In furtherance of China’s reform and opening up to the world, the Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to the world. The BRI project was first mentioned in 2013 as the Silk Road Economic Belt with focus on promoting the ancient silk road spirit in a new era.
The concept has been in existence for centuries as it was originally a trade route running through vast golden deserts, linking China to neighbouring countries while building friendships along the way, encouraging pilgrimage and promoting trade.
In 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.
The BRI set up as its goal, the promotion of development along the Belt and Road route which characteristically encompasses land and maritime. The idea that it involves a few countries directly on the geographical route of the BRI map should be demystified as it embraces the entire world and countries are encouraged to participate.
The BRI is not all about China giving out funds to support developing countries, but setting a course to encourage mutual relationships, where countries involved assist and respect each other.
The Initiative primarily covered East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and East Central Europe. But by July 2016, over 70 countries and international and regional organisations had shown support and willingness to take part in the BRI and over 30 countries and international organisations had come to agreements to work with China in developing BRI.
BRI is anchored on five (5) pillars namely: Policy coordination, connectivity of facilities, unimpeded trade, finance and integration, strengthening people to people ties.
The BRI has already began indirectly through the development China has carried out in Africa and some parts of the world.
The 18th anniversary of FOCAC commemorated during its Summit in Beijing this year 2018, placed the BRI as the main subject to help advance China /Africa relations.
The Chinese President said that China will fully honour its promise to Africa, as well as remain committed to opening up. The latest additions to the FOCAC are; The Gambia, São Tomé and Principe and Burkina Faso.
Fifty-three (53) African nations that have bilateral cooperation with China attended the Summit tagged, ‘Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-Win Cooperation.
Ever since 2015, bilateral economic and trade made progress. Nigeria became China’s principal market for engineering project contracting, its second main export market, and third major trading partner and investment destination in Africa.
The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr Zhou Pingjian in his remarks during the 2018 Forum on China-Nigeria Production Capacity and Investment cooperation held in Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital, said that making FOCAC a major platform for China-Africa cooperation under the BRI will surely strengthen China-Africa solidarity and cooperation in a new era. The past 18 years have seen remarkable progress in China-Africa cooperation and the implementation of the outcome of the FOCAC summit in Johannesburg have produced fruitful results.
“In Nigeria, the Abuja-Kaduna railway, Africa’s first modern railway with Chinese technology and standards, was commissioned in July 2016. The Abuja rail mass transit project, the first urban railway in West Africa, was commissioned in July 2018. The Lagos-Ibadan railway broke ground in March 2017. The construction of the Lekki deep water port, the largest port in West Africa, and the Zungeru hydro power station, the largest hydropower station in Nigeria, are well under way,” he averred.
The Ambassador said that China remains committed to enhancing its cooperation with Nigeria in agriculture, manufacturing, industrial capacity and investment, infrastructure, energy, culture and people-to-people exchanges, among others.
Some international experts have pointed out that China is an independent and self-reliant country and as such can afford to be generous in its support to other developing countries through funds that free a nation of dependence.
The Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that China will further strengthen its relationship with Africa through its eight (8) initiative plan, while delivering his keynote address at the opening ceremony of 2018 FOCAC Summit. The initiatives will be on the basis of the ten cooperation plans adopted at previous FOCAC meeting, held in 2015, Johannesburg, South Africa, and will span across the next three years, and beyond.
To guarantee that these eight initiatives are implemented, China will extend another US$60 billion of financing to Africa in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies. This will include US$15 billion of grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, US$20 billion of credit lines, the setting up of a US$10 billion special fund for development financing and a US$5 billion special fund for financing imports from Africa.
The eight initiatives will include; Industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, green development, capacity building, healthcare, People to people exchange and peace and security.
China will also support Africa to achieve food security by 2030, and assist in Agriculture modernisation. The country will also implement 50 agricultural assistance programmes, provide RMB 1 billion of emergency humanitarian food assistance to African countries affected by natural disasters, send 500 senior agriculture experts to Africa, and train young researchers in agri-science and entrepreneurs in agri-business.
Furthermore, China will implement 50 trade facilitation programmes for Africa and will continue to hold free trade negotiations with interested African countries and regions, setting up relevant mechanisms to promote e-commerce cooperation with Africa.
China will share more of its development practices with Africa and support cooperation with Africa on economic and social development planning. Ten Luban Workshops will be set up in Africa to provide vocational training for young Africans and 50 medical and health aid programmes for Africa will be upgraded.
Nigeria has a lot to benefit from China’s reform and opening up to the world. The former Chairperson of the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC), Dr Ahmed Adamu, commented on China’s role as second largest economy in the world, and how Nigeria can through its relations leverage on the free trade and open market that China is making an effort to promote, more strategically in manufacture and industrial sector. Owing to China’s support, he mentioned areas that have been beneficial among which the currency swap between both countries.
According to reports, during the Boao Forum held in Hainan in April this year, President Xi reiterated China’s commitment to further reform and opening up. He disclosed a number of measures to open up new sectors of the country’s economy to greater foreign investment, which would include automobiles and insurance.
“Today, the Chinese people can say with great pride that reform and opening-up, China’s second revolution if you like, has not only profoundly changed the country but also greatly influenced the whole world,” President Xi stated.
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