BRI: Six years of success in Africa

By Hisham Abu Bakr Metwally
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 25, 2019
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An aerial photo of the Nairobi Terminus of the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 3, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) has started in Beijing, attracting as many as 37 heads of state or government and over 5,000 representatives of international organizations, government officials and businessmen from all over the world. 

The momentum of the forum this year is based on the great achievements made in the past six years since the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was proposed in 2013. These achievements have raised participants' confidence in the BRI, driving them to become further involved in it.

The BRI is a global initiative which aims to improve global governance and the globalization process by providing equal opportunities for all to achieve prosperity and growth.

To make the world more connected, the BRI has supported the construction of ports, roads, airports and other services necessary for the development of trade in the countries along its route. This is to ensure that all those countries, regardless of their size or level of development, will have an equal right and opportunity to improve trade and communication with the rest of the world.

The BRI has fulfilled the demands of many countries which have been marginalized as a result of globalization. Many of them have not been able to catch up with the previous industrial renaissance or contribute to the development of global trade due to their lack of development.

When it comes to the development of African countries, the BRI is completely in line with the African Union Agenda 2063, which aims to link all 54 African nations through transportation infrastructure projects, including modern highways, airports, and high-speed railways.

The first phase of Kribi deep sea port project, constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company, in Cameroon, on Dec. 9, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Through the BRI cooperation, China has become the largest investor in infrastructure in Africa, and many railways have already been constructed. For example, China has financed the railway line linking the Kenyan capital to the port of Mombasa, and has begun to build new railway lines linking Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan. China has also invested in a railway project linking Tanzania and Zambia. In addition, a large number of ports, such as Mombasa, Lamu, Dar es Salaam and Lagos, which are all vital to the development of trade in African countries, have been established or rebuilt with the assistance of China.

It is well known that many African countries were suffering from the lack of access to sea ports of their own and therefore the cost of importing goods was very high. Once newly-built railways were built that allow access to nearby ports, the time spent on the transportation of goods from the port to these countries has been significantly reduced. Transportation costs have also further decreased, which effectively boosts trade and economic growth.

In the area of industrialization, China has established many industrial zones in African countries to transfer its experiences to African countries and promote investment. Six special economic zones have been established in Zambia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Egypt to promote local industrial development and they have all achieved significant success in terms of attracting investment to these countries.

The building of TEDA Cooperation Zone in Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) in Ain Sokhna, Egypt, on April 18, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

The first phase of the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) has attracted 68 companies. This achievement encouraged the Egyptian government to begin the second phase of construction of the cooperation zone. As a result, China's TEDA corporation, one of the oldest industrial developers in the region, has seen a steady increase in investments. 

China's investment experience in the SCZone has also encouraged other countries to invest in the region. For example, Russia has signed a contract to develop an area of 8 km in the Suez Canal area to establish a Russian industrial zone.

There is no doubt that Sino-African relations are witnessing one of its brightest eras, no doubt due to the launch of the BRI. This Initiative has spurred African countries to engage with China more in a bid to achieve their desired goals, namely to improve economic development, prosperity and create a shared future for all.

The BRI is still in its first phase, and China still has much to share with the African continent. In the coming years we expect to see unprecedented new leaps in cooperation between China and African countries, especially in the fields of industry, technology and services. Many companies in China would like to invest more in Africa, and they are just waiting for the necessary infrastructure to be in place.

Hisham Abu Bakr Metwally is the first economist researcher with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry.

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