Allawi Ssemanda
NewVision Reporter
Journalist @NewVision

By Allawi Ssemanda

While speaking at this year’s G7 summit in Germany on Sunday, June 26, 2022, the president of United States of America president Joe Biden relaunched his global infrastructure initiative dubbed The Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII). President Biden explained that the so-called world’s big seven economies; Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States or G7 will collectively mobilise $600 billion for partnership by the year 2027 to support both public and private projects in developing and middle-income countries.

Biden emphasised that the $600 billion would be used by developing countries to boost their major projects like infrastructure currently facing funding deficits stressing; “we’re offering better options for countries and/or people around the world to invest in critical infrastructure that improves … their lives, all of our lives, and delivers real gains for all of our people.”

Praising his initiative, president Biden observed that $600 billion from the group will help set the world on what he described as a strong path for future “grounded in our shared values,” adding that PGII will be “built using the global best practices — transparency, partnership, protections for labor and the environment.”

Many analysts and western media argued that G7’s PGII is meant to counter what they described as China’s growing influence. It should be noted that PGII is not a new plan but rather a rebrand of “Build Back Better World” (B3W) president Biden unveiled during 2021’s G7 summit in Cornwall, England. This initiative failed to take off and has since stalled in US’ congress which refused to approve billions Biden promised. 

No matter the diplomatic words the G7 leaders use to sell PGII, and Biden’s insistence that PGII is meant to boost development projects “grounded in our shared values” in developing countries and help narrow infrastructure funding gaps in the developing world, a closer analysis of PGII indicates nothing but a cobweb of politics.  Indeed, announcing the initiative, President Biden ended observing that “… I have no doubt that we’ll win the competition every time.”

Put differently, unlike China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has contributed tremendously to both social and economic development of not only Africa but also eased transportation of goods and services globally, the spirit of PGII is not helping developing countries realise their potential but is a vehicle to help the US compete with Africa’s developing partner – China in the region as Washington tries to rejuvenate its failing hegemony.

Assume Biden’s PGII aim is to genuinely help narrow infrastructure funding gaps, considering the fact that his 2021 B3W better failed, will PGII deliver the $600 billion? Can it answer the growing infrastructure funding gaps especially in developing countries  or it is just politics?

Looking at US’ foreign policy and generally logic that guides the so-called superpowers while addressing what they call challenges is always clear – often, it is the logic of power. Claims of protecting human rights, transparency, values observing international norms is simply meant to sugar-coat their end goal which is power politics.

While president Biden announced that out of promised $600billion US would mobilise $200 billion, considering that the U.S is also struggling to improve her infrastructure funding at home which has been at 5.8% since 1960, GPII is likely to suffer the same fate as B3W which congress staled by refusing to pass its funding including refusing to pass his $2 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild US’ ageing infrastructure.

Therefore, we should perhaps ask: if Biden failed to win congressional support for his home infrastructure plan, will he win congressional support for his infrastructure plans meant to support developing countries which is part of a bone of his Foreign Policy?

Many analysists and western media concluded GPII is meant to rival China’s BRI which currently has over 2,600 infrastructure projects in over 126 countries worth over $3.7 trillion, which the U.S sees as opportunity for China to expand influence. If indeed GPII’s aim is to counter China’s BRI, it will fail because their focus will be countering China while BRI’s main objective is partnership guided by win-win principle.

Therefore, GPII to have meaningful development, G7 leaders must learn from China and engage African countries as areas of investments and cooperation not a battleground for their rivalry. Indeed, addressing journalists and Think Tanks last week, Chinese ambassador to Uganda Zhang Lizhong stressed that Africa should not be taken as a rivalry ground but a place cooperation, investments and trade.

Even if the US and G7 allies delivers their $600billion, developing countries would still be with funding gaps.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study concluded; between 2016 and 2030, the world needs $95 trillion which is about $6.3 trillion annually.

African Development Bank (ADB) on the other hand estimated that for Africa to sustain their growing population, growing economies, and replacing ageing infrastructure project, African countries have to spend between $130 – $170 billion annually. However, half of this money is unfunded despite heavy investments from China’s BRI to several African countries.

Therefore, Biden’s GPII to make a meaningful contribution, the Biden administration and G7 allies must embrace and support other development partners wishing to support African countries instead of blackmailing them branding other initiatives “debt trap.”

The US and its allies should appreciate China’s support for infrastructure development in developing countries is not about politics but Beijing’s belief of building a community with shared prosperity for mankind.

Indeed, Asia Development Bank head, Jin Liqun once observed; “The Chinese experience illustrates that infrastructure investment paves the way for broad-based economic social development, and poverty alleviation comes as a natural consequence of that.” China has demonstrated to the world that investing in infrastructure is key to economic development. Indeed, Chinese people have two common sayings; “要想富” , “先修路” loosely translated; “Better roads lead to better life.” and “Build roads if you want to get rich.” To the G7 leaders, if you want to support African countries’ infrastructure projects, let primary purpose be transforming African countries infrastructure not countering China’s contribution.

Save that, Biden’s GPII will remain fancy on paper but will not work, it is a paper tiger. It should be recalled, that the U.S has in past announced similar projects to counter China’s BRI but in vain.

First was then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo’s proposal to create a $113 million fund to support infrastructure development in developing countries but this project remained on paper with no single African country gaining from it. And in 2021, Biden launched B3W which was rebranded in last week’s G7 after stalling for a year.

Allawi Ssemanda, PhD is a Senior Research fellow at Development Watch Centre, and the author of Why Africa Deserves a Permanent Seat at United Nations Security Council.  

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