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China’s Belt and Road initiative and its implications for Africa


China’s Belt and Road initiative and its implications for Africa

China’s Belt and Road initiative and its implications for Africa
Photo credit: Bloomberg

According to the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the Belt and Road Initiative is the most important feature of China’s foreign policy. The Initiative aims to interconnect countries in Asia, Europe and Africa through an ambitious vision for infrastructure, economic and political cooperation.

Since China’s President Xi Jinping first proposed the Initiative in 2013, it has mainly focused on Asia and Europe where it has unfolded at a breathtaking speed through the signing of dozens of bilateral agreements and the implementation of first large scale infrastructure projects. It is only now that it starts to become clear how Africa will participate in the Initiative with first bilateral agreements signed with South Africa in 2015 and Egypt in 2016.

The objective of this study is to summarize and analyze best available information on the Belt and Road Initiative in the context of China-Africa relations and develop scenarios on how the Initiative is likely to unfold in Africa. The study pursues this objective by offering a first-of-its-kind overview of key actors and institutional arrangements of the Belt and Road Initiative in China and Africa before developing a ranking of African countries that are likely to become part of the Initiative. The study finds that in addition to South Africa and Egypt, Angola, Kenya and Tanzania are likely to be immediate Belt and Road Initiative countries and the Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Morocco, and Mozambique to join in the near future.

China and African countries have agreed on various occasions that China’s initial development approach of ‘pollute first, clean up later’ should not be replicated on the African continent. It is therefore paramount to ensure that Belt and Road Initiative activities support the sustainable development of African countries.

The study reviews potential positive and negative impacts of the Initiative and concludes that negative impacts can be managed by focusing on implementing respective provisions that African countries have agreed to in the African Union Agenda 2063’s First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2014-2023) as well as by building on provisions of the Belt and Road Initiative vision document and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2016).

The study concludes by offering specific recommendations for WWF on how to support Chinese and African partners towards ensuring that the Belt and Road Initiative will foster sustainable development in Africa as well as on urgently required further research and assessment work.


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