How the Belt and Road Initiative is Changing Africa

re posted from                                     The Schiller Institute

Schiller Institute Conference • Bad Soden • June 30 – July 1, 2018

How the Belt and Road Initiative is Changing Africa

Panel II

The second panel of the conference was devoted to changes spawned by the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), as the only humane way to deal with the refugee crisis. Introductory remarks were given by Hussein Askary, Southwest Asia Coordinator of the Schiller Institute, who stressed that to solve the many refugee crises in the world, we must create  a new and just world order.

He was followed by Wang Hao (14:45), the First Secretary for Economy and Trade of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Germany, who was originally supposed to speak during Panel III but was unexpectedly unable to wait. He made a plea for the EU to join the Belt & Road initiative, as the largest trading partner of China. Given its limited resources, China depends very much on others, he said, including Germany and Europe. Germany is the largest non-Asian member of the AIIB, which 18 other European countries have also joined. He urged European enterprises to come up with their own projects to further cooperation.

H.E. Yusuf Maitama Tuggar (24:22), Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Germany, urged the audience not to “look through the binary lens of China vs. Europe, a leftover from the Cold War. We need the cooperation of all three.” Africa needs to participate in all discussions about infrastructure, development and migration. One example he mentioned is the project to refill Lake Chad. Such a transformative project is what is needed for sustainable development, he said, and must be funded. “It will succeed, if all put their hands and heads together.”

Mohammed Bila (38:30), an Expert Modeler from the Lake Chad Basin Observatory of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, explained the Transaqua project, and where the project currently stands, after the summit in Abuja of eight African heads of state and government in March 2018, which approved the project. It will bring economic development and improve security directly for seven countries, and indirectly for five more. Bila explained how there will be added value along the route of the water. The benefit-sharing concept could also boost regional trade, create new economic infrastructure such as river ports, container terminals, agro-industrial zones and new roads along the 2,400 km waterway.

The long history of relations between China and Africa was taken up by Amzat Boukari-Yabara (1:01:18), an African historian and General Secretary of the Panafrican League Umoja. The criticism of the Chinese presence in Africa which is common in western media, he said, is motivated more by the decline of Euro-American influence in markets which they thought would be theirs forever, than by a real interest in the future of Africans. His viewpoint is that any African country negotiates with China or any other large country, it should always keep in mind the overall interest of Africa as a continent. Boukari-Yabara also proposed to create a Panafrican Bank for reparations and reconstruction.

Abdullatif Elwashali and Aiman Al-Mansor (1:21:12) of the Yemeni Association INSAN for Human Rights and Peace, reported on the horrendous situation in their country, due to the war of aggression conducted by the Saudi-led coalition. After 3 years of war, the nation is destroyed, there have more than 36,000 civilian victims, of which 14,000 deaths, and the population is enduring a humanitarian catastrophe, aggravated by the air and sea blockade. They cited some alarming statistics: 1.25 million people are threatened by hunger, and epidemics, while 33 million suffer from a lack of medical supplies. 896 schools have been completely destroyed, and 55% of the medical facilities are now inoperable. Humanitarian aid is not forthcoming, while the international community is reticent to help. The Saudis, notwithstanding their claims, are intervening militarily to wrest the political control from Sana’s and weaken its military forces. Otherwise, Yemen is a choice geographical location for the New Silk Road project, but the Saudi led coalition wants to prevent win-win cooperation.

Hussein Askary (1:41:00) also gave a presentation on his new report on the reconstruction of Yemen which is called Operation Felix. The aim of this operation (called “Felix” after the original Latin name Arabia felix for the region of Yemen) is not to rebuild the country as it was before the war started, but to provide the “economic platform” for a prosperous and progressing nation and its connection to to the BRI. He described steps to reverse the policies imposed for over 30 years under IMF and World Bank conditionalities, such as creation of a Yemeni National Bank for Reconstruction and Development to finance the reconstruction of the country and the construction of development corridors connecting Yemen to Africa and, via Oman and Iran, to the New Silk Road.

Source: The Schiller Institute

Schiller Institute Conference • Bad Soden • June 30 – July 1, 2018