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Soaring Prospects
The Belt and Road Initiative has given wings to China-Africa cooperation
By Hu Biliang | VOL.11 May ·2019-04-26
Workers make garments at the C&H garment factory in Kigali, capital of Rwanda. The Chinese-funded factory was established in 2015 under the Belt and Road Initiative (XINHUA)
Cooperation between China and African countries has accelerated under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) since it was established in 2000. In this regard, the three FOCAC summits that have taken place played a crucial role in promoting the development of China-Africa cooperation.
At the FOCAC Beijing Summit in November 2006, China announced eight mea-sures to strengthen China-Africa pragmatic cooperation. The FOCAC Johannesburg Summit in December 2015 saw 10 China-Africa cooperation plans adopted aiming to accelerate the process of African countries' industrialization and agricultural modernization and thus enhance their capacity for achieving independent and sustainable development. At the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit, the most notable feature was the two sides' further advancing cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

On the one hand, China-Africa cooperation has provided an important platform for the extension of the initiative to Africa. On the other hand, the joint implementation of the initiative has injected new impetus into the cooperation between China and African countries. Therefore, the FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2019-21) adopted at the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit closely aligns the measures for joint building of the Belt and Road and the strengthening of China-Africa cooperation.

In short, the Belt and Road Initiative has provided a powerful impetus for China-Africa cooperation in the new era. As mentioned in the remarks of China's State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the press conference during the Second Session of the National People's Congress in early March, by aligning the Belt and Road Initiative with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the AU Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of individual African countries, "we will give wings to China-Africa cooperation to help it soar to greater heights." In the end, it will help China and Africa to achieve win-win cooperation and common development, and better benefit the people of China and Africa.

Accelerating cooperation

From a macroscopic point of view, the implementation of the 10 China-Africa cooperation plans proposed at the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit has achieved good results, especially in the aspects of economic development.

According to Chinese official statistics, regarding infrastructure construction, Chinese enterprises have helped build about 30,000 km of roads and more than 30,000 km of new power transmission lines in Africa, while also increasing local power generation capacity by about 20,000 mw. In the aspect of industrial capacity cooperation, Chinese enterprises have established 25 economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa, and more than 400 enterprises are operating in these zones with a total investment of over $6 billion. Taxes paid to the host countries have exceeded $900 million, and the zones have created more than 40,000 jobs for local people. This has significantly promoted the industrialization development of Africa.

In terms of trade, the total trade value between China and Africa in 2000 was only $10 billion. However, it increased to $170 billion in 2017, and continued to increase to more than $200 billion in 2018. China's investment in Africa in 2000 was only $200 million. However, the figure increased to $3.1 billion in 2017, and the stock of various types of investment by the end of 2017 had exceeded $100 billion.

Story of Ethiopia

Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative more than five years ago, countries along the routes have witnessed tremendous changes. Ethiopia, in East Africa, is a good example of this where the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway and the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (AA-LRT) are landmark projects of the initiative.

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway is the first modern electrified standard-gauge railway line in Africa, and also the first electric railway China built in Africa based on Chinese technology, equipment and funds. It is one of the important achievements of the initiative and is also one of the landmark projects of China-Africa industrial capacity cooperation.

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway links Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to the Red Sea port of Djibouti, with a total length of 760 km. It was launched in October 2016, with formal operation beginning in January 2018, after more than one year of trial operations.

Since Ethiopia is a landlocked country in Africa, this railway helps promote the country's international trade. During the first year after its operation, the train has shipped more than 40,000 containers and more than 50,000 tons of bulk cargo through Djibouti.

As transportation is more convenient, the country's imports of fertilizers have increased significantly, which will directly contribute to increasing the country's grain production. Another important change that has taken place is that 10 industrial parks have been built along the railway line in Ethiopia, mainly engaged in textile and garment production, food processing, pharmaceuticals and furniture, which has a direct significance on promoting the development of the country's manufacturing industry and accelerating its industrialization process.

An additional landmark project under the Belt and Road Initiative in Ethiopia is the AA-LRT. It is the first urban rail line built by a Chinese company in Africa, and also the first urban light rail in Ethiopia and the East African region.

The AA-LRT project has adopted Chinese technology and was built with financing support from China. The total length of the light rail will be 75 km. At present, the length of the first phase of the project is 31 km, and the maximum speed of trains along the light rail is 70 km per hour. Since its opening in September 2015, the total operating distance has exceeded 8.2 million km. The total passenger volume has exceeded 130 million, and the average daily passenger flow exceeds 100,000.

As a big city with a population of more than 3 million, Addis Ababa is faced with serious traffic congestion and shortage of public transport facilities. Undoubtedly, the opening and running of this light rail has played a significant role in easing urban traffic flow.

China's experience

The Oriental Industrial Park in Ethiopia is another important project built under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. There are some Chinese private enterprises in the park, manufacturing leather shoes, jeans, and ceramics. In addition, large workshops employ more than 1,000 young workers each. Their products are mainly exported to Europe and the United States.

The entrepreneurs are confident in the development of their businesses in Ethiopia. They believe they will succeed because China has already experienced what African countries are experiencing now and they are very clear about how to go about their operations.

What then is the meaning of the close integration between the Belt and Road Initiative and the further development of China-Africa cooperation? It probably means that the stories of what is happening in Ethiopia will happen in more African countries. It means more railways, highways, bridges and power stations will be built on the African continent to satisfy the needs of Africa's development and promote its industrialization and agricultural modernization process. It also means more industrial parks will be built on the African continent to provide more jobs for local workers and more foreign direct investment will flow into African countries, not only from China but also from many other countries. In addition, it means more exports will help African countries to transform from economies with a trade deficit to economies with a trade surplus as soon as possible, so that they can create more wealth. More importantly, it means the lives of African people will improve and Africa will play a bigger role in the world.

(The author is dean of Emerging Markets Institute and executive dean of Belt and Road School at Beijing Normal University)

(Comments to xyy@chinafrica.cn)

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