BRI helps Africa become frontier of development; ‘debt trap’ rhetoric is more of political narrative, propaganda of West: African scholar

By Liu Xin, Xing Xiaojing and Zhang Wang in Nairobi (Global Times) 10:58, September 06, 2023

Dennis Munene Mwaniki, Executive Director of the Africa Policy Institute, has an interview with the Global Times. Photo: Yin Hao/GT

Dennis Munene Mwaniki, Executive Director of the Africa Policy Institute, has an interview with the Global Times. Photo: Yin Hao/GT

Some Western economists used to say Africa is a hopeless continent, but through China-Africa cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it has become a frontier of development, Dennis Munene Mwaniki, Executive Director of the Africa Policy Institute, told the Global Times in an exclusive interview.

For many years, Africa was considered to be underdeveloped, but today, through the BRI, the continent is able to have more than 100,000 kilometers of highways, some 1,000 bridges and around 100 ports that have been under construction with a large number of employments being created, said Mwaniki, noting that these are the greatest achievements seen to date which Africa accessed through the BRI.

Through the BRI, Chinese nongovernmental organizations and educational institutes have deepened exchanges with African scholars. When Mwaniki joined the Africa Policy Institute in 2014, doors were opened to learn more about China, which also inspired his interest in the Asian country.

Although many African people may not know BRI by its name, they have seen its effects with their own eyes, Mwaniki said, citing the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya as an example.

"The SGR has been one of the catalysts for our GDP. During the construction, the SGR had been able to generate direct and indirect employment for more than 30,000 people," said Mwaniki, noting that the railway has also facilitated the transportation, boosted local tourism and ensured security of cargo.

The SGR has helped accelerate Kenya's modernization. The Nairobi expressway has reduced the travel time from the airport to the city center from two hours to 15 minutes. The Thwake Dam has solved water issue for local residents; and the Lamu Port has provided new sea routes for countries such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda, the African scholar said.

In response to Western media hype over China setting "debt trap" or engaging in "neo- colonialism" in Africa, Mwaniki said that their rhetoric is "more of a political narrative and propaganda pushed to discourage Africans from working with China," but "infrastructure development does not have any fiscal burden to our country and is paying for itself. Without the development, we cannot compete with other countries."

The problem lies in some African leaders who have opted to misuse the loans that have been issued to support infrastructure - this is the biggest issue when it comes to debt in Africa. And many countries are dealing the problems of governance and corruption, Mwaniki said.

Mwaniki noted that the Western media and the Western politicians are trying to push Africans away from China because where there is development, there will be peace. This is why they [the Western media and politicians] pay more attention on politics or geopolitics, not development.

The US and Western countries are trying to counter China's influence in Africa. But for us Africans, all we want is sustainable development, and that's what China is giving us," said Mwaniki.

Kenya was colonized by Great Britain and the country faced limited development opportunities for a long time after claiming independence. Mwaniki noted that many of African countries had been colonized by Western countries and the policies the West made in the continent was to make sure it would have no development and this is why every loan the West offered have political conditions.

China's BRI has helped African countries, including Kenya, to develop their infrastructure and boost the local economy, making Africa stand on the frontier of development, while China also benefits from the win-win cooperation, Mwaniki added.

The scholar said that via the BRI, China has transferred its excess production capacity to Africa, opening up international markets in Africa and across the global South. Currently, there are over 10,000 Chinese companies operating in Africa.

Mwaniki also expressed high expectations for future China-Africa cooperation under the BRI.

"This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative and the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Kenya and China. Kenya has benefited from its cooperation with China... China's modernization has inspired our 'African dream' and Africa also hopes to explore its own path and achieve accomplishments similar to that of China," Mwaniki stated.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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