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Why Belt and Road Initiative is a Great Opportunity for Namibia
Zhang Yiming Chinese Ambassador in Namibia
2019/05/31

On 25-27 April 2019,China hosted the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing, and Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a series of major reform and opening up measures to make stronger institutional and structural moves to boost higher quality of opening up. It is the second time that China has hosted BRF. Compared with the first forum held in 2017, this year’s forum has larger scale, richer content, more participating countries, and more fruitful results. About 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organizations attended the forum, and the leaders of 38 countries and the heads of the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund attended the Leaders’ Round Table Summit. A total of 283 concrete items in six categories of practical outcomes were achieved in the preparatory process and during the forum.

1

Six years ago, Chinese president Xi Jinping put forward the initiative of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which now called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. The “Belt and Road Initiative” continues the geographical footprint of the ancient land and maritime Silk Roads that linked Asia, Africa, and Europe, and inherited the spiritual core of the ancient Silk Road. The purpose of BRI is to reinvigorate the spirit of the ancient Silk Road, focusing on enhancing connectivity and practical cooperation. The BRI is about jointly meeting various challenges and risks confronting mankind and achieving mutual benefit and common development.

In the past six years, under the guidance of the Silk Road spirit, the BRI has demonstrated a tremendous international influence, moral appeal and potential for cooperation. It has transformed from ideas to actions and from vision to reality. As a Chinese saying goes, “Peaches and plums do not speak, but they are so attractive that a path is formed below the trees”, more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. The United Nations, the G20, APEC, Shanghai Cooperation Organization and other important international organizations have written the concept of BRI. Belt and Road cooperation has provided new opportunities for the development of all countries, opened up new space for global economic growth, produced new platforms for international trade and investment and offered new ways for improving global economic governance.

In the past six years, thanks to the joint efforts of all participants of BRI, a blueprint of cooperation has been drawn to enhance policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. The BRI cooperation has made significant progress and fruitful results in different areas such as policy docking, infrastructure investment, economic corridors, economic and trade cooperation zones, industrial parks, financial and trade cooperation, innovation and technology, maritime cooperation, business interaction and cultural exchanges. A general connectivity framework consisting of six corridors, six connectivity routes and multiple countries and ports has been put in place. The total trade volume between China and the BRI countries has exceeded $US6 trillion, and China's investment in these countries has surpassed $80 billion. The 82 cooperation parks jointly built by China and other participation countries have created about 300,000 jobs and generated over $2 billion in tax revenue for host countries. The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions indicate that the BRI cooperation will cut the cost of global trade by 1.1 per cent to 2.2 per cent.

2

In history, the African continent is an integral part of the ancient Maritime Silk Road. At present, Africa plays an important role in BRI cooperation, and is an important direction for the construction of BRI. So far, 37 African countries have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents with China. BRI has brought tremendous opportunities for China-Africa cooperation. China has built 25 economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa, creating 41,000 jobs. In 2018, China-Africa trade volume reached US$204 billion, and China’s investment in Africa has exceeded US$110 billion. African countries have gained more and more development dividends. In particular, East African countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia are at the forefront. They have tried first, benefited first, and received a large number of early harvests.

Chinese-built Mombasa–Nairobi Railway, which was completed in 2017, is the largest infrastructure project since Kenya's independence, raising the country’s GDP growth by 1.5 percent, creating 46,000 local jobs, providing 45,000 local training opportunities, and reducing logistics costs by about 40%. In Ethiopia, China has invested or built more than 10 industrial parks. By the end of 2017, there were already 81 enterprises in the Egypt Eastern Industrial Park alone, with 370 million US dollars invested and 111,000 jobs created. The shoes made in relevant parks with the label “made in Ethiopia” are popular all over the world. Chinese-built Addis Ababa–Djibouti Railway was the first modern electrified railway in Eastern Africa, reducing the transportation cost between the two places by 30%, providing a large number of local jobs and technical training opportunities.

Southern Africa has a well-developed infrastructure network and a good economic development, with favorable conditions for participating in the “Belt and Road” cooperation. In particular, Namibia has a superior geographical location, stable political and social environment, good infrastructure and a free investment environment. It is the gateway to southern Africa and is becoming a logistics hub for the southern African region through infrastructure such as ports and roads, which enjoys exceptional advantages in BRI cooperation.

In September, 2018, China and Namibia signed Memorandum of Understanding on BRI Cooperation during the FOCAC Beijing summit. The Harambee Prosperity Plan put forward by President Geingob has much in common with the BRI. BRI will bring construction funds, high-quality production capacity and advanced technologies to Namibia, promote China's investment and create more jobs for Namibia. BRI cooperation will provide Namibia with an extra path for poverty alleviation, job creation and solving other development problems, help accelerate the realization of industrialization and agricultural modernization of Namibia. In fact, some existing projects in Namibia such as Husab mine, Walvis Bay container terminal and several roads construction projects are implemented under the spirit and framework of BRI, Namibia has already begun to benefit from BRI. Walvis Bay container terminal is expected to be completed in August this year and will become a landmark project for BRI cooperation between China and Namibia.

3

Some people claim that the BRI is China’s “Marshall Plan” and must have an underlying strategic aim or agenda. In fact, the BRI is not a geopolitical tool, but an open, inclusive and transparent platform for cooperation. China will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering, what we hope to achieve is a new model of win-win cooperation. The BRI is not an exclusive club, but a platform that all parties are welcome to equally participate in. BRI construction is guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. We advocate acting in the spirit of multilateralism, to pursue cooperation through consultation and to keep all participants motivated. The "five-no" approach in China’s relations with Africa put forward by President Xi Jinping: no interference in African countries' pursuit of development paths that fit their national conditions; no interference in African countries' internal affairs; no imposition of our will on African countries; no attachment of political strings to assistance to Africa; and no seeking of selfish political gains in investment and financing cooperation with Africa, have established a self-discipline benchmark for China's cooperation with Africa and has demonstrated the ethical principles of international development cooperation. This is in stark contrast to the "Marshall Plan" in which the United States brought Europe to contain the Soviet Union.

Some people claim that the BRI lures other countries into debt traps. This is not the fact, but the imagination of them. There are multiple reasons for certain countries to fall into the debt crisis, and the crisis is not caused by China. Some celebrities and countries participated in and benefited from the BRI have debunked such assertions with factual evidence. No country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, thanks to the BRI cooperation, many countries have made steady progress in their efforts to get out of the trap of "under-development". Take Namibia as an example, according to Namibian Finance Ministry, the debt from China only counts for 2.6% of the overall governmental debt of Namibia, and 7.9% of the overall foreign debt of Namibia. The interest rate of concessional loan from China is only 2%, without any attachment of political strings. The debt problem of African countries is a historical issue. It is not a problem emerging today, nor something caused by China. To solve this problem, we need to let African countries achieve independent and sustainable development as soon as possible. The participation of African countries in building the BRI is to break the bottleneck of development and better integrate Africa into global value chains, industrial chains and supply chains. There is an old saying in China: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. China not only provides low-interest loans to African countries, but also brings a lot of technology to Africa, which is conducive to accelerating Africa’s industrialization and agricultural modernization, and will contribute to independent and long-term development of Africa.

Some people claim that the BRI is “China’s neocolonialism”. In fact, the BRI is guided by the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits and is committed to building a community of shared interests, shared responsibility, and shared future, which is completely different from the colonial practices of the Western countries in modern times. China-Africa relations are South-South relations. China will always be a good friend, good partner and good brother of Africa. China introduced over 100 cooperation measures under “Eight Major Initiatives”, sending a strong message of China-Africa solidarity and collaboration for a shared future. Under the principle of equal consultation and extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, the BRI construction is being closely integrated with the AU Agenda 2063, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development programs of African countries, opening up new space and injecting new impetus for the development and revitalization of Africa. Among the ten major cooperation plans announced by the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit, the measures building the three networks(expressway, high-speed rail, regional aviation) and promoting industrialization in Africa, are advancing the horizontal interconnection and regional collaboration of Africa, changing Africa’s marginal role in economic globalization and creating a new era of African development.

Africa is a continent of hope, and Namibia is a country with great development potential. China welcomes Namibia to take the express train of China’s development, expand pragmatic cooperation under the framework of BRI, to improve development quality and efficiency, to bring more tangible benefits to the two peoples. I am confident that China-Namibian cooperation will become a model for China-Africa BRI cooperation.

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