The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a significant infrastructure project designed to expand China's economic involvement on an international scale. Occasionally referred to as the "New Silk Road", the BRI was launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping and presents vast opportunities for cross-border trade with the rest of Asia, Europe and Africa.
The BRI, as the name implies, is comprised of two infrastructure plans: an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and an overseas Maritime Silk Road. The Silk Road Economic Belt envisions an extensive system of land infrastructure, including railways, roads and energy pipelines, connecting China with Western countries. The Maritime Silk Road envisions port infrastructure development and optimised import/export processes, connecting China with Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.
What does the BRI mean for Africa? The BRI has the potential to increase trade with Africa. The Maritime Silk Road will facilitate trade with African markets, particularly through the major African shipping ports of Durban (South Africa), Mombasa (Kenya), Djibouti, Lagos (Nigeria) and Walvis Bay (Nambia). The Silk Road Economic Belt, bringing goods to Asia and Europe, also has potential to bring goods to North Africa. For example, land trade routes through Egypt and Morocco can see growth in future.
The corridor for delivering goods and services to Africa will only widen as the BRI progresses. Asian companies entering African markets at an early stage will be strongly positioned. A first call of duty for Asian companies should be to secure intellectual property rights in Africa, thereby keeping potential competitors in Africa at bay.
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