In the last several decades, more than any other country, China has been supporting Uganda and other African Countries development efforts especially in infrastructure sector with soft loans and grants
In 1907, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States of America Lord Bryce (1907-13) is quoted to have said that, “The subject of foreign policy in the United States is like the subject of snakes in Ireland. There are no snakes in Ireland.”). she was discussing how Ireland was safe, and really a place one should visit for it was very safe.
Put differently, this 21st century, Uganda has no reliable infrastructure development ally than China. As a scholar in the field of International Relations and Diplomacy, the above statement is right considering China’s Relations with African countries and China’s principle of mutual respect and win-win relation which define China’s foreign policy and relations with African countries.
In the last several decades, more than any other country, China has been supporting Uganda and other African Countries development efforts especially in infrastructure sector with soft loans and grants. China’s assistance came at a time when African countries so much wanted infrastructure development which is a catalyst for economic development.
Although China’s critics especially the west accuse Beijing of what they call hidden interest and giving African countries huge loans which they claim will be hard to be paid, statistics clearly show that China’s assistance is coming at a time when many African countries infrastructure projects are not funded, therefore, China is helping to bridge such gaps and these investments are paying off creating employment opportunities and helping economies to grow in Africa.
It is very clear that China-Africa relations is now stronger than ever, significantly creating a new perspective in the field of international relations. To realists, several African countries are now on economic take-off state, thanks to China’s development assistance. Like many other African countries, China’s development assistance which is visible in almost all sectors is causing economic growth, a key area of focus according to the African Union’s vision 2060.
According to African Development Bank (ADB), the continent to meet its infrastructure needs that can allow African countries sustain their growing population, growing of their economies, and replacing aging infrastructure, African countries have to spend between $130 – $170 billion annually, yet currently, half of that is unfunded despite heavy investments from China to her African countries allies.
Therefore, Critics of China’s development assistance to African countries claiming it will leave them heavily indebted lack facts and to say the least are enemies of the African countries development.
A study by World Bank entitled “Why We Need to Close the Infrastructure Gap in Sub-Saharan Africa” revealed that if countries in this region reduce infrastructure funding gaps, the region would realise gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth by 1.7%.
The bank further reveals that there is need Sub-Saharan African countries to increase their funding in infrastructure since it will help in diversifying their economies, support industrialization and private sector activities which all can be a catalyst for jobs creation which would be a big milestone considering that the continent registers over twelve million young persons in labour force annually.
It is, therefore, right one to conclude that China’s investments in Africa’s infrastructure sector is largely driven by Beijing’s wish to see a prospering world with shared development, a world that is more connected giving opportunities to do business without a struggle.
Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a very good example in this case (BRI). The much needed transcontinental development project will leave the world more connected, bringing Africa closer to the rest of the world by connecting the continent to Asia and Europe; this will in both short and long run ease trade and connectivity thereby sparking economic growth.
Fruits of improved infrastructure development in African countries cannot be hidden and no doubt, the benefits outweigh critics baseless claims. A good example is Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway line constructed with Chinese assistance which reduced the 759 kilometres journey from the staggering three days on-road to just 12 hours on the train which eases transportation of goods and services in the region.
It is not a surprise that some pundits and economists refer to the line as a lifeline investment for both Ethiopia and Djibouti as well as the entire region. If analysed well, one can say the above are signs of early harvest and benefits of BRI project.
In Uganda, Chinese development assistance helped the country construct the first-ever double lanes road – Entebbe Express which connects the country’s city Kampala to the country’s main airport – Entebbe.
The road has since helped road users save time by reducing heavy traffic and time spent from two hours to just 30 minutes. From the above, a conclusion can be made that, any infrastructural development assistance to African countries should be received with open hands and development partners like China which is willing to support such projects should be hailed and where possible supported rather than unfair and baseless accusations against Beijing.
Ssemanda Allawi, Ph.D. Candidate,
International Relations & Diplomacy.
Author of Global Governance and Norm Contestation: How BRICS is Reshaping World Order.