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Initiative to bring Africa dividends

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-13 09:47

The East African Community member states should consider the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative projects collectively instead of individually for better results in its regional integration efforts.

That is the view of Ismael Buchanan, dean of the College of Business and Economics, Huye Campus of the University of Rwanda, who said BRI offers the region, which consists of eight countries including Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, an opportunity to construct infrastructure projects that would connect the entire region, consequently increasing trade.

"The EAC member states could for instance consider construction of a railway line running from Kenya's port city of Mombasa to Rwanda's capital Kigali, Burundi to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This would be beneficial politically and economically, enhancing people-to-people interaction and country-to-country connectivity," he said.

Buchanan said such a project would reduce the cost of transportation, reduce border conflicts and enhance regional integration. It would also reduce taxes, make it easy to use a common currency and reduce poverty because job opportunities would be created during construction.

He said in addition to infrastructure development, BRI also focuses on agricultural modernization, an advantage that the EAC member states can utilize to improve food security.

Cooperation in agriculture and food security is one of the priorities that feature prominently in the EAC integration process.

The agricultural sector accounts for 25-40 percent of the gross domestic product of the EAC partner states and employs more than 80 percent of the population in the region.

Agro-based region

Additionally, more than 70 percent of the industries in the region are agro-based and depend on agriculture as the main source of raw materials. Agricultural commodities also constitute about 65 percent of the volume of intraregional trade in the EAC.

China has said to support Africa to modernize its agricultural sector, as well as help the continent to expand grain plantations. This is in addition to encouraging Chinese companies to increase agricultural investment in Africa.

The plan is aimed at helping Africa to achieve food self-sufficiency and independent sustainable development, promote food production, effectively boost the continent's ability to safeguard its food security, and help the continent reach related goals in agricultural modernization.

Buchanan said African countries should also take advantage of the BRI to increase their exports to the Asian powerhouse.

He also urged African countries to implement trade policies that will promote foreign investments especially in manufacturing, noting that many Chinese enterprises are willing to set up factories in Africa as long as the investment environment is conducive.

At the national level, he said countries should strengthen their institutions, establish the rule of law to deal with injustice and corruption, and allow free trade so that Chinese investors will be motivated to invest and also recommend investment opportunities to other enterprises back at home.

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