China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) constitutes one of the most ambitious projects in recent decades. Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, BRI is designed to offer a more appealing economic vision to countries of the world, especially, developing nations.
Indeed, the program has been evolving and continues to offer opportunities for nations, communities, and businesses.
Under the Belt and Road framework, China has actively pursued its own development while participating in global governance and trying hard to realize the great mission of ‘community of common destiny for all mankind,’
The engine behind this initiative is the Communist Party of China (CPC) whose overall ambition for the BRI is staggering. The Chinese ruling party and President Xi’s vision under BRI are to create a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings.
Such a network would be used to break the bottlenecks associated with connectivity. In addition to physical infrastructure, China plans to build fifty special economic zones, modeled after its own Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, a major success story, since its launch in 1980.
It is little wonder therefore that, to date, more than seventy countries, including more than 20 from Africa, accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population, have signed on or expressed interest in BRI. The developing countries that have enlisted in this concept, such as Kenya and Ethiopia, for instance, are by and large looking at its economic aspects.
President Xi is clear – BRI will provide countries, especially in the developing world, with new opportunities to unleash their potential for strong development.
Experts concur that the program has reshaped global engagements. It is strategic and comprehensive in scope.
Back home, it has become an essential component of the Communist Party of China’s goal to attain national rejuvenation.
The initiative is so important that it has been written into the state and ruling party constitutions, meaning it now is a strategic priority for the world’s second-largest power.
Over and above this, more than 50 renowned Chinese state-owned companies have been tasked with the responsibility of implementing infrastructure projects initiated under the platform around the world.
Aside from infrastructure, the Belt and Road Initiative provides a platform for the implementation of the 2030 sustainable development agenda.
It will be remembered that the objective of SDGs is to achieve sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic development. The goal of “Belt & Road” on the other hand is to realize balanced and sustainable development, with priority objectives of realizing poverty alleviation, education, health, employment, and other basic needs.
And so, to promote the construction of Belt and Road is to promote the implementation of the 2030 sustainable development agenda. Most importantly, Beijing has promised it will support and provide the resources necessary for other developing countries to achieve sustainable development goals.
And it is not just empty talk. China has made great strides in this regard by making great efforts to promote international exchanges and cooperation, including South-South cooperation, and the establishment of the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, the China-United Nations Peace and Development Fund, the Academy for South-South Cooperation and Development, and the International Development knowledge Centre.
Even though it still regards itself as a developing nation, China’s economic success sets an example the world must follow.
The African Union has so far launched agenda 2063, which aims at accelerating the modernization and industrialization of Africa. Keen observers maintain that the “Belt and Road” initiative provides a strategic chance to anchor China’s development strategy with this African vision.
Within Africa, the fruits of Road and Belt infrastructural connectivity are already being felt in Kenya. The construction of the Kshs.327 billion Standard Gauge Railway and the subsequent expansion of the port of Mombasa by the Chinese has turned the East African country a major investment destination.
Manifestly, investment in infrastructure forms new economic growth points, therefore promoting activities such as consumption, investment, employment among others, and contribute to the eradication of poverty.
At the same time, premiums arising from combined financial, and technological exchange by countries involved will no doubt accelerate and expand trade and investment while promoting industrialization.
Under BRI, trade facilitation, reduced investment, and trade barriers, lower investment costs as well as promotion of regional economic integration is becoming the order of the day.
One key feature of Belt and Road is its promotion of win-win cooperation and mutual development. This has made the Chinese-sponsored economic platform an important supplement to the traditional international development cooperation, where countries share experiences, learn from each other, and promote strategy synergy and policy coordination. And the fruits can be seen already.
This success, it appears, is causing jitters in the West. The Build Back Better World initiative, or (B3W), was recently promoted at a G7 summit in the UK. It’s still early days but the latest push is seen as a challenge by the west to China’s growing influence in developing economies, through infrastructure investment.
As the CPC marks 100 years since its founding, there is every reason to celebrate. Among a myriad of other achievements, Belt and Road is a gift not only to China but to the rest of the world. And the legacy lives on.
Eric Biegon is a multimedia journalist with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, KBC.