Project makes environment a priority
China, Africa and the UK join forces to launch the Development Corridors Partnership
by the UK Research Councils through the Global Challenges Research Fund.
The China component will focus on how Chinese investors can contribute to the sustainable and climate-resilient development of East Africa’s development corridors, says Meng Han, China representative of the UNEP-WCMC.
She says the preliminary consideration of the China component of the project is around the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania and the Lamu-Southern SudanEthiopia Transport Corridor in Kenya. The expectation is that what’s learned from the two can be brought to other development corridors and more broadly to contribute to the sustainable development of Africa.
China’s investment in Africa has been growing rapidly. According to figures from the Ministry of Commerce, direct investment reached about $3.1 billion in 2017 — 40 times that of 2003.
Much of the investment goes to sectors that have a direct impact on the natural environment. For instance, more than half of Chinese FDI in Africa is concentrated in the construction and mining sectors.
“This is driven by growing demand from African countries for infrastructure as their economies develop, and also the demand in China for new growth opportunities for its abundant capital,” Meng says.
China’s investment in Africa will definitely grow. At the Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation this month, President Xi Jinping announced that Beijing would provide an additional $60 billion to support sustainable development in Africa.
“In addition to the dynamics of Chinese investment, we also recognize climate change as one of the major environmental factors that will influence the sustainability of development in vulnerable areas of Kenya and Tanzania,” Meng says.
She adds that in addition to the direct impact that climate change may generate for businesses — for example, storm damage on infrastructure — it can also alter distribution patterns of natural resource (for example, water) that will ultimately affect the distribution and behaviors of wildlife, humans and businesses as well as the interaction patterns among them.
The project’s African and UK partners are also in the process of developing scoping papers. As the analytical work progresses, the four country teams will collaborate to bring that work together in a combined picture to guide the research and capacity building priorities of the project from 2019 to 2021.
Zhang Xiang, secretary-general of the China International Contractors Association, which has about 1,500 member companies, says that while its members participate in the infrastructure projects in Africa, more Chinese companies are realizing that they need to build these projects in a sustainable and green way.
“Many companies realize they need to apply win-win concepts, and need to be socially responsible, including building projects with better quality, respecting the rights of employees and paying more attention to energy conservation and environmental protection.”
For example, when building the Mombasa-Nairobi railway, China Road and Bridge Corp developed an environmental management system that was compatible with local laws, to reduce as much as possible its projects’ influence on nature. It designed passageways and bridges for wild animals to cross the construction site, and also strictly controlled the noise, dust and other pollutants.
This sets a good example for other Chinese companies, she says.