The African Union, which houses a number of African countries who stand to benefit from China’s investments has thrown weight behind the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Once started as a homage to the Silk Road of ancient civilisations became modern China’s attempt to create a wide network of trade routes and development projects. As of 2019, 71 countries joined China’s flagship initiative, consisting of around 70% of the world population and 40% of the global GDP, which is estimated to be as high as $90 trillion.
While the focus of the new Silk Road was on the previous routes through Asia into East Africa and Europe, the new Silk Road, BRI, has spilled over into African Union countries such as Liberia, Morocco, and Tunisia. Some of the success stories from African development projects include the Addis Ababa Light Rail which cut travel time to and from the city. Through the BRI, China has built a light-rail system in Abuja, Nigeria, the first to be built in Western Africa. Chinese construction companies also assisted Angola in rebuilding their Benguela Railway after it was destroyed due to civil war in the region. As a result, the country can transport goods from Angola’s western coastline to the border of the Democratic of Congo, thus facilitating trade.
Voices on the ground have a similar tone. China Global Television Network (CGTN) held an essay contest where people from across the world spoke about their experience with BRI. One essay touched on how, through the BRI, Uganda had the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, cut the author’s travel time to the airport significantly. Chinese funded projects have also led to the construction of the Isimba and Karuma hydroelectric power stations, two new sources of electricity to Uganda which will ultimately aid development. In Rwanda, road construction projects have seen young citizens become involved in the construction sector through their employment. This ultimately improved their welfare and provided work skills. In the spirit of BRI’s trade ambitions, Egypt now looks to make the idea of the Cape to Cairo road a reality. Since taking the reins as chairperson of the African Union, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt plans to construct a superhighway through multiple African nations eventually ending in Cape Town, to open countries to trading in Cape’s ports and Egypt’s gateway to the European Union.