China's pledge to fulfill Belt & Road projects in Africa

Eric Biegon China Plus Published: 2018-06-05 14:13:05
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By Eric Biegon

The month of May marks the one year anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, which was formally unveiled to the world at a colorful ceremony in Beijing in 2017. The event was graced by many heads of state and governments that would later endorse and appended their signatures to the initiative, affirming their own place in China’s grand plan to connect the world.

The initiative first proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013 has had a huge impact, especially in the developing world, becoming a project of enormous scale and vision.

Kenyans sing and dance beside one of the first batch of locomotives for the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway in Mombasa, Kenya, on Jan. 11, 2017.[Photo: Xinhua]

Kenyans sing and dance beside one of the first batch of locomotives for the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway in Mombasa, Kenya, on Jan. 11, 2017.[Photo: Xinhua]

It’s still early days, but the fruits of this “project of the century” have been seen and felt in areas where its footprints have left a mark in Africa. Kenya and Ethiopia provide clear-cut examples in this regard. Others, like Djibouti, Egypt, Namibia, Tanzania, and Mozambique, to name but a few, are following in their footsteps.

Some of the world’s renowned companies, such as the law firm Baker McKenzie and global real estate giant Knight Frank, have called the initiative a silver bullet for Africa, detailing opportunities presented by the Belt and Road to the continent.

East Africa took the lead by enlisting in the initiative, immediately turning into an important component of it. Countries in this region have benefited from mega infrastructure works following heavy investments in ultra-modern railways, roads, ports, airports, and industrial parks by China.

By coincidence, this month also marks one year since the launch of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway, which began operations on May 31, 2017. The Mombasa-Nairobi SGR is now a key hallmark of cooperation between Beijing and Nairobi.

The SGR project, which was financed and constructed by China, is estimated to have so far created 46,000 jobs for local people, reduced the cost of transport, cut travel time between Mombasa and Nairobi almost by half, and boosted Kenya’s GDP by more than 1 percent.

What is perhaps even more remarkable is that since its commissioning, the passenger train, the Madaraka Express, has transported in excess of one million passengers, while cargo trains have ferried more than 300,000 tons of goods. Kenya Railways has placed orders for more cargo and passenger trains to meet the high demand.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta recently launched an economic plan christened “the Big Four Agenda”. The initiative targets food security, affordable housing, reasonable healthcare, and manufacturing. Chinese enterprises have endeavored to ensure the plan is fully realized.

Information obtained from China’s embassy in Nairobi shows that Chinese enterprises are investing 100 million U.S. dollars to establish an industrialization research, development, and production base, 80 million U.S. dollars for the construction of manufacturing facilities for the Twyford Company, which is the biggest ceramics company in East Africa, and 480 million U.S. dollars to build the Nairobi Global Trade Centre. Additionally, these enterprises have injected substantial resources into the construction of industrial parks in the country’s major towns of Eldoret and Mombasa.

These efforts under the Belt and Road Initiative will enhance Kenya’s capacity for self-sustainable development, and speed up the country’s industrialization, while creating a large number of job opportunities. 

China’s government is also offering hundreds of scholarships to Kenyan students every year to study in China. And to further promote closer people-to-people exchanges, it has been encouraging its citizens to make Kenya their choice for a holiday destination.

Ethiopia’s Industrial Parks

In Ethiopia, 15 industrial parks built with Chinese money and expertise will be fully operational by June. About half of these parks are located along the Addis Ababa-Djibouti electrified railway line built by China. The railway line will speedily transport products made in the industrial parks to ports in neighboring Djibouti.

The 756-kilometer railway, which recently started commercial operations, has significantly reduced the time it takes to transport Ethiopian goods to ports in Djibouti and vice versa from 48 hours down to approximately 10 hours.

There is no doubt that this will boost Ethiopia's prospects of becoming a manufacturing hub in Africa by 2025.

Mega Port Project in Tanzania

In Tanzania, construction is set to begin on the 10 billion U.S. dollar Bagamoyo port project. The Tanzanian and Chinese governments have finally hammered out a deal that paves the way for the commencement of the project, which has been hampered by delays.

The state-owned China Merchants Holdings International and Oman's State General Reserve Fund are teaming up with the Tanzanian government to develop what many believe will be one of the biggest ports in Africa.

In a report released by World Bank in 2016, inefficiencies at the Dar es Salaam port cost Tanzania and its neighbors up to 2.6 billion U.S. dollars annually.

Solar Power in Egypt

In Egypt, a Chinese green energy company has started constructing of one of the biggest solar power plant in North Africa. The project, with an output of 186 megawatts, is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

The project, made up of four solar power stations, has been earmarked to generate up to two gigawatts of utility-scale solar capacity.

Belt and Road projects are also taking shape in the southern part of Africa. In Namibia, Chinese companies are helping the country to realize its ambition to become a logistics hub. China Harbor Engineering Company is building a new container terminal and oil jetty at the port, as the country seeks to establish a gateway to the southern African region.

In Mozambique, the Chinese-built Maputo Bridge is set to open in June. The southern African nation hopes the project will become the nation's international passageway to South Africa.

The present state of affairs in the highlighted countries is proof that the multi-billion dollar framework of the Belt and Road Initiative gives Africa the grandest of opportunities to take on decades-old challenges such as backward infrastructure, a skills shortage, and inadequate financing for projects, which have greatly contributed to its under-development.

China places great significance on the Belt and Road Initiative, having entrenched it in its constitution. As it is presently structured, the Belt and Road Initiative can complement the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for growth, sustainable development, and the technological transformation of the continent.

(Eric Biegon is a News reporter, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation – KBC Channel 1 TV)

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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, 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.