China’s 2021 Progress Across The African Belt & Road Initiative

China’s 2021 Progress Across The African Belt & Road Initiative by Chris Devonshire-Ellis for Silk Road Briefing

  • hina’s Foreign Minister Visited 5 African Countries last week
  • BRI MoU signed with Botswana & Democratic Republic of Congo 
  • Chinese firms win US$1.36 billion Tanzania Rail Contract 
  • Preparations underway for 2021 FOCAC Summit

While other countries have been beset with political arguments and domestic unrest in the early New Year, China has been steaming ahead with developing diplomatic ties and generally promoting its international agenda. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been on a Five Nation tour of Africa, taking in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Tanzania, and the Seychelles, in a decades-old tradition where Beijing’s top diplomat always visits the continent at the start of the new year. This has been happening for the last 31 years now.

We can examine the highlights of this year’s trip as follows:

BRI MoU Signed  
China and Botswana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on Thursday. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Botswana counterpart Lemogang Kwape signed the MoU between the two governments after their talks in Gaborone. Wang said the BRI is an important international cooperation initiative and a public product provided by China to the international community. The MoU focus is to help developing countries strengthen infrastructure construction, better realize connectivity, and enhance their independent development capabilities, he said.

The two countries agreement makes Botswana the 46th partner country in Africa in BRI cooperation, and neatly coincides with the 46th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Botswana. Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi and Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Lemogang Kwape said that the deal is new progress in China-Botswana relations and will provide new impetus for the cooperation between the two countries.

China-Botswana bilateral trade

Botswana exports primary products to China and imports intermediate and capital goods, which are used as inputs in the development of infrastructure in the country. Increased imports from China into Botswana’s domestic market have replaced imports from other countries, and China’s textile, clothing, and footwear (TCF) exports gained market share from Botswana’s TCF exports in the third markets, that is, South Africa. Current bilateral trade is running at about US$300 million per annum.

BRI MoU Signed, US$28 Million Loans Forgiven   
China has cancelled the Democratic Republic of Congo’s interest-free loans that matured in 2020 and promised to fund infrastructure projects as the Central African nation joined the Belt and Road Initiative. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing would write off loans to DRC worth an estimated US$28 million to help the country overcome the impact of Covid-19 and give US$17 million in other financial support. Interest-free loans account for only about 5 per cent of the loans China has advanced to Africa.

While meeting Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa, Wang said most of the sum pledged, US$15 million, would be channeled towards development projects. The remaining US$2 million would be used to support DRC’s mandate as head of the African Union bloc for the next financial year. China also committed to funding refurbishment of the Congolese foreign ministry headquarters. The DRC took 53 loans worth US$2.4 billion from China between 2000 and 2018, mostly to fund power, transport, and mining projects, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.

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