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.

Continue reading Silk Road to the Sahel

Africa Will Be the Breadbasket of the World With Investment in Physical Infrastructure

Africa Should be the Breadbasket of the World, Says the African Development Bank President

Aug. 9, 2018–Addressing the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting in Washington attended by over 1,600 agricultural and applied economists from around the world, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina said Aug. 5 that Africa should be the breadbasket of the world, and questioned why Africa should be spending $35 billion a year importing food.

“All it needs to do is harness the available technologies with the right policies, and rapidly raise agricultural  productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers,” Adesina said, according to the AfDB website. “Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is a lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers,” he stated, not referring to phony “green” environmentalism, but the green revolution that raises productivity and would make Africa food secure.

Adesina, who was the 2017 World Food Prize winner, is advocating the creation of staple crops processing zones across Africa (SCPZs): vast areas within rural areas, set aside and managed for agribusiness and food manufacturing industries and other agro-allied industries, enabled with the right policies and infrastructure. “I am convinced that just like industrial parks helped China, so will the SCPZs help to create new economic zones in rural areas that will help lift hundreds of millions out of poverty through the transformation of agriculture–the main source of their livelihoods–from a way of life into a viable, profitable business that will unleash new sources of wealth,” he said.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, in Tanzania, Calls for Investment in Infrastructure Development

Aug. 9, 2018–Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, who arrived in Tanzania today on a one-day trip to discuss regional matters with President John Magufuli, said he requested the meeting to brief Magufuli on the outcome of the July 25-27 BRICS Summit in South Africa, during which Museveni made a case for the BRICS countries to invest in the East Africa Community (EAC) which provides high returns on their investments, higher than Europe,  Latin America and Asia. He said: “Investment in infrastructure development is key, especially in roads, railway and electricity. The Chinese have already helped us construct two hydropower dams, in Karuma, which is 600MW, and Isimba 183MW,” the {Kampala Post} reported today. Museveni attended the BRICS summit as rotating head of the EAC this year.

Uganda is a significant beneficiary of Chinese investments in East Africa. China has extended its hand of investment to many African countries, and continues to do so to uplift their economies. Liaoshen Industrial Park and Mbale Industrial Park in Uganda, launched last March, are set to increase local employment. The Chinese investors will offer training to the Ugandans who will work there. Among other spin-offs could be increase trade between Uganda and China.

Development Leapfrogs in Africa Due to Chinese BRI Investment

Aug. 8, 2018 — In an Aug. 7 op-ed to China Global Television Network, He Wenping, senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute, depicts the dramatic changes she’s seen in Africa after a visit to Djibouti earlier this month.

Prof He states the “two wings” of China-Africa industrial capacity cooperation; infrastructure construction and industrial park construction, have been booming on the African continent. This includes the Nairobi-Mombasa railroad and the Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railroad [see slugs in this briefing], as well as rail lines in Angola and Nigeria. In addition there are over 100 Sino-African industrial parks either in operation or under construction.

“Wherever you go, you can see an upsurge in infrastructure construction in Djibouti and a huge presence of China,” He writes. “For example, the largest free trade zone in Africa, jointly managed by Chinese enterprises and local entities, began construction in early July; the already completed Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway; the port built by China Merchants Group; and the thousands of economic housing projects built with the of Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh when he visited China in November last year. “The Westerners have been around for more
than 100 years but our country is still so poor, and the Chinese came to our country only three years ago but we have already seen great changes and hope,” President Guelleh said.

By the end of 2017, the stock of Chinese investment in Africa had exceeded $100 billion and more than 3,500 Chinese enterprises had invested and operated on the continent.  He points to the example of Dongguan Huajian Group’s investment in a shoe factory in Ethiopia. The Huajian Group has created 7,500 local jobs in Ethiopia, and the Huajian (Ethiopia) Shoe Factory now produces 5 million pairs of women’s shoes annually.

“The hope for development comes from the new impetus provided by the BRI,” He Wenping writes. “Since the Chinese government proposed the BRI in 2013, the African continent, with its abundant resources, huge market potential and strong infrastructure construction demand, has been actively involved in BRI-related projects.

“And in the process of participation, the continent seized an important opportunity for historical development, in order to achieve leapfrog development and transformation from a pre-industrial to a fully industrialized society.”

Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway Revolutionizing Transportation

Aug. 8, 2018– Kenya’s new, up-and-running Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from the Port of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi, built with major Chinese participation, is already revolutionizing the country’s transportation according to the {Daily Nation} of Kenya.

The railway runs seven trains a day carrying a total of 752 containers from the port to Nairobi. While roughly 1,300 containers arrive at the port daily, the time necessary for a ship to clear the port has been reduced from 12 days to just a day and half! This has created a quantum leap in the potential throughput the port, without having to physically expand it. By August, the connection of the SGR line to berths at the port will be complete,  increasing the efficiency even further.

Of course this has led to loss of business and employment at the container freight stations (CFS) where the containers were broken down and transferred to trucks. In answer to this problem Transport Principal Secretary Paul Maringa said that SGR has brought more gains to the economy, ensured efficiency at the Mombasa port and saved roads from overloaded trucks.  “We cannot continue having the conversation about Mombasa and Nairobi. We must look at the bigger picture. We are encouraging the CFS owners to come and open their stations in Nairobi and other parts of the country,” Maringa told the {Daily Nation} by phone.  Asked whether players in the sector should concentrate on investing in Nairobi, Maringa said, “We should not lose the direction. Let’s look at things holistically. We have been able to attract more business at the port which is benefitting Mombasa and the country at large,” he said.  “And this is because of the speed that the SGR has been able to transport cargo to the inland container depot in Nairobi compared to the trucks. We have added handling capacity at the port and that is beneficial to all of us,” he said, stating that the port has handle at least 17,000 containers.

Furthermore the SGR has enabled the government to save money for other development projects.  “The accidents cases have also gone down. Those are the silent benefits of the project as Kenyans’ lives are more important than the businesses we are doing,” he said.

Ethiopia Railway on the Road to Self-Management

Aug. 8, 2018–China is now training Ethiopians to independently run the new standard gauge railway line between Djibouti and Addis Ababa. As of now the locomotive drivers, the management, and many of technicians are still Chinese.  While teams of Ethiopians and Djiboutians have been undergoing training in China, the Chinese and Ethiopian governments are cooperating in building an Ethiopian railway academy.

The Chinese Embassy Economic and Commercial Counselor Liu Yu told the {Ethiopian Herald}, “The Ethiopia railway academy is already under design in Bishoftu. The government has donated $60 million for the  construction. Ethiopia and China have been enjoying strong relationship and cooperating in different areas, one of which is human capacity building takes the epicenter.”

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Share Company (EDRSC) Director General Tilahun Sarka stressed that human resource development is the top priority of the corporation, as the railway has been under the management of two Chinese companies, China Railway Group (CREC) and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).

Pointing to the high quality of the Chinese training, Tilahun said: “The good thing about Chinese instructors and lecturers, as long as you keep on asking questions you will get what you need.”

“Keeping the ration of the EDRSC share, we are engaged in training about 50 Ethiopian and Djiboutian prospective train drivers. These trainees will exchange ideas on topics related to railway operations technologies and railway management, that could realize and create a competent and skilled labor force to operate the Chinese-built and financed 756 km Ethiopia-Djibouti electrified rail line,” he stated.

One trainee, Eyoba Dubale, told the {Ethiopian Herald}: “The trainers from China are dedicated in assisting us. The training is going well in its schedules and we are happy of the whole process. After the training we will be assistant driver, and after establishing comprehensive skills and knowledge as well as attitude of serving in the system, we will take over charge of the driving responsibility to the service the logistics sector for the common good.”

The EDRSC is part of the five-year growth and transformation plan, which aims to enhance the transportation network within the country by connecting to adjacent countries and ports. The National Railway Network of Ethiopia is believed to provide efficient mobility and improve the export and import activities, boosting the economic development.