The Belt and Road Initiative: New Life for China-africa Cooperation
The Belt and Road Initiative
The Belt and Road Initiative is broadening consensus, strengthening friendship and promoting infrastructure development in Africa.
More than a decade ago, the first formal China-africa summit, officially referred to as the Forum on China-africa Cooperation (FOCAC), opened in Beijing on a bright November morning. This year, the meeting coincides with China celebrating its four decades of reform and opening up. It provides a good opportunity for Chinese and African leaders to deepen cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The fact that China is sharing its amazing experiences in industrialization and development over the past four decades with the rest of the world is a key element of its recent success. China lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty, as attested by such institutions as the World Bank, through investment in urban and rural infrastructure projects and mega-projects in transportation, water and power. This is an unparalleled achievement that could be replicated in Africa.
The Belt and Road Initiative, a vehicle intended to drive growth in regional connectivity, is breathing life into China-africa cooperation by broadening consensus, strengthening friendship and promoting infrastructure development in Africa. The Initiative has expanded China-africa cooperation to broader frontiers such as trade, infrastructure, skills transfer, sports, tourism, medicine, technical management and scientific research. It has also enabled Chinese investment and loans in Africa to prioritize infrastructure projects such as Kenya’s monumental Mombasa-nairobi Standard Gauge Railway.
The Initiative has also helped propel bilateral trade between China and Africa recently. For example, China Customs statistics suggested that China-africa trade was “off to a flying start” with US$170 billion in 2017, up by 14 percent year-onyear. Furthermore, the trade volume between China and African economies reached US$116 billion in the first seven months of 2018, up by 18.7 percent year-on-year.
Now, how African economies strategize by leveraging the Belt and Road Initiative is important considering the Initiative is a good channel for Africa to engage China more in infrastructure. Tremendous opportunities exist for Africa to secure Chinese financing for its infrastructure development to support intra-continental trade, which will help facilitate the newly signed agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area.
Africa is also likely to benefit from the newly created China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), which is designed to coordinate China’s foreign aid programs. The CIDCA institutionalizes the mutually beneficial and win-win concept of “development coordination” that is a key component of the Belt and Road Initiative. Africa has yet to climb the value chain of mineral processing and manufacturing. With the Initiative African economies could attract such funding to add value to their natural resources and produce commodities, which would help the region unlock the full potential of its natural resources.
We are facing dramatic and dynamic changes in the world. China and Africa have once again come to a crossroads since both sides are undergoing economic and social transformation. Numerous African economies are excited about full participation in the Belt and Road Initiative to reverse Africa’s anti-industrialization process after the failed adjustment guided by Western “structured reforms” in the 1980s. The ultimate goal is to accelerate technology transfer, job creation and Africa’s comprehensive transformation.
China is now continuing diversified high-tech, labor-intensive and capital-driven industrial capacity cooperation with countries across the African continent as well as with islands nearby. It is certain that the FOCAC Beijing Summit in September 2018 has created even more impetus to accelerate the fourth industrial revolution and fuel an economic leap forward in both China and Africa.
The Beijing Summit of the Forum on ChinaAfrica Cooperation was held from September 3 to 4, 2018. The photo shows a man taking pictures of a flowerbed decoration for the summit. VCG