‘One Belt, One Road’ can find place for Africa

By He Wenping Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-29 19:58:01

llustration: Liu Rui/GT

Recently, former chief economist of the World Bank, Justin Yifu Lin, raised the idea that the "One Belt and One Road" initiative should include Africa. He argued that this will offer major opportunities for Chinese companies to explore their overseas market, and the strategy will provide a boost to developing countries and benefit China in the meantime.

As an initiative of economic cooperation with foreign countries to promote common development, the "One Belt and One Road" project that aims at integrating Eurasia's economic development also includes cooperation with Africa.

For example, to form a closed circle with the "One Belt," which refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt through the continent, "One Road," which refers to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is a route linking Europe, Asia and Africa through the sea.

Over the past few years, the Chinese leadership has been advocating to increase exchanges among African countries as well as their interaction with China, through initiatives such as the Sino-African community of common destiny, raised by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Africa in 2013, as well as joint construction of the three networks of railways, highways and regional aviation in Africa, proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during his African trip in 2014.

The goal of these projects is to realize two connections, one of which is the link between the industrial structure adjustment in China and the industrial development in Africa, and the other is the link between the Chinese "One Belt and One Road" strategy and the strategy of revitalization and development in Africa.

In this context, the large scale of infrastructure construction could pave the way for the two connections and more interaction between Africa and China.

Infrastructure is not only the foundation of a country's economy, but also constitutes a significant indicator of national economic potential. Africa's infrastructure lags behind, which seriously restricts its economic progress.

In addition, because of its own shortage of financial resources, Africa is facing at least a $20 billion shortfall in funding every year over the construction of infrastructure facilities. But this can complement in China's global strategy and infrastructure advantages.

Besides, most African countries' level of industrialization is relatively low. In terms of natural resources, cheap labor, and market potential, however, Africa is the world's richest continent.

China has enough development funds, appropriate technology and equipment, as well as abundant experience of development, since we have successfully grown from an agricultural country to being the world factory. Not only that, China is deepening its economic transition, and seeking to transferring its massive equipment and technology overseas, which completely matches the development needs of African countries, which are eager to achieve economic diversification and industrialization.

Africans also have their dream of poverty reduction as well as development. Realizing continual exchange among African countries and industrialization is a prerequisite to achieve the dream.

For that reason, African countries as well as the African Union have adopted ideas such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the Declaration on the Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa, and Agenda 2063, hoping to make the 21st century the century of Africa's development.

Thus, from a macroscopic perspective, the "One Belt and One Road" initiative and Africa's development strategy in the 21st century share the same spirit. Combining the two strategies will not only create new momentum for Sino-African ties, but also present a new approach for South-South cooperation.

On Tuesday, Zhang Ming, special envoy of the Chinese government and vice foreign minister of China, signed a Memorandum of Understanding document with Chair of the African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

According to the memorandum, China and some African countries will jointly carry out the construction of railways, highways, airports and industrialization projects throughout the continent. The process of combining the strategies from the two sides is already on the way.

The author is a senior research fellow at the Charhar Institute and a research fellow of African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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