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FOCAC scholars praise B&R, African infrastructure growth

Author  :  Zhao Yuan     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-09-14

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, linking the capitals of Ethiopia and Djibouti, was built with Chinese investment and technical know-how, an example of China’s contribution to African investemnt. It’s the first transboundary and by far the longest electrified railway line in Africa. Photo: FILE

2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was held in Beijing Sept. 3-4. What are the future opportunities for China-Africa cooperation? How can the “Belt and Road” initiative (B&R) promote African infrastructure development? Scholars shared their insights with CSST.

“China will undoubtedly continue to be very important to Africa as a market for African exports and as a source of investment and technical know-how,” said Christopher Cramer, professor of the political economy of development at SOAS University of London. The cooperative relationship between China and African countries will continue to improve given the increases in Chinese state projects and the number of private sector investors (from various parts of China). Another factor that Cramer thought will continue to be central is China’s ability to contribute experience and financing models for the expansion and upgrading of African power, communications and transport infrastructure, including wind and hydro.

Asit Biswas, distinguished visiting professor of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, contended that some of the B&R projects that are already underway, particularly in Africa, offer insights into how the initiative will increase regional connectivity. During the building process, China has held “ongoing discussions with various countries and made decisions based on consensus as well as the economic, social and political feasibility of individual projects.” Many African countries will reap benefits from the initiative, including Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Biswas pointed out that the long history of cooperation between China and African countries means that China has already provided significant help in developing infrastructure facilities. For instance, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, supported by China, is the first transboundary and longest electrified railway line in Africa.

The infrastructural weaknesses in much of Africa are a major obstacle to economic and social development, thus Chinese infrastructure is frequently a focus there. Cramer believes that more available financing could still be used for better quality roads, light railways, etc.

Biswas said that with the expansion of the B&R in Africa, the region will see transportation costs reduced, connectivity improved and long-term sustainable development.

Cramer also highlighted the connectivity of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people between China and Africa. The B&R adds new impetus to the development of African countries. Through expansion of infrastructure, rising investment in manufacturing and more technology transfer, future China-Africa cooperation will be sustainable.

Editor: Li Yujie

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