On the 27th April 2019 China hosted 37 countries at its Belt and Road Summit - the largest gathering of world leaders in a sweeping move to affirm its bulging world influence. In attendance were Russia's Vladimir Putin, Italy’s PM Conte, Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, and leaders of countries across Asia and Europe joined 5,000 others for the 2nd year.
What is the Belt and Road Initiative?
Well, just as the name suggests, it is simply about connecting China with the rest of the world. It is the largest infrastructure project in human history, with over $1 trillion being committed to connect 65% of the world’s population by one upgraded sea route and one upgraded land route.
It is in a bid to establish China’s place as the number one economy in the World, which is expected to grow bigger than the US economy by 2020.
Facts About The Belt and Road Initiative:
- 65% of the world’s population
- One third of global GDP
- 30% of the world’s goods and services
- Over 150 countries and international organisations
- $350b committed to projects by 2023
The Asian giant has pledged to import US$2 trillion worth of goods from Belt and Road countries by the end of 2022. The infrastructure upgrades and increased trade will bring many out of poverty.
Many sceptics especially on the continent are worried of the impact on economies in the long run. China took control over Sri Lanka’s port a year ago after Sri Lanka defaulted on their repayments. It is ruthless when it comes to loan default. The country still owes $13 billion, and they've now lost their port to China for 100 years.
Kenya is now in danger of losing its Mombasa port with a similar risk if they default. And the Central Bank has recently raised alarm bells over Uganda's tripling of its national debt, now risking debt default as a result of China's loans. Zambia is not also free and its founding father, Kenneth Kaunda would have to rewrite the epic book, "Zambia Must be Free". What a better time to read.
Dr Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says China's policy is "Debt-trap Diplomacy" - "It gets countries - particularly poorer countries - hooked on debts they can’t pay back. When they can’t pay it back, China basically grabs ports, facilities or territory. It’s a debt-trap strategy."
This strategy effectively enables China to be in charge the key economic activities in countries without raising a gun.
The next 10 years will unquestionably be China’s decade, and the Belt and Road project will, in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s be “the project of the century.” The consequences of this will soon dawn on us in coming decades. African leaders must envision a debt free continent or this Trojan Horse may just once again establish the curse of Ham, ushering Africa to perpetual slavery.
Header Image Credit: The Real News