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BRI provides path to social, economic development

By Dennis Munene | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-06-02 08:54
LI MIN/CHINA DAILY

As the global community fights COVID-19, the economy continues to plunge to new lows, with experts warning of a situation as dire as the Great Depression of the 20th century.

The novel coronavirus has taken lives, destroyed livelihoods and affected the global economy.

The World Economic Forum said recently that global commodity prices had dropped 20.4 percent by March, while the aviation industry was facing its worst crisis, with 90 percent of the global fleet grounded. The tourism industry is expected to witness a drop of 58 to 78 percent.

The pandemic has affected about 1.6 billion students. If the situation persists, about 40 million to 60 million people are expected to be pushed into extreme poverty by the end of the year.

Many countries have gradually begun opening up their economies. China started its recovery path by opening up its manufacturing industries.

Among the top 10 economies in the world, it is only China that is connecting with the world via multilateralism. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative brings the Northern and Southern Hemispheres together, reflecting the strategy that can transform the global economy.

Currently, the BRI covers 65 percent of the world's population of about 7.8 billion, three-quarters of global energy resources, and 40 percent of GDP. It extends to around 65 countries with a combined GDP of more than $23 trillion.

The BRI will provide a way for the world to achieve social and economic development. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the BRI had injected new vitality into Africa's development. For example, more than 15.5 percent of investment in Africa's infrastructure projects was from China in 2017. In Africa, one in four infrastructure projects was funded by Chinese investors.

The debate about whether the BRI is opening up African countries or enslaving them will now be settled. This debate has posed an ideological question that has to be confronted with facts.

First, the BRI is emancipating in character, having turned Africa into a rising continent.

Second, it promotes regional integration, which empowers the continent. This is witnessed in projects such as the construction of roads and rail lines that cut across and connect countries.

Third, the BRI is spurring economic pan-Africanism, a movement that aims to encourage and strengthen bonds of solidarity between all indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent, through funding and/or investing in projects.

The BRI projects also have a domino effect on countries adjacent to those participating in the BRI. For example, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, which connects Ethiopia with Djibouti's port, has a domino effect on South Sudan, Sudan and parts of northern Kenya. Goods and services can now be easily moved to as far as Moyale, a town on the Ethiopia-Kenya border.

Finally, the BRI is providing affordable capital development assistance to the continent and accelerating its recovery from centuries of slavery, colonialism, neocolonial domination, and now COVID-19. The BRI has prompted a new global focus on Africa.

The BRI is not just about buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects. China is also providing capital and technology to Africa and the world at large as it advances its BRI strategy.

Global civilization is sick and its economy is bleeding. A blood transfusion is urgently needed. China is willing to act as a donor by giving the world the BRI to jump-start the economy. The question is, will Africa and the world at large accept the available recovery plan, or will it embrace strategies that advocate the clash of civilizations?

The author is a senior policy adviser at the Africa Policy Institute in Kenya. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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