The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by China in 2013 as a new development strategy, has provided fresh opportunities for China to reach out to the rest of the world. In the past nine years, the BRI has evolved from an initiative covering only roads and maritime corridors in Asia and Europe into a broader program connecting almost all of Asia, Africa, and Europe with numerous projects in those regions.
In response to China’s growing influence in Africa and its ambitious initiative, there has been much debate about whether this is too much of a good thing or if it actually provides some benefits. While some see Chinese investment as an opportunity for the improvement of infrastructure on the continent, others consider it nothing more than a Trojan horse designed to ensure China has control over access to African resources.
The BRI and Africa: Is China investing too much?
One of the most common arguments raised in Africa against the BRI is that Chinese investment is excessive. Already, Chinese investment in Africa is estimated to be twice as large as that of the US annually.
However, there is concern that with the BRI, China will outstrip investments to the point where Africa will become overly reliant on Chinese investment. While the BRI may cause some issues for Africa, the claim that these are excessive investments is somewhat misleading. The BRI and subsequent Chinese investment are not one-way streets.
Is the BRI a tool for China to gain control of African resources?
Some argue that the BRI is a tool for controlling African resources, particularly minerals. This has been a particularly prevalent viewpoint in the past due to China’s historical emphasis on commodities in its investment in Africa. Others believe that China’s control of the Suez Canal will give it control over the flow of commodities between India and Africa.
Despite these concerns, the BRI is not a tool for China to control African resources; rather, Chinese investment in Africa is driven by necessity rather than greed.
China’s rising demand for commodities such as copper, which it requires for its expanding economy, is met by a dwindling supply, necessitating investment in new sources.
What is China actually investing in Africa?
Another common criticism leveled at the BRI in Africa is that China is investing in low-yielding projects. Others claim that Chinese investment will outnumber African investment.
It is important to note, however, that the BRI is not a single coherent entity, but rather a massive movement of investment from China to all parts of the world.
Chinese investment in Africa spans a wide range of projects, from airports and railways to solar power plants and hospitals. The BRI does not have a predetermined agenda for what China should invest in; rather, it is a product of each country’s needs, with the level of investment determined by how much the host country can provide as an incentive.
As a scheme that connects China to the rest of the world, the BRI provides opportunities for Africans. The BRI allows African countries to use their comparative advantages to gain access to the Chinese market.
Friendly economic and trade exchanges between China and Africa have aided African countries’ development through investment.
Unlike the Africa-West relationship, which was defined by superiority complexes and various imbalances, Africa-China relations are defined by mutual interest, boosting economic and trade cooperation.
African countries are also acutely aware that completely replicating the Western development model and being divorced from their national circumstances is not only ineffective for Africa’s development but may even be detrimental.
In some ways, African countries can only choose their development path based on their national circumstances. The Chinese modernization path respects national conditions, emphasizes a diverse development path, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
Above all, the Chinese model emphasizes mutually beneficial cooperation, which the majority of developing countries welcome.
The Belt and Road Initiative demonstrates to the world once more that China does not seek hegemony. Its goal is to establish a “community of shared future” with neighboring countries, as well as a China-Africa community of shared future, in order for China and African countries to share development, people-to-people connectivity, and interests.
Previously, China-Africa friendship and cooperation were primarily supported at the national level. Now, a market mechanism of cooperation, exchange, common development, and mutual benefit is required in the new era.
The situation in Africa has been stable in recent years, thanks to the new model of China-Africa cooperation under the BRI, and the investment and business environments have gradually improved.
The BRI is a massive development strategy that aims to connect Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania. It is a large-scale initiative that will attract billions of dollars in investment and have a significant impact on all of the countries that are linked by it.
Cooperation between China and Africa serves mutual interests and benefits. The initiative will have a long-term impact on the world.
(Misael Lemma can be reached at [email protected])
Contributed by Misael Lemma