BRI’s Role in Shaping Africa’s Prosperous Future Highlighted by Global Times

Fei Rongwei, a civil engineer from a Beijing-based firm, vividly recalls his initial impression upon landing at Antananarivo Ivato International Airport in Madagascar.

“The vast expanse that greeted my eyes was yellow soil without any roads, and such poor infrastructure conditions are hardly seen in China,” Fei remarked to the Global Times. “As a civil engineer who has spent half of my life building roads around the world, I think I came to the right place.”

In October 2015, Fei, aged 47, arrived at the airport. Four years later, the renovation work on Route Nationale 5A (RN5A) in Madagascar began, led by the China Road and Bridge Corporation. Described as “the works of the century,” this project was long-awaited by the northern region’s residents.

Before the renovation, this 151.7-kilometer road could take up to 12 hours to traverse during the dry season, and even longer in the rainy season due to mud.

The road was featured in a documentary called “Les Routes de L’impossible” by France Television, which showcased a car that could only travel two kilometers per hour due to the poor road condition.

After the renovation, the journey from Ambilobe to Vohemar now takes only 2.5 hours, significantly reducing travel time in northern Madagascar.

The RN5A renovation mirrors China’s infrastructure investments in Africa as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Besides RN5A, Chinese enterprises are actively involved in various African projects, including the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway (also known as the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway), Nigeria’s Akka Railway, and the East-West highway in Algeria.

Over the past decade, China’s centrally-administered state-owned enterprises have completed over 1,600 projects in Africa, significantly contributing to improving the continent’s infrastructure standards, according to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission under China’s State Council.

Everyone interviewed by the Global Times, including project general managers, frontline workers, and local residents in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Madagascar, expressed their excitement and anticipation for the benefits brought by these road and rail projects under the BRI. These projects have also increased local incomes and improved living standards.

In a recent China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue held in Johannesburg on August 24, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for China and Africa to collaborate in modernization efforts.

China is prepared to launch the Initiative on Supporting Africa’s Industrialization, which will assist Africa in developing its manufacturing sector and achieving industrialization and economic diversification, President Xi announced.

Injecting vitality into the local economy

“The project has changed my life, as it not only brings my family a better life, but my wife and kids also have fewer complaints than before,” shared Rabearintsoa Mahatoky Fanantenana, a local translator involved in the RN5A project.

In his view, the project has generated numerous jobs for locals, especially for young people who previously struggled to find employment. This project has not only provided many people with a stable income but also improved their quality of life.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Nebiyu Melaku Alemayehu, who works at the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway Share Company. As the head of the company’s human resources department, he has been part of the project for 11 years and has witnessed the construction of the Chinese-built railway from the ground up.

“At the outset, there were no lights, telecom services, or roads. But now, you can see numerous factories, warehouses, and people living along the railway,” he said.

During the railway’s construction, over 50,000 local jobs were created, and over 4,000 jobs were established during the operational period, according to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), the project’s builder and operator.

Along the railway, stalls selling carrots and peppers have appeared near a railway crossing, alongside roadside coffee stalls. Cars traverse the road while children play nearby, infusing new life into the region.

With the accelerated implementation of the BRI, China’s support for Africa’s infrastructure has been unprecedented and has significantly contributed to overcoming a major bottleneck that had long hindered Africa’s economic development.

Mohsin Chaudhry, general manager of Autoports Nairobi Freight Terminals Ltd, a railway cargo business dealer in Nairobi, Kenya, is one of the businessmen who has reaped the benefits delivered by the Chinese-built Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

“The amount of cargo that we can transport from the port of Mombasa in a day is significantly higher compared to the past. Since we started operating two years ago, our company has not experienced a single incident of lost shipments, and we can now offer more price stability,” he noted.

He highlighted that the railway is responsible for transporting critical commodities like wheat and cooking oil, which play a vital role in stabilizing the country’s economy.

“The impact of the railway on the country is tremendous. It has been delivered on time, which is a significant positive for us. We hope to see the SGR connecting different cities in Kenya; that would be a major economic boost for us,” Chaudhry added.

According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR has transported a total of 10.3 million passengers and 27 million tons of cargo. It has contributed 1.5 percentage points to Kenya’s GDP growth.

Harmony between humanity and nature

Africa is home to numerous wildlife species. The railway passes through Nairobi National Park, Tsavo National Park, and other wildlife conservation areas. To facilitate the movement of wild animals, animal passages have been constructed along the railway. Some of these bridge-type animal passages have a net height of more than 6.5 meters, allowing tall giraffes to pass through comfortably. Culvert-type animal passages enable animals like zebras to access water.

The railway authorities closely monitor animal activity along the route. If any animals are spotted, train drivers are alerted to take precautions, and animal protection organizations are contacted to help relocate animals to safety.

The BRI not only offers a path to economic prosperity but also paves the way for green development, according to Guo Chongfeng from CCECC. For example, during the planning phase of the Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, the project cut through virgin forests inhabited by wildlife. Therefore, animal passages were incorporated into the design from the beginning.

Although the cost of building animal passages in Ethiopia was approximately five times higher than in China, accounting for around three percent of the overall project cost, Guo emphasized that Chinese companies actively protect local ecological resources and the environment, driven by their sense of social responsibility.

China will continue to support Africa in a non-political manner, respecting the will of African countries and people. The focus is on promoting collaboration, not political agendas, reiterated Wang, an official involved in China’s foreign affairs.

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Adrienn Sarkany
Adrienn Sarkany
Hello there! I'm a 21-year-old university student majoring in Finnish and Korean Language and Literature. I have a deep passion for art and a profound connection to the natural world. My journey through life has been a colorful one, driven by my love for creativity, music, and the wonders of the great outdoors. As a dedicated student, I've already earned a degree in Classic Cantos, a testament to my appreciation for the timeless beauty of classical music. Beyond the classroom, my artistic spirit thrives through my love for painting and drawing. These creative outlets allow me to express my thoughts and emotions, transforming blank canvases into vibrant stories. My interests go far beyond music and art. Singing, playing the piano, and exploring new melodies are integral parts of my life, providing me with both solace and exhilaration. When I'm not immersed in the world of art and music, I find solace in nature's embrace. My heart is drawn to animals and the serene beauty of the natural world, fueling my desire to protect and preserve our precious environment.


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