Source: China Daily Published: 2017-8-18
China`s already strong links will boost potential of initiative to bring benefits to continent, experts say.
Before the Belt and Road Initiative, China-Africa relations were guided by the Forum on China Africa Cooperation. So now, because everyone is talking about Belt and Road, FOCAC is becoming one of the important mechanisms under the general framework of the initiative, says Professor He Wenping.
"Compared with countries in South Asia, Latin America or Central Europe, I think Africa has advantages because China and Africa have very strong and very effective mechanisms like FOCAC," says He, director of African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"So under the Belt and Road, we have developed two engines - one is infrastructure building, another is industrialization. We call it cooperation between China`s industrial experience and also China`s development resources, together with Africa`s development for industrialization."
She says the two engines have been put into the mechanism of FOCAC, which means that, with Belt and Road resources, driving forces and financial resources are becoming stronger than they were in the past.
However, since joining the initiative is voluntary and requires countries to join with their own industrialization strategies, He says: "African countries need to show their own enthusiasm to join the initiative and make up their own road maps to develop their own strategy."
As she sees it, with the two strategies - those of China and African countries - there will be overlapping points that will show the important areas to be tried out and developed.
Commenting on how many African countries are already involved in Belt and Road, she says there are a number of African countries with a "looking East policy" that shows their close ties with Asian countries, including a willingness to cooperate with China.
"Some countries, like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Egypt, have already signed memorandums of understanding with China and are eager to join Belt and Road. So this has paved the way for further cooperation," she says.
Earlier this year, at a news conference organized by the All-China Journalists Association on "the achievements and future direction of the Belt and Road Initiative", Professor Wang Yiwei, director of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China, said that Africa could reap immense benefits from the Belt and Road Initiative.
Addressing African, Japanese and Chinese journalists, Wang said the initiative, aimed at linking up the major trade routes of the world, presented great potential for the development of Africa.
"Infrastructure and internet connection are the weak links in many developing countries," he said.
Through the initiative, which aims at improving infrastructure along six economic development corridors, Africa would reap benefits that could aid its industrial development and lift the continent from poverty.
"If you want to become rich you have to build roads, bridges and the internet. Infrastructure first, then livelihood projects. Industrialization must be built on infrastructure and energy projects.
"We need to pursue industrialization to deal with poverty. We want to help African countries increase their self-help through development," he said.
Wang listed other benefits of the initiative as connectivity, financial cooperation, improvement of the environment and people-to-people cooperation.
He said that, while in his view all African countries were interested in the initiative, Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria were already involved, with the Nairobi-Mombasa railway construction, industrialization of Addis Ababa and the building of industrial zones.
Wang said that, contrary to claims that the initiative has for the benefit of China; it has a shared goal for the international community.
"We don`t care so much about territory but (want) to have strategic alignment with different countries," he said.
He added that while some people had tagged the initiative as an ambitious plan that had gone beyond imagination and was going to promote blind competition, it was founded on innovative cooperation models and involved 60 countries.
"It is an inclusive concept and it is not limited to countries along the Silk Road. Poverty, uneven development and security issues can be solved with the Belt and Road Initiative. It is a public product if warmly received," he said.
Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.