Freeman Tells Xinhua: U.S. Officials Lie About China’s Belt & Road Initiative-BRI In Africa

Chen Mingjian, Chinese ambassador to Tanzania, speaks at an international symposium to mark the 10th anniversary of China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug 25, 2023.(PHOTO / XINHUA)

(BRF2023) Interview: BRI greatly contributes to Africa’s infrastructure development, says U.S. expert

Source: Xinhua, Editor: huaxia

October 24, 2023   

Staff members work on the fiberglass production line of Jushi Egypt in Suez, Egypt, June 26, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Dongzhen)

Speaking of the groundless accusations and malicious attacks by some U.S. politicians on the Belt and Road Initiative, Freeman, an American expert on Africa, said claims that China conducts the so-called “debt trap diplomacy” have been repeatedly proven false by Western experts.

by Xinhua writers Deng Xianlai and Xu Yuan

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) — Lawrence Freeman, an American expert on Africa, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has made important contributions to improving global political and economic relations since its inception a decade ago, especially on the African continent.

He believes that the severe shortage of electricity is the most intractable infrastructure problem facing Africa, which not only exacerbates poverty, but also “kills” Africans.

“This is not a metaphor,” Freeman said, because without electricity, industrial and agricultural production and basic infrastructure such as hospitals would be impossible. China is actively working with many African countries to address this issue, he added.

Belt and Road projects in Africa cover energy, ports, airports, roads, railways, schools and other aspects, Freeman said, and it is a proven fact that China’s involvement in Africa’s infrastructure construction and economic and social development “is right now irreplaceable.”

As an expert on Africa, Freeman has advised many governments in sub-Saharan Africa on economic development policies and has witnessed several Belt and Road projects on the continent.

“One economic minister in Africa once told me: ‘If you take China out of Africa, there is no substitute that would step in,'” he said.

For years, Freeman has been vehemently advocating for the African Union’s visionary Integrated High Speed Train Network, which is a flagship project of the AU’s “Africa 2063 Agenda” adopted in 2015 and, when finished, would connect African capitals and commercial centers. As such, Freeman is particularly impressed by the several high-standard railways China helped build on the African continent.

This photo taken on Aug. 21, 2023 shows the Karuma dam at Karuma Hydropower Plant in Kiryandongo, Uganda. (Photo by Hajarah Nalwadda/Xinhua)

In 2016, Freeman attended the ceremony marking the inauguration of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti electrified railway — an early harvest project of China-Africa production capacity cooperation — in Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. And his decades-long dream of taking a train in Africa was realized on a Chinese-built railroad in Nigeria.

“Of the 30 years I’ve been traveling to Africa, I finally got a ride on a railroad in 2021,” Freeman said, adding it was on the railway linking Abuja — the Nigerian capital — and Kaduna, a northern metropolis and a major transportation hub in the country.

“I’ve driven that route on a poorly paved road,” Freeman recalled. With the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway, “I could sit back on a train … It was comfortable, it was smooth … I enjoyed every second of it because I’ve been waiting for decades to take a train in Africa.”

Speaking of the groundless accusations and malicious attacks by some U.S. politicians on the Belt and Road Initiative, Freeman said claims that China conducts the so-called “debt trap diplomacy” have been repeatedly proven false by Western experts.

“China is not intervening into domestic affairs (of countries along the Belt and Road),” he said. “China lends money with no conditionality.”

“Yet we have ignorant people in the U.S. government, in the State Department, in the Congress who repeat this” (false rhetoric) about China’s Africa policy, Freeman said.

Some U.S. diplomats and members of Congress have repeatedly discredited China’s Africa policy, throwing out “unfounded or ignorant attacks on China” despite “having access to knowing better” what the reality is, he noted.

“They’re repeating something that is known to be untrue. So that is no longer ignorance. That’s deliberate disinformation,” Freeman said.■

Read Chinese translation

Read my earlier post: “Win-Win Cooperation” Is Our Goal for China-U.S. Relations

Also read: “BRI provides solid platform for global cooperation” chinadailyhk.com

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

China Fully Engaged in Africa for 2023-The Future is Trade Not Debt

By Lawrence Freeman

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed with Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, in Addis Ababa (Courtesy of VOA)

For the thirty-third consecutive year, the first foreign trip by China’s Foreign Minister was to Africa. China’s new Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, the former Ambassador to the United States, traveled to Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin, and Egypt, from January 9 to 16, 2023. In addition to visiting these five African nations he was also invited to meet with African leaders at the African Union and the League of Arab States Headquarters. The stated purpose of the trip was: To deepen the China-Africa comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership and boost friendly cooperation between China and Africa.

Friendship Remains Strong

Starting in the year 2000, China organized the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which meets every three years, alternating between China and Africa. These conferences provide a unique opportunity for African leaders and Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to discuss future economic, cultural, and political collaboration. Contrary to continued efforts by the U.S. to malign Africa-China cooperation, China and Africa have remained steadfast in their shared common interest; the development of their people.


Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, and Qin Gang at ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Africa CDC. (Courtesy of African Union-au.int)

One of the highlights of Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit to Ethiopia, was to inaugurate the new Headquarters of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). The new Africa CDC, located outside of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, was built by China and given as a gift to Africa.

This is a critically important contribution to Africa, a continent of one and a half billion people, which was given a very low priority for vaccinating against COVID 19, and continuously suffers from a weak healthcare system.

Foreign Minister Qin met with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen. He was the first foreign government official to visit Ethiopia following the signing of the peace agreement of November 2, 2022, that ended a two year long war in northern Ethiopia. He expressed China’s support for “Africans in solving African problems in African ways.” This attitude differs dramatically from the U.S. and Europe, who undermined the government of Ethiopia during the war. Foreign Minister Qin pledged to assist Ethiopia in its reconstruction efforts, which are formidable following the terrible damage that the country suffered in fighting to maintain its sovereignty. Additionally, he announced that China will forgive thirty million dollars in Ethiopian debt.

In December 2022, the U.S. convened its first U.S.-Africa Summit in eight years. The unspoken “secret topic” and motivation for the three-day conference was, how to counter China’s growing influence on the African continent.  

There are yet to be any “deliverables” from the U.S.-Africa Summit. While the Biden administration seems to be more focused on exporting the “infrastructure of democracy,” China is building and financing more hard infrastructure projects in Africa than the rest of Western nations combined. These projects impact the daily material needs of the African people, which is essential to eliminate poverty on the continent.

China-Africa Trade Not Debt

China’s trade with Africa during 2022 expanded to its largest single year total of $282 billion. China exported $164.5 billion to Africa and imported $117.5 billion over that twelve-month time, which represented an increase of 11% over 2021. From January to November of 2022, U.S. exports to Africa, were $28.5 billion and imports of $38.9 billion for a total trade of $67.3 billion, almost no increase over 2021. Thus, U.S. trade with Africa was approximately one-fourth that of China for 2022. If the U.S. intends to counter or challenge China in Africa, it will have to do a lot more than “exporting democracy.”

As you can see from the chart below the myth spun by Western officials and the media that China is primarily responsbile for Africa’s debt, is simply not ture. This intentionally false allegation has been refuted again and again, but Western governments continue to propagandize Africa nations that China is using a ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy to seize their resources. Chinese ‘Debt Trap” is a Myth-Biden Would be Wise Not to Continue Trump’s Attacks on China in Africa,

The total outstanding debt for sub-Saharan African nations to foreign entities totals: 454.4 billion USD. China is not even close to being the largest debt holder. China owns 79 billion USD of sub-Saharan Africa’s debt, less than one firth-17%. The debt held by bondholders, the World Bank, and the IMF, equals 286.9 billion USD,-63% of the total foreign debt of sub-Saharan Africa,

Courtesy of Reuters Graphics

Investing in Manufacturing

Contrary to Western propaganda, which accuses China of stealing Africa’s resources, China is actually expanding Africa’s manufacturing sector. This is a vital contribution since African nations suffer from an anemic production capability to add value their natural resources. A good example is the investment by Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO), a Chinese steel manufacturer, who intends to invest in building a lithium battery manufacturing plant in Zimbabwe. chinese firm to manufacture lithium batteries in zim. The Zimbabwean government has wisely banned the export of raw lithium. Having its own manufacturing plant, will create jobs and improve the standard of living of Zimbabweans, since mining and export of valuable minerals does not lead to economic growth for the population.

This kind of investment in local manufacturing along with China’s Belt and Road strategy of building infrastructure throughout Africa, is exactly what is needed to assist African nations in creating strong sovereign economies.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. He is also the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton

Africa’s ‘poverty trap’ more dangerous than so-called debt trap

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Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attend the completion ceremony of the Chinese-built oil terminal at the port of Mombasa in Mombasa, Kenya, January 6, 2022. /Xinhua

Lawrence Freeman

CGTN, January 24, 2022

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

In his visit to Kenya on January 6, 2022, China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, emphasized China’s support for economic progress in Africa, and in particular, the Horn of Africa.

Wang was continuing China’s 32-year-old tradition of having their foreign minister begin each year with an overseas trip to Africa. In the first week of January, Wang met with officials in Eritrea, Kenya and Comoros. Both Eritrea and Kenya are located in East Africa, a region where Ethiopia, the second most populated nation in Africa, is engaged in a 14-month war to defeat an armed insurrection led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Kenya, an important ally of China, is a key nation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Maritime Silk Road.

Eliminating poverty

Wang, in his press conference, focused on the number one challenge facing Africa: poverty and the extremely low standard of living affecting the majority of its 1.4 billion people.

He polemically stated,”If there is any trap in Africa, it is the trap of poverty and the trap of backwardness,” which he counterposed to the so-called debt trap that he referred to as a “speech trap” created by the West. China speaks with authority, which has accomplished a modern day miracle in lifting over 750 million of its people out of extreme poverty and has pledged to help Africa do the same.

A woman fills up her water jerrycan in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, January 1, 2022. /VCG

China’s approach to the current challenges in the Horn of Africa is in stark contrast to that of the U.S. Instead of punishing Eastern African nations with sanctions and economic warfare, China is promoting peace and economic development. According to Wang, China will appoint a special envoy for the region, with the goal:

“To support the Horn of Africa in realizing lasting stability, peace and prosperity, China is willing to put forward the ‘Initiative of Peaceful Development in the Horn of Africa’ and support regional countries in addressing the triple challenges of security, development and governance.”

Emphasizing China’s infrastructure-led economic approach, Wang encouraged nations of the region to “accelerate regional revitalization to overcome development challenges,” adding that “the two principal axes, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, should be enlarged and enhanced with the aim of expanding to neighboring countries at an opportune moment.”

Wang announced that China would provide an additional 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to Kenya which follows President Xi Jinping’s November pledge at the Forum on China Africa Cooperation conference in Dakar, to make 1 billion doses available to Africa.

China’s policy guided by development

The dominant feature of China’s relation to Africa is development, contrary to the Western geopolitical propaganda against China. The infrastructure-driven BRI has made physical improvements in African economies through the construction of railways, roads, power generation capacity, ports and airports. There is not a single Western nation that even remotely compares to China’s level of investment in Africa.

As every African leader knows well, if China were to cease offering loans for infrastructure, there would be no Western nation to address the continent’s huge deficit in the field, and African nations would suffer terribly.

The U.S. has failed to modernize its own rail network and is incapable of building advanced transportation corridors in other countries, while China had constructed around 40,000 kilometers of high-speed rail by the end of 2021.

Unlike U.S. officials who travel to African nations, Chinese representatives do not attach political conditionalities or arrogantly dictate what domestic policies must be adopted by their host countries. Instead, China is thoughtful by responding to the most critical and urgent needs of African nations. That is the elimination of poverty, which necessitates massive investments in hard and soft infrastructure.

Africa-s-poverty-trap-more-dangerous-than-so-called-debt-trap

Read my earlier posts:

Chinese ‘Debt Trap” is a Myth-Biden Would be Wise Not to Continue Trump’s Attacks on China in Africa 

China-Africa Debt Trap Refuted Again. Belt and Road Building Infrastructure-Developing Africa

A Brief Response: Marshall Plan for Africa or “Debt Trap?”

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.

China’s Belt & Road is Helping Empower African Nations to Realize Their Economic Potential

November 15, 2021

Please watch my 45 minute presentation to the Special Session on Africa, at the ICG 16 in Qingdao, China, on October 25, 2021, entitled: “How China Is Empowering Africa’s Self Development.”

I discuss as a physical economist the critical importance of infrastructure in developing a progressive pro-growth economy. Expansion of vital categories of infrastructure, such as railroads and electricity is the most essential task for African nations today. I present in detail how China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is assisting African nations in developing their economies. The West, dominated by the disease known as “geo-politics” is spreading false propaganda against China’s investment in Africa. I expose their their anti-China propaganda regarding so called “debt-trap” diplomacy. Viewing my presentation will prove valuable to those familiar and those unfamiliar with China’s cooperative relationship wit African nations.

Please watch: Africa-China: Belt and Road

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.