in Africa, Says a World Bank Officer

–In an article in the “Daily Nation” of Kenya, Peter Warutere, a communications officer for the World Bank based in Nairobi, said the condition created by the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) “presents a window of opportunity for African

countries to transform their economies, achieve rapid growth, and create jobs for their burgeoning youth population.”

He also wrote that “Kenya is well positioned to greatly benefit from the AfCFTA and the development of the Indian Ocean maritime route connecting China with the East African coastline.

The gateway to eastern Africa, Kenya should invest heavily in upgrading its infrastructure and industrial capacity. The window of opportunity for it is to become a vibrant industrial and logistics hub for Sino-African trade, investment and exchange.”

Kenya’s Secretary of National Treasury, Henry Rotich, said his government hopes China will help to make Kenya’s Big Four economic agenda a success. The Big Four agenda consists of food security, affordable housing, manufacturing, and affordable health care, Prensa Latina reports. “We want the Chinese private sector to participate in projects related with this agenda,” the Secretary said.

‘Nuclear Could Turn Zambia into a Regional Food Basket’

–That is the plan, by the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute and the Agriculture Ministry, with help from Russia’s Rosatom nuclear agency. An article under that headline yesterday by the African News Agency describes how for Zambia, and most of Africa, nuclear technology can dramatically improve food availability and nutrition on the continent.

An agreement has been signed with Rosatom for the establishment of a Center for Nuclear Science and Technology in Lusaka, which will help prepare Zambia for nuclear power in the future. Zambia suffers power rationing between 8 and 14 hours per day when water is low at its hydroelectric dams. But immediately, the application of nuclear science and technology will be in agriculture.

Crops that are resistant to disease, able to withstand environmental stresses, such as drought, and produce higher yields are developed by using nuclear radiation to change the genetic makeup of plants. Zambia is developing new crop varieties with these characteristics, which will not only improve the nutrition of the population, but also the lives of the farmers.

Nuclear radiation will also be used for preserving food, using radioactive isotopes. This will immediately increase the food supply. A large percentage of the food produced, especially

in developing countries, never reaches the dinner table. For example, 40% of the fish produced globally rots before it can be eaten. Zambia will be able to join the 60 nations in the world that currently preserve food through irradiation.

Other applications of nuclear technology in agriculture will be for pest and disease control, inspection of the quality and quantity of water resources, and soil conservation.

The Zambia Agriculture Ministry is running multiple research projects in various fields to up-shift agriculture. With the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology, they will have new tools

Benin President Wants China To Build Rail Project

–President Patrice Talon of the West African nation of Benin has asked the French giant Bolloré and a local firm to “withdraw” from a rail infrastructure project so that China could take over the project, according to an interview Talon gave to the French business magazine {Challenges}, published yesterday.

Benin and neighboring Niger have been attempting to link the Benin port of Cotonou with Niger’s capital, Niamey, since 2008.

Talon described the Bolloré offer as “lower-end,” saying that “a private investor cannot finance the railway we want alone.” Talon also said that “China has the necessary financial means” to support the project, expected to cost around $4 billion and pointed out that “China has demonstrated its technical know-how” for building infrastructure in Africa.

Joint Projects Are a Testament to Cameroon’s Trust in China, Says President, Visiting Beijing

–Cameroon President Paul Biya is on a three-day state visit to China, and, as President Xi Jinping

pointed out, he is the first head of state to come to China since President Xi’s reelection. The two presidents met yesterday. President Biya stated that relations between the two countries has stood the test of time, and that China has become one of Cameroon’s strategic development partners. Without listing all of their specific joint projects, President Biya said that they are a testament to the trust that Cameroon has in China.

This afternoon, Biya met with China’s top legislator, Li Zhanshu, of the Standing Committee of yhe National People’s Congress, during which they discussed further bilateral relations in the future. Li said China is willing to have more friendly exchanges with Cameroon’s parliament, and expressed hope that both countries would support each other on political issues. More people-to-people exchanges were also discussed.

In turn, Biya “spoke highly of China’s foreign policy,” Xinhua reports, and said he appreciated China’s long-term support for Cameroon.

Africa Should Learn From China, Advises South African Scientist

–Africa should learn from China’s rapid advances in education, science, and technology to solve socio-economic challenges, said South African scientist Neil Turok. He is the founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. Turok made his remarks yesterday at the opening of the Next Einstein Forum, being held in Rwanda. There are about 1,600 participants at the conference, which takes place March 26-28, and at least half are under the age of 42, {xinhua} reports.
“China has invested heavily in education, science, and technology,” the scientist said, “and the results are amazing. China is emerging as a new global science and technology powerhouse.” He called upon all African countries to focus, prioritize, and promote science and technology for solving economic challenges.

China Remains Committed to Africa’s Development

Jan. 14, 2018–Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Rwanda and Angola over the past two days, the first of four African nations he will visit on his first trip abroad in 2018. With Rwanda assuming chairmanship of the African Union for 2018 at the end of January, Wang discussed with Rwandan Foreign Minister  Mushikiwabo and Pres. Paul Kagame, preparations for this year’s summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The aim of the summit will be to “dovetail China’s Belt and Road Initiative with African countries’ development strategies, thus boosting industrialization and modernization, and raising the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Africa to a new level,” Xinhua reported as Wang’s message.

FOCAC, joining the 52 African nations, China and the African Union, has held a summit every three years, alternating between Beijing and an African capital, since its founding in 2000. A three-year action plan between China and the African countries is adopted at each summit. Beijing hosts the FOCAC summit in 2018.    At the conclusion of his visit to Angola today, Wang told a joint press conference with Angolan Foreign Minister Manuel  Augusto, that China will continue to support Angola in its efforts to diversify and modernize its  economy through “accelerated industrialization … on behalf of peace and unity on the African continent,”  Angolan media reported.  Wang also stressed that China is not concerned about Angola’s debt, and Domingos Augusto reported that they had discussed mechanisms to make the debt sustainable without interrupting current and future projects which require a financial cushion.

Angola’s foreign debt is over $40 billion now, much of it owed to China. With the price of its major export, oil, still low, Western bankers talk of Angola’s “debt crisis.”

Xinhua reported that Wang discussed the debt in response to a reporter raising the Western canard that “China’s financing has increased the debt burden of African countries,” and carries political conditions attached. Wang was blunt: “Such a claim, which is made with ulterior motives, is an outright false accusation…. China’s financing is in response to Africa’s demands for self-development. A country has a huge need for capital in its primary stage of economic take-off and industrialization and Africa is no exception,” he said. He added that “China also passed through this process; these are temporary problems,” as reported by Angolan media.

Furthermore, China does not attach political conditions. “Like African countries, China also had memories of a bitter past when, with its economic lifeline controlled by foreigners, it was unfairly treated and even exploited and oppressed. Therefore, when providing aid to and engaging in cooperation with Africa, China will not repeat what Western countries did and will never impose its own views on others.” China follows the principle of mutual benefit and win-win results, Wang stated.

China will continue to do its part in helping Africa develop itself, Wang concluded, citing two Chinese sayings: “only the feet know if the shoes fit,” and “people have a sense of natural justice.” The African people are in the best position to decide who is Africa’s true friend and most reliable partner.

In its Third Year, AIIB Will Expand Lending to African and South American Nations

As the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) enters its third year of operations, its President Jin Liqun explained in an interview with the {South China Morning Post} that in the coming year, it intends to expand lending and operations to South American and African nations, as well as further into the Middle East as soon as that is possible.

Jin noted that with “quite a number” of South American nations joining the Bank, it will be a good idea to finance some middle-income projects in South America to “bring South America and Asia together,” and reduce transaction and shipping costs.

But, he stated, “I would also pay attention to supporting African member countries. Asia is developing quickly, but it cannot sustain itself well without collaborating closely with African countries.” Jin emphasized that the  geographical scope of the Bank’s activities makes clear its role “in pushing broader-based social and economic development in the member countries in which we invest.”

Responding to the claims from some quarters that the Bank is merely an instrument of China, Jin said quite the contrary is true. China “is committed to building the Bank into a multilateral development institution with 21st Century governance.” The AIIB is separate from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he said, but that it is inescapable that some projects in which the AIIB is involved would be connected to the BRI, simply because of the scale of this global development project, which covers 60 countries across multiple land and maritime corridors.

Jin Liqun was emphatic that China strictly adheres to the Bank’s principle of multilateralism and internationalism. “There has never been any interference by the Chinese government in the decision-making process.”

Industrialization of Ethiopia With Chinese Cooperation

Below are excerpts from a speech by Mr. Mehreteab Mulugeta Haile, Consul General of Ethiopia , reporting on the progress that Ethiopia has made to develop its nation, with its emphasis on infrastructure.

Ethiopia is one of the largest Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a population of about 100 million people. After suffering economic stagnation for decades, its economy began to grow in the mid-1990s after a new administration led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) took the helm of government.

For the last 15 years, Ethiopia has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of about 11% per annum. To continue with this rapid economic growth, the Ethiopian Government rolled out in 2010, an ambitious five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). This plan aims to attain a lower-middle-income status by 2025. Currently the country is implementing the second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II), which is built on Sectoral Policies, Strategies  & Program and Lessons drawn from the first GTP and the post-2015 “sustainable development goals” (SDGs). It has also taken into account global and regional economic situations having direct or indirect bearing on the Ethiopian economy.

Expanding the manufacturing sector will focus on identifying new investment areas such as biotechnology, petrochemicals, electricity and electronics, information and communication technologies (hardware and software production industries).

In the infrastructure sector, the overall strategic direction is to ensure the creation of infrastructure that supports rapid economic growth and structural transformation. This direction will create mass employment opportunities, an institution having strong implementation capacity, ensure public participation and benefit, construct decentralized infrastructure development systems, solve financial constraints, ensure fairness and profitability, and ensure integrated planning of infrastructure development.

Within infrastructure overall, rural roads are given high focus to help reduce poverty by facilitating easy access of agricultural products, at low transportation cost, to the market, improving access to basic socioeconomic services, and strengthening rural-urban linkages.

If we take my country, Ethiopia, as an example of Chinese cooperation and involvement in Africa, we find that what has been said above is false. According to the Ethiopian Investment Commission, Chinese companies, with close to 379 projects that were either operational or under implementation in the 2012-2017 period, are on top of Ethiopia’s investment landscape, both in number and financial capital. Among these companies, 279 were operational with projects that are worth over 13.16 billion Ethiopian birr (over 572 million U.S. dollars) during the reported period, while the remaining 100 are under implementation.

In terms of employment creation, Chinese companies have created more than 28,300 jobs in various sectors in Ethiopia during the reported period, of which over 19,000 were created in Ethiopia’s manufacturing, as it is the leading sector in attracting companies from China. China brings not only investment, knowhow, and transfer of technology, but also skills and entrepreneurship.

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