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BRI can propel Africa's development

By Victor Onyango | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-27 09:03

Kenyan passengers take the Standard Gauge Railway from Nairobi to Mombasa in June. WANG TENG/XINHUA

That Italy recently became the first G7 country to join the Belt and Road Initiative sends a strong signal that this is the beginning of a new era for multilateralism. The memorandum of understanding signed between Beijing and Rome under the Belt and Road framework during President Xi Jinping's visit to Italy last month is a message to other European Union member states to join the China-proposed initiative.

Some countries have been spreading rumors that the Belt and Road Initiative is a "debt trap" for many of the countries, especially the developing ones, participating in the initiative. Those opposed to China's idea of building a community with a shared future for mankind love to criticize the initiative. But have they offered any solutions to the infrastructure problems facing most of the developing countries?

The idea of Western countries giving development aid to developing countries so the latter continue to "worship" them while lagging far behind in terms of development is phasing out thanks to China's Belt and Road agenda, which has helped many countries improve their infrastructure facilities. Kenya, for one example, now has a railway line connecting Nairobi and Mombasa.

The 480-kilometer railway, one of the most modern infrastructure projects in East Africa, has helped increase Kenya's GDP by 1.5 percentage points, as it has greatly increased the number of tourists, both local and foreign, many of whom take the Nairobi-Mombasa Madarak Express train to cross Tsavo National Park. The railway has also boosted the business of hotels along the Mombasa coast because the number of tourists has gone up there too.

African countries lag far behind their Western counterparts in terms of industrialization because of their poor infrastructure, something Western countries rarely paid attention to. But thanks to China, many African countries are getting modern infrastructure facilities, including railways, roads, bridges and power stations. China's focus on infrastructure construction has not only helped strengthen overall Sino-African relations, but also produced more mutual benefits.

The critics of the Belt and Road Initiative conveniently ignore the fact that China's efforts have improved the livelihoods of people in many African countries. For instance, the Zambia-Tanzania railway built by China in 1975 has boosted the transportation of Zambian copper to the ports of Tanzania for export.

The fact is that corruption, not the Belt and Road Initiative, is a "debt trap" for African countries. The general rule of business is that if you take a loan, make good use of it and earn a profit, you repay the loan either at one go or in installments. In other words, if African countries can make good use of the Belt and Road proceeds to build infrastructure facilities such as industrial parks to benefit the local population, they can repay the loan.

However, to scotch the rumors against the Belt and Road Initiative, China and other Belt and Road countries should release enough information on the present condition of some Belt and Road countries that used to be "controlled" by some Western giants. Besides, China should not give more loans to a country if it has not properly used the first one to meet the needs of its people.

Ethiopia has benefited from the Oriental Industrial Park; Egypt has many economic zones, including the Suez Canal Economic Zone; and more than 40 engineering and other major students from Comoros and Cape Verde have been fully sponsored to study at Hainan Tropical Ocean University all because of the Belt and Road Initiative.

These countries, together with Kenya, should guide other African countries that are still in a dilemma over the initiative to not be swayed by Western propaganda and, instead, join the Belt and Road Initiative, as China is committed to helping Africa to achieve its Agenda 2063, which is aimed at integrating and uniting the continent under the principle of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

The author is a journalist based in Kenya. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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