Several years ago the ancient silk routes forged friendship through trade and pilgrimage among others. In a world that is becoming small, China looks to further strengthen this relationship through the Belt And Road Initiative which has been trending since 2013. BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes…
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was first mentioned in 2013 as the Silk Road Economic Belt to promote the ancient silk road spirit in a new era, and ever since then, with sleeves rolled up, the Chinese government has continued to work tirelessly to make it a reality.
Once in a commemorative atmosphere of the Media Cooperation Forum On Belt And Road, that took place in Gansu Province, Dunhuang, China, organised by the Peoples Daily, the Vice Chairman, Standing Committee, 12th National People’s Congress (NPC), Mr Zhang Ping, described the initiative as the blue print for China’s opening up to the world. He could not have described it more aptly, as this blue print gradually takes form in readiness to become a dream come true.
Much has also been said on how crucial the Belt and Road Initiative will be to the forthcoming Forum On China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to hold later this year.
In ancient times the Silk Road was a trade route running through vast golden deserts, linking China to its neigbhouring countries. Building friendships along the way, encouraging pilgrimage, promoting trade. The links established those thousand years ago, are part of the benefits already being felt in present times.
By November 2014, President Xi declared that China would invest 40 billion USD to set up the Silk Road Fund geared towards development of infrastructure, resources and industrial cooperation among others. Africa is a beneficiary of the BRI, judging from the current partnership in areas of infrastructure and business among others.
The idea and target of the BRI is to support development along the Belt and Road route which characteristically encompasses land and maritime. The idea that it would benefit just countries directly on the geographical route of the BRI map has become a false premise as the China intends to carry the globe along. This is why the federal government of Nigeria should take advantage of this promising initiative and participate fully.
Nigeria has the human resources, the manpower and the market among others, and also needs the infrastructure, the technical know how and so on, putting in mind that the ultimate goal of the plan will not just be about doling out funds from China to developing countries, but infact a mutual relationship where countries involved help each other to progress while respect plays an important role. It also gives way to tolerance which would in turn reduce the insecurities faced globally.
The Initiative primarily covered East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and East Central Europe. But by July 2016, more than 70 countries and international and regional organisations had shown support and willingness to take part in the BRI. This is with more than 30 countries and international organisations coming to agreement to work with China in developing BRI.
Nigeria should take a stand and make itself a key player to attract this initiative to its shores. The Nigerian government should also enlighten its citizens about BRI, not just from the top government officials but also at grassroots level. This can be done through documentaries, literature, and the media in general.
BRI is anchored on 5 pillars namely: Policy coordination, connectivity of facilities, unimpeded trade, financial and integration, strengthening people to people ties. Nigeria as a developing country presenting focusing on diversification ought to open up its doors to the BRI and learn from China.
The BRI has already began indirectly through the development China has carried out in Africa and some parts of the world. Nigeria needs to take the BRI seriously and put itself out there to be a part of it. There is so much to learn from topics like fighting desertification, which is currently threatening the far north and sharing technical knowledge which we need generally in the country. Early last year a high level team from Nigeria came to China for assistance on how to build our own transformers, transfer of knowledge was mentioned. So all of these among others will be subjects embarked upon to make the BRI successful for all, as its conclusion is to build a community with a shared destiny, mutual benefits leading to win win results. Above all a peaceful development. The BRI will create more awareness of China and vice versa, erasing stereotypes.
President Xi in Uzbekistan in 2016 in a speech he gave divided BRI priorities as thus: Green Silk Road: this deals with the ecological aspect and green development. This will be essential to Africa in fighting desert encroachment; Healthy Silk Road: promoting world health and targeting mostly developing countries at low level of socio economic development and inadequate health facilities; Intelligent Silk Road: to promote talents through training professionals, technology sharing etc; Peaceful Silk Road: To combat insecurities caused by religious tensions and conflict. All of this align with Nigeria’s plans for advancement as a nation.
Some countries are already tapping into this initiative in Africa, take for instance; Cameroon, Huawei Technologies Company built a solar power station in Nagang village 30km from its capital Yaounde. Then there’s the Ethiopia and Djibouti railway built partly by Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) linking Addis Ababa to Djibouti’s Red Sea Port City. In Guinea, China international water and electric corporation (CWE) the Kaleta hydropower station.
In Nigeria, China is doing quite well; The Abuja/Kaduna railway, the Abuja light rail from the city centre to airport, among other projects. These are all in spirit of the Belt and Road. BRI benefits are enormous, with trade as its mainstay.
Africa as a whole stands to benefit from the BRI. Trade will promote the economy, security, people to people exchange and is good for Africa. While Africa can trade in its numerous rich resources, such as human resources, oil, agriculture etc. For Africa it will mean development of infrastructure which is lacking in Africa, eradicating poverty through investments and exchange of knowledge and know how, training etc. Africa can present itself fully at the upcoming FOCAC summit to highlight what it can offer and how it intends to benefit, as it braces up to participate in the BRI.
Last year, Vice Chairman, Zhang had also pointed out at the memorable event hosted by Peoples Daily in Gansu Province, that the BRI of President Xi Jinping is relevant to development, momentum and trends of time which is based on reality embracing the keywords, ‘Peace, Cooperation and Openness,’ among others. He stressed that the BRI was established to “Benefit and promote exchanges between countries…and has gained several fruits and foreign attention.”
Addressing the media he had emphasised, “We [China] are willing to share our ideas and learn from each other with the global media.” He also stressed that BRI has established a platform for media, academics, politics towards a better way of enhancing communication and cooperation, and urged the media to be a spokesman for the spirit of the Silk Road which will promote peace, cooperation, openness, mutual learning and mutual benefits.
Several other authoritative figures in China and across the world have spoken on benefits of the BRI. The Assistant Minister, a member of the CPC Leadership Group, Ministry of Commerce, Li Chenggang indicated at the event in Gansu last year that “The BRI is the Chinese solution to global cooperation.” He stated that the BRI was a platform for developing ideas, to turn economic advantages to a bigger pie. He said BRI connects Chinese trade with world trade. It has 20 countries along the road and contributes to 1.4 billion to tax value. He said the Ministry of Commerce will continue to promote trade and economic promotion, defend China’s market. He said the Ministry will cooperate with more countries in areas of ecommerce and environmental protection. “Media is a bridge for the Chinese to understand the world as well as the world can understand China, and so people can have a better understanding of the BRI, encouraging the media to have exchanges among themselves.
Mr Otis Bilodeau Senior Editor with Bloomberg noted, “It is a critically important initiative for the entire world.” He stated that Bloomberg believes BRI “will impact billions of lives.” It provides opportunities for business investments and financing.”
“As Chinese markets open up with currency available along the routes, investors will begin to invest in China.”
He stated that the Silk Road allowed for mutual learning and sharing of ideas. “Bloomberg will tell China’s story to investors. Bloomberg will examine and report the initiative with care and standard of accuracy and fairness.” He said Bloomberg will continue to invest, share best practices and continue to play a role in introducing China to the world.
The Chairman of the Editorial Board, Thisday Newspapers in Nigeria, Mr Olusegun Adeniyi said, BRI should, “Consider transparency, this is where media comes in. We as journalists will help to promote the good of the society…. There is nothing we cannot achieve if we work together for a common goal that is what the BRI promotes,” he said.
A Senior Advisor with Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), The United Kingdom said he is in favour of the BRI. The first train to arrive from China to the United Kingdom took place this year taking 16 days, the train came back to China with British goods, that’s trade, he noted. Adding that BRI helps with infrastructure. He asked China not to be discouraged by the people rejecting the BRI in the UK. “We need to make sure the world understands the benefits of BRI.
“This provides a platform for better communication, understanding and global peace,” he enthused.
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