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China’s Belt and Road initiative addresses Africa’s issues

By Mubarak Mugabo

Added 21st March 2019 06:18 PM

Through BRI strategy, China has construct roads, standard gauge railways, airports and industrial parks in many African, European and Asian countries.

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Through BRI strategy, China has construct roads, standard gauge railways, airports and industrial parks in many African, European and Asian countries.

The Belt and Road initiative (BRI) is a development strategy adopted by the Chinese Government in 2013 to foster infrastructure development and investments in several countries.

BRI is amid at promoting cross border trade. It is akin to the ancient Silk Road that linked China to parts of Asia and Europe.

Through BRI strategy, China has construct roads, standard gauge railways, airports and industrial parks in many African, European and Asian countries.

In Uganda, the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway which links Kampala city to Entebbe Airport, industrial parks in Mbale, Luwero, Mukono and Nakaseke have had a significant impact on the development of Uganda.

However, Uganda-China co-operation and the entire Sino-Africa co-operation, especially under BRI is facing negative criticism. Critics say it is a scheme to colonise Africa by China dangling loans, which are resulting in a huge debt burden, which African countries could fail to repay in the future.

But these critics don’t consider the fact that Africa is poor because it was bridled by colonial rule. The West colonised the continent, looted it of its resources and continued controlling former colonies even when they had been granted independence. Africa continued to serve western industries by providing raw materials cheaply. And the same Africa became the market for expensive western products. Whereas the West set prices for African raw materials, Africa had no power of setting prices of the western finished goods.

It is a fact the West wanted Africa to remain dependent and thus poor and underdeveloped so as to continue exploiting the continent.  So when China comes with a win-win approach for Africa, the West is up warning Africa that it is about to be colonised.

I read various reports of March 9 press conference held in Kampala by the US Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs Tibor Nagy’ negative criticism against China. To him China is earning a lot of publicity and appreciation than US which has done a lot to fix Africa’s health and education systems.

Nagy’s remarks are a clear representation of the negative criticism against China-Africa co-operation.

It is true that the US and other development partners have played a role in assisting African countries to improve health and education. We appreciate; however, this shouldn’t be the basis to undermine and disregard the tremendous contributions of unlocking Africa’s potential for fast development made by China.

President Yoweri Museveni identified 10 strategic bottlenecks which have for long deterred Uganda and Africa from developing. He ranked under-developed infrastructure including electricity, roads, railways and the ICT backbone as number three on the list. He listed poor Health and Education as number seven.

According to Museveni, high transport and electricity costs affects doing business and Africa needs modern infrastructure to lower cost of doing business which enables the private sector to grow.

“In United states (Nagy’s home), the kilowatts per capita of electricity is 14,000, while in Africa some countries are at 17 kilowatts per capita. It is evident that that a country cannot develop without electricity.” Museveni while addressing Africa Peer Review forum held in Johannesburg, in June 2015.

Uganda’s power generation presently stands at 951megawatts but after the completion of 183 megawatts Isimba and 600 megawatts Karuma dam projects both funded by China under BRI, it will be up to 1,734 megawatts.

So why shouldn’t Ugandans and Africans clap their hands in gratitude to China which is funding projects intended to reduce the cost of doing business. Whereas returns of infrastructure takes more time, critics find it easy to tell lies about it.

The BRI is giving many people who fight it sleepless nights because it is doing things visible and strategic for long-term positive returns.

The issue of huge debts will always be critics’ strong point, but according to Uganda Government, loans from China have no stringent conditions as opposed to loans secured from elsewhere.

Some development partners will provide loans and dictate on how to use them by holding conferences and endless consultative meetings, the money is spent even before the projects sets off.

Also, using the same loans to influence various legislations and policies especially against African beliefs and cultures, indirectly engaging in the internal affairs of African countries hence undermining the sovereignty of independent states.

During the Beijing 2018 Forum on China Africa Cooperation Summit in which China pledged more $60billion in aid and loans, President Xi Jiping castigated interference in other country’s affairs.

“China’s investment in Africa does not come with any political condition attached and will neither interfere in internal politics nor make demands that people feel are difficult to fulfil”. Xi said.

China has remained loyal to this principle making it easy for many countries to build strong ties with it. But then, a fundamental questions arises, why are critics so much concerned about BRI performance in Africa more than in Europe, Asia and elsewhere?

According to Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang many countries in Europe, Asia and Latin America have since signed agreements under BRI.

“To date, a total of 171 inter-governmental cooperation documents have been signed with over 150 countries and international organizations”. Keqiang reported during the opening of the National People’s Congress session early this month.

Africa has 54 countries meaning the rest come from other parts of the world, So, If the BRI and associated loans were a burden to Africa, why are more acceptable to Europeans, Asians and Latin Americans?

Mr. Nagy and his friends should know that the world has since woken up to the realities of the road towards development and the way is for all countries to develop a modern infrastructure which China is bringing closer through the BRI.

Like or not, China is not only providing cheap loans to Africa but also passing on skills to the people though the numerous projects on the continent. In other words, China is teaching African’s how to fish so that they are independent. By this China is funding the setting up industries, which employ many, while the West wants Africa to remain dependent so that it continues sending aid.

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