Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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BRI 2.0 and Ethiopia: A way forward

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has entered its Phase 2. According to numerous independent reports, BRI 2.0 holds brighter prospects in terms of further expansion, scope, utility and multidimensional trans-regional connectivity in the next decade. The BRI embodies Chinese President Xi’s extraordinary vision, transcending borders, connecting continents and fostering economic cooperation on an unprecedented global scale. It stands as a testament to China’s shared commitment to progress and mutual prosperity.

Ethiopia stands as a pioneer in China-Africa cooperation, serving as a key connecting hub for the BRI in Africa. The Chinese government is committed to supporting Ethiopia’s developmental aspirations through the BRI and other initiatives. Evidently, Ethiopia and China are steadily promoting high-quality BRI development, initiating meaningful cooperation under the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and driving the implementation of the nine programs under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. These efforts are yielding dividends for both countries.

With its wealth in minerals, metals, agriculture, infrastructure development, blue economy, and most importantly, industrialization and human capital, the African continent holds the promise of future global development. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) envisions Africa as an emerging economic, political, and social powerhouse. Consequently, Ethiopia’s role becomes pivotal in further expanding the BRI’s footprint across Africa.

In this regard, Ethiopia is the window of greater regional connectivity, food security, promotion of renewables and minerals and metals exports to the outer world. Moreover, interestingly, the aging populations of European Union and ASEAN have also increased the influx of its human capital in the global countries and communities in the future.

According to reports, Ethiopia’s real GDP growth for 2023 is projected to reach six percent, a significant increase from an estimated 4.4 percent in 2022. This growth is primarily driven by robust fixed investment, notably following the resolution of the conflict in Tigray. In fact, Ethiopia has surpassed the GDP growth of many regional countries in 2023.

In 2024, the growth rate is poised to accelerate further, reaching approximately 6.8 percent. This surge is expected as private consumption gains momentum and foreign investment inflows increase.

Ethiopia’s inclusion in the BRICS has significantly bolstered its economic potential and global presence, signaling promising prospects for its macro-economy. This augments the country’s ambitious drive for industrialization and infrastructure development.

The close collaboration on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) holds paramount importance in the high-quality China-Ethiopia cooperation under the BRI. This partnership marks a significant stride toward realizing the objectives of a robust capacity-building mechanism.

In its BRI cooperation with China, a host of crucial infrastructure development projects in Ethiopia, ranging from roads, railways, industrial parks, energy development projects to export-oriented industries, have yielded tangible results. The China-Ethiopia BRI cooperation has been wide-ranging, fruitful and pace-setting in Africa. The two sides have successfully established the all-weather strategic partnership.

The Chinese President Xi emphasized that China supports Ethiopia in safeguarding its sovereignty, security and development interests. China is ready to work with Ethiopia to strengthen practical cooperation in various fields under such frameworks as the BRI and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, support and participate in Ethiopia’s post-war reconstruction and economic revitalization, strengthen cooperation in green development, and implement the Global Development Initiative to boost Ethiopia’s development effort.

Ethiopia expressed strong endorsement of the Belt and Road Initiative, which has borne substantial results due to fruitful collaboration with China, at the Ethiopia-China investment forum held in Beijing during October 2023.

More than 400 delegates from Ethiopia and China rigorously came together to delve into deeper cooperation and shared development in the forum themed “Exploring Untapped Investment Potential in the Heart of Africa.” Ethiopian officials presented the most recent advancements and investment possibilities in sectors such as infrastructure, mining, and energy.

Interestingly, Ethiopia attributes its double-digit growth in the past decades to investment from China. China/BRI has revolutionized the infrastructural development in Ethiopia and now these investments are booming in the shape of building roads, bridges and railways. Moreover, the BRI has been one of the main players of achieving a boom in infrastructure development and the manufacturing sector and also created abundant job opportunities for Ethiopian youth in the last ten years.

On its part, the Ethiopian government had outlined five priority investment sectors for bilateral cooperation, including agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, tourism, information communication technology, and the mining sectors and the BRI has further furnished potential of these important sectors of its economy.

The BRI has become an open and inclusive, mutually beneficial and win-win international cooperation platform between China and Ethiopia. It has effectively supported and streamlined its national transportation system which is now contributing to its regional connectivity and national income and GDP growth.

In this connection, the 752.7-km Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti standard gauge railway, also known as the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, has now become an iconic mega project of the BRI which has also injected a crucial impetus to Ethiopia’s development aspirations.

Moreover, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway is not only a transportation line but also a transformative transport economic corridor and a road to socio-economic prosperity. Obviously, it has opened up a railroad corridor to the sea for Ethiopia, effectively driving the development of industrialization and urbanization along the route.

In summary, the bilateral relations between Ethiopia and China are complementary, translating opportunities into real potentials and real potentials into real seas of progress and prosperity. The Chinese BRI has become a mutually beneficial cooperation platform advancing socioeconomic development in Ethiopia and beyond.

It is suggested that the speed and magnitude of implementing the Belt and Road Initiative should be further streamlined, systemized and strengthened between Ethiopia and China which would open new avenues of mutual cooperation and collaboration in terms of health, vaccine cooperation, digitalization, e-commerce, Artificial Intelligence, qualitative industrialization, green energy transformation, rural revitalization, disaster management, EVs, SMEs, banking & finance cooperation, exploration of minerals & metals and above all nurturing of human capital.

(Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan is a research scholar with a M.Phil. in journalism and over 20 years of experience in the sector.)

Contributed by MehmoodUl Hassan Khan (PhD)

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