‘BRI’ Express and future of China-Africa ties

By Charles Onunaiju Source:Global Times Published: 2018/9/9 18:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

During the gathering of China-Africa leaders at the third summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing, the theme of "Belt and Road" featured prominently. Proposed in 2013, the "Silk Road Economic Belt" and the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" is a global framework of connectivity spanning an integrated network of overland, maritime and digital infrastructure. 

The "Belt" is a network of overland infrastructure of transport arteries consisting of highways, railways and airport terminals. The "Road" consists of sea transport arteries that would span sea routes, ports and construction of fiber optic cables to facilitate integrated digital network. The "21stCentury Maritime Silk Road" lays emphasis on ways and means to achieve port renovations, boost shipping line upgrades and improvement of shipping capacity in the 21st century. Beijing seeks to effectively avoid the traditional risk of globalization and usher in a new type of ocean civilization featuring the integration of human beings and the ocean, harmonious existence of countries and sustainable development.

The Belt and Road is essentially a global transport network of integrated and interconnected systems that is composed of railways, highways, aviation, navigation, oil and gas pipelines, transmission lines and communication networks.

Along these lines would gradually emerge formation of industrial clusters and other wide range of economic activities, serving these networks. Through the deepening of industrial effects, an economic corridor featuring comprehensive development of construction, metallurgy, energy, finance, communication, information, logistics and tourism will be established.

Remarkably, the Belt and Road framework of international cooperation will witness and accelerate a process in which China transfers quality production capacity down the global industrial value chain.

As Africa's leaders gathered in Beijing, it was in the best interests of the people of Africa, whom they represent, to closely and dispassionately evaluate core contents of the Belt and Road initiative. If there are however, areas in which Africa felt that its concerns are not adequately reconciled to the Belt and Road process, the mechanism of diligent and routine consultations between China and Africa, generously offered by FOCAC process, especially at its highest level of leader's summit, is an excellent platform to compare notes with the Chinese leadership and forge ahead in the spirit of win-win cooperation.

The opportunities of the Belt and Road framework bring an uncommon vigor to the existing cooperation between China and Africa in addition to extending its frontiers and deepening its contents. Africa's development is at a historic juncture, where it would have to take advantage of a unique momentum, provided by a phenomenal international partnership to underwrite the strategic and practical contents of Pan-Africanism, which includes integrated network of infrastructural connectivity to boost trade, enhance people-to-people contacts and create integrated industrial network in the region and beyond.

With enormous goodwill and all weather friendly cooperation with Beijing, Africa can join the ride on the "Belt and Road" express, bring its accumulated wisdom of community resilience on board, give the full expression of its contemporary renaissance and integrate it with the Chinese dream of rejuvenation and jointly construct a community of shared future for mankind. Having historically endured the brunt and pain of monumental injustice, perpetrated by colonial domination and imperialist plunder, China and Africa along with the vast numbers of countries in the global South are in strategic and vantage positions to engineer an inclusive international order of a human community of shared destiny.

The Belt and Road paradigm is not a bliss of heavenly passage without challenges. The connectivity it seeks, which is embedded in the overland, maritime and digital transport arteries are also fraught with risks of all kinds. But the innate strength of the Belt and Road process, consists essentially in the fact that security threats and development challenges are better confronted with sustainable development efforts to neutralize its most toxic effects and make it more routinely and manageable.

Because the Belt and Road process looks forward to tapping from the accumulated and diverse wisdom of humanity, spanning all countries and cultures, it proclaims it modest origins as China initiated but owned by the world and also depends on the world for vigor, sustainability and success. As the Belt and Road is a critical paradigm and harbinger of an emerging inclusive and participatory global order, Africa has a unique opportunity to make original contributions to a new world order.

The author is director of the Center for China Studies, Abuja Utako, Abuja. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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