Driving the industrialization of Africa with the Belt and Road

China Plus Published: 2018-07-24 19:19:45
Share this with Close
Messenger Messenger Pinterest LinkedIn

Note: The following is an edited translation of a commentary from the Chinese-language “Commentaries on International Affairs.”

China's President Xi Jinping arrived in Pretoria on Monday on a state visit to South Africa, after concluding state visits to Senegal and Rwanda. He is due to visit Mauritius before returning to China. One of the things that these countries have in common is their participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Security personnel is seen at Nairobi Terminus of Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, May 31, 2017. [Photo: Xinhua]

Security personnel is seen at Nairobi Terminus of Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, May 31, 2017. [Photo: Xinhua]

Although their national conditions and levels of economic development may vary, the people of China and Africa are like-minded when it comes to their determination to follow the road towards development and prosperity. Five years ago when President Xi Jinping visited Africa for the first time, he put forward the policy of "sincerity, real results, affinity, and good faith". By this, he meant treating African friends with sincerity, strengthening cooperation, and solving shared problems in a candid manner. In the five years that followed, this approach has deepened and broadened China-Africa cooperation and friendship.

Many countries in Africa have expressed their strong desire to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. Senegal's President Macky Sall and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame are two leaders who have repeatedly expressed support for the initiative. There are both internal and external factors that make participating in the Belt and Road an attractive choice.

Looking at the external factors, Europe and the United States are in a phase of strategic contraction when it comes to their policies towards Africa. After U.S. President Donald Trump took office, the United States reduced its focus on Africa. Meanwhile, Europe is turning inwards as it struggles to cope with the refugee crisis and the specter of terrorism.

At the same time that Europe and the United States are turning away from the continent, Africa is collectively looking eastward. Africa has rising expectations for the role that China can play. Many African countries see participation in the Belt and Road Initiative as a way to accelerate the transfer of technology to Africa, and in doing so, create more jobs and drive the economic transformation of the continent.

Looking at some of the internal factors, many African leaders hope to reverse the trend towards deindustrialization in their countries with the help of the Belt and Road Initiative. Since the 1980s, under the guidance of Western experts advocating their particular vision of structural reform, Africa has repeatedly adjusted its model of economic development but it has remained at the edge of the international economy, and has even experienced a rollback of industrialization. The share of Africa's gross domestic product that comes from industrial manufacturing fell from 18 percent in 1975 to 11 percent in 2015. The Belt and Road Initiative provides opportunities for industrial cooperation and technology transfers, which many African governments consider to be an important opportunity for driving industrialization in their continent.

The foundation for African participation in the Belt and Road Initiative is solid. China and Africa share common and converging ideas about development. Under the existing framework for China-Africa cooperation, the two sides will jointly build road, railway, and regional aviation networks in a bid to promote infrastructure construction and industrialization. They will also implement cooperation plans, including the China-Africa industrialization plan, which stress the importance of the inter-connectivity of infrastructure. At the same time, Africa has also taken the initiative to boost its connectivity with China. For example, according to the African Union's "Agenda 2063", China plays a key role in supporting Africa's industrialization.

Africa is becoming an indispensable part of the Belt and Road Initiative. After years of work, it has become a region where the initiative has achieved fruitful results. For example, the Chinese-built Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti, and the Mombasa-Nairobi railway that links Kenya's capital Nairobi and its port city Mombasa, have both started operation. On July 21, President Xi and Senegal's President Macky Sall witnessed the signing of their Belt and Road cooperation agreement – the first Belt and Road participation agreement of its kind signed by a West African country. And on July 23, President Xi Jinping and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame witnessed the signing of a variety of cooperation documents, including one for the Belt and Road Initiative.

It is clear to many people that, as more and more Belt and Road projects in Africa yield positive results, the initiative will continue to thrive throughout the African continent as it moves along the road towards shared prosperity.

Related stories

Share this story on


LU Xiankun Professor LU Xiankun is Managing Director of LEDECO Geneva and Associate Partner of IDEAS Centre Geneva. He is Emeritus Professor of China Institute for WTO Studies of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) and Wuhan University (WHU) of China and visiting professor or senior research fellow of some other universities and think tanks in China and Europe. He also sits in management of some international business associations and companies, including as Senior Vice President of Shenzhen UEB Technology LTD., a leading e-commerce company of China. Previously, Mr. LU was senior official of Chinese Ministry of Commerce and senior diplomat posted in Europe, including in Geneva as Counsellor and Head of Division of the Permanent Mission of China to the WTO and in Brussels as Commercial Secretary of the Permanent Mission of China to the EU. Benjamin Cavender Benjamin Cavender is a Shanghai based consultant with more than 11 years of experience helping companies understand consumer behavior and develop go to market strategies for China. He is a frequent speaker on economic and consumer trends in China and is often featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and Channel News Asia. Sara Hsu Sara Hsu is an associate professor from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She is a regular commentator on Chinese economy. Xu Qinduo Xu Qinduo is CRI's former chief correspondent to Washington DC, the United States. He works as the producer, host and commentator for TODAY, a flagship talk show on current affairs. Mr. Xu contributes regularly to English-language newspapers including Shenzhen Daily and Global Times as well as Chinese-language radio and TV services. Lin Shaowen A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized. George N. Tzogopoulos Dr George N. Tzogopoulos is an expert in media and politics/international relations as well as Chinese affairs. He is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre International de Européenne (CIFE) and Visiting Lecturer at the European Institute affiliated with it and is teaching international relations at the Department of Law of the Democritus University of Thrace. George is the author of two books: US Foreign Policy in the European Media: Framing the Rise and Fall of Neoconservatism (IB TAURIS) and The Greek Crisis in the Media: Stereotyping in the International Press (Ashgate) as well as the founder of chinaandgreece.com, an institutional partner of CRI Greek. David Morris David Morris is the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment Commissioner in China, a former Australian diplomat and senior political adviser. Harvey Dzodin After a distinguished career in the US government and American media Dr. Harvey Dzodin is now a Beijing-based freelance columnist for several media outlets. While living in Beijing, he has published over 200 columns with an emphasis on arts, culture and the Belt & Road initiative. He is also a sought-after speaker and advisor in China and abroad. He currently serves as Nonresident Research Fellow of the think tank Center for China and Globalization and Senior Advisor of Tsinghua University National Image Research Center specializing in city branding. Dr. Dzodin was a political appointee of President Jimmy Carter and served as lawyer to a presidential commission. Upon the nomination of the White House and the US State Department he served at the United Nations Office in Vienna, Austria. He was Director and Vice President of the ABC Television in New York for more than two decades.