Sunday, July 02, 2017

Africa Benefits From Focus on Concrete Needs
By Joyce Chimbi
Global Times
2017/7/2 21:48:39

China's mega projects to overhaul old and narrow railway lines in various African countries have been covered extensively with many expressing support for this Eastern nation to expand these operations across Africa.

But little has been said about the immediate and long-term ideological shift that the world is developing toward China and consequently, where this shift will place China in geopolitics.

When China began plans to revamp old railway lines in a number of African countries, many critics were up in arms, but as soon as ordinary people started reaping immediate benefits from better and faster railway lines, criticism has transformed into resounding support.

The underlining issue is the fact that China supports tangible, physical and visible projects. It is difficult to argue with a project that can be seen.

This Eastern nation is not only undertaking massive infrastructural projects in Africa, but in Asia and Europe too.

Currently, China is spearheading a mega project said to be the silver bullet to the global economic woes facing the world today.

Not only does this project involve more than 60 countries, but it will also involve two out of every three people living in the world, and has an estimated infrastructural value of $1 trillion.

The project is dubbed the Belt and Road initiative and will cover areas that produce at least 40 percent of world output.

The socio-economic implications are astounding as well as the capacity to change world affairs and to boost China's global influence.

At every turn, global politics are becoming increasingly unpredictable. The European Union, which was until recently a powerful force, is in a most unstable phase, and rather than relations deepening, new alliances are being formed.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there are many global partners who are ready to work with other countries largely on a needs basis rather than ideology, which is the path that China has boldly taken across Africa.

Though the West often gives aid, foreign aid is not designed through brick and mortar, which is an area that China has a monopoly in.

China's approach to international development particularly in Africa has been through brick and mortar, drifting further from foreign aid and closer to investment-led aid.

This Eastern nation has left infrastructural footprints across the continent resulting in a direct impact on the gross domestic products of many developing countries and also on their capacity to achieve their ambitious development blueprints.

Some of the landlocked countries such as Ethiopia stand to benefit from faster, safer and cheaper transportation of people and cargo through a new Standard Gauge Railway line.

Africa has always had a youthful and highly educated population albeit with high unemployment. Through technology transfers from China, these dynamics are shifting.

Based on the erratic global political climate, all indications are that the world is exiting a space where the West has had a monopoly in global governance to a new order where there will be a need to deepen relations between developed and developing countries.

China has had a head start and has had a monopoly in testing the waters, especially across Africa, to identify the most effective development model.

Many other global partners will be entering this phase for the first time, having viewed developing countries as a mere recipient and rarely as a partner who can also provide growth opportunities for international actors.

China's ability to focus on needs rather than ideology has facilitated the development and deepening of partnerships across many countries.

When US President Donald Trump recently met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the meeting was dubbed "America first meets India first," summarizing the new world order where each country has become increasingly inward-looking.

But what will be more important in this inward-looking approach will be an actor who will provide tangible and practical solutions that will remove the many bottlenecks that many countries are facing as they strive to grow and to transform their economies in tandem with the changing times.

In many ways, China is demonstrating a workable and sustainable model as can be seen with its engagement with African countries and also through the Belt and Road initiative.

Not only is this belt a holistic vision that will transform the global political, social and economic order, but therein also lies this drive that seeks to ensure that as many countries as possible work together on global trade.

The author is a Kenya-based journalist.

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