Xi’s tour offers new impetus to China-Africa ties

By Mark Kapchanga Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/19 20:53:40

The friendship and cooperation between Africa and China will get a fresh impetus this month as President Xi Jinping visits Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Mauritius.

It is the first tour of the continent since Xi was re-elected the country's president. In Africa, the Chinese president's visit is seen as part of the efforts to boost trade and economic relations besides cementing cooperation on the Belt and Road initiative - a grand plan to connect Asia with Europe and Africa in a monumental trade and infrastructure network.

To date, the Belt and Road initiative is one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, with some 70 countries covered. This represents about 65 percent of the global population and 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

The atmosphere has already been built up in Kigali for the arrival of President Xi who will be landing in Rwanda on July 22. Rwanda expects to sign several agreements and memorandums of understanding with China covering trade, investment, infrastructure and defense. In fact, Rwandan President Paul Kagame expects that the Chinese president would help secure funding for major roads, and the expansion of RwandAir, Rwanda's national carrier. If successful, the financial support would bolster RwandAir's regional expansion, putting it at a prime spot to compete with other thriving African airlines such as the South African Airlines, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, among others.

In March 2017, Kagame paid a visit to China. He is expected back in Beijing later in September to attend the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. The relations between the two countries have so far been fruitful. The Chinese government has donated a five-storey ministerial complex worth $37 million and constructed a block, started in 2016 and expected to be completed by the end of the year, to host the Prime Minister's Office, and several ministries and government institutions. Statistics show that in 2017, Chinese investments in Rwanda were estimated at $200 million. Rwanda imported goods worth over $358 million from China the same year.

It is worth noting that in December 2015, China committed more than $60 billion to invest in Africa in what President Xi termed a win-win investment collaboration between China and Africa.

In Senegal, China's presence has been conspicuous, especially after the ties between the two countries were restored in 2005. China is today financing the construction of Senegal's biggest road project. The 113-kilometer Ila Touba Highway is expected to cost $812 million and will link the capital Dakar to the second biggest and religious center of the country, Touba. The Senegalese government hopes this project will generate thousands of jobs, particularly for the youths, and ease the movement of goods and services in the country

That is not all. In December 2017, it was announced that China will reconstruct the railway line between Dakar and the Malian town of Kididra, more than 600 kilometers apart. China Railways Construction Corporation is poised to carry out the work which would play a prime role in reviving the economy by catalyzing trade with Mali.

Besides speaking with Xi on issues related to Rwanda, Kagame will likely discuss the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Now the African Union chairman, the Rwandan president has been a key champion of AfCFTA which promises to integrate African countries' economic prospects.

Signed in March by more than 44 African leaders, the agreement envisages a 55-nation bloc, which, if successfully implemented, would be the world's biggest single market with free movement of goods and services for over 1.2 billion people. Collectively, AfCFTA's GDP is more than $2.5 trillion.

This is a huge opportunity. The integration of African economies would in fact bolster China's confidence in Africa as an investment destination and an emerging market. But for African countries to benefit from their friendship with China, they need to reset their approach to issues.

The author is a researcher and expert on China-Africa cooperation based in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow him on Twitter:@kapchanga. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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