One of the objectives of China’s maritime Silk Road initiative is to develop international shipping connectivity across South East Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Indian Ocean, which will open new opportunities for Africa in terms of economic partnerships.
These observations were made by the head of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Nimasa), Dr Dakuku Peterside at a business forum held in Brussels.
Nimasa is the equivalent of South Africa’s Samsa.
Peterside said Africa needed to fully protect its continental interests because while the maritime Silk Road initiative comes with benefits for Africa, there are also inherent risks. “China is pursuing new transportation linkages throughout the Eurasia region and Africa to boost trade and enhance her economic status, [but] Africa must key in to develop her port infrastructure, maritime asset financing and create jobs for her people,” he said.
Peterside issued a warning of potential threats such as the taking over of African ports by the Chinese to the detriment of Africans.
There is also the risk that the Silk Road initiative will create additional openings for African markets to be flooded with Chinese goods.
Chinese policy had the potential of affecting port calls and hub status decisions.
A Chinese state-owned company recently took control of the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota at the southern tip of India, to the distinct concern of the Indian authorities.
Sri Lanka sits astride the major trade route between Asia and Africa/Europe, while in the west the little enclave of Djibouti at the southern entrance of the Red Sea is becoming increasingly influenced by China, which is poised to replace Dubai’s DP World as the operator of the Doraleh port following the acrimonious ejection of the Dubai-based terminal operator.
Simultaneously, China is building a large naval and military base at Djibouti that is raising the concern of the Americans who also have a military base near the port.
US congressman Bradley Byrne claims Djibouti will host 10 000 Chinese troops at the base, more than double those at Camp Lemonnier, the US base.
This had consequences for the region, he said.
Other concerns centre on the growing debt owed by African countries to China for infrastructural and other projects, including the new standard gauge railway in Kenya and Uganda.
It is pointed out that the Hambantota port fell into Chinese hands because Sri Lanka was unable to repay the debt for developing a port that no one else wanted, leaving the Chinese to take it over in recompense.