The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a major strategy to align China’s development with that of other countries along the routes while addressing different needs. The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China in the autumn of 2013.
The goal of the BRI is fivefold;
(i) policy coordination;
(ii) facilities connectivity;
(iii) unimpeded trade;
(iv) financial integration; and
(v) people-to-people bonds.
The Initiative aims to interconnect countries in Asia, Europe and Africa through an ambitious vision for infrastructure, economic and political cooperation. The BRI has drawn wide attention and gained positive response from international community. Shichor (2018) opined that policymakers especially Chinese leaders were surprised by the enthusiastic welcome to President Xi Jinping’s proposal of the BRI just like other countries. To this effect, the Chinese Government committed US$1 trillion towards the initiative for 10 years. On March 28, 2015, the National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China through the State Council a document titled “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.” The aim of the document was to promote the implementation of the Initiative, instill vigor and vitality into the ancient Silk Road, connect Asian, European and African countries more closely and promote mutually beneficial cooperation to a new high and in new forms. Several nations, agencies and the Chinese provinces are encouraged to be involved in the BRI’s decision-making and implementation processes.
By December 2021, 142 countries from Asia, Europe and Africa signed the Belt and Road Initiative MoU with China. The Initiative first focused on Asia and Europe counties before inclusion of African countries in which South Africa and Egypt were among the first to sign the Belt and Road Initiative Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Africa. The BRI focus is to connect all 54 African countries through transportation infrastructure projects, including modern highways, airports, and high speed railways. The BRI is expected to promote trade and strengthen economic growth across the region; leads to a 25% reduction in road transport margins and 5% in sea transport margins; and coordinate economic policy and improve regional collaboration and contribute to lifting 7.6 million people from extreme poverty and 32 million from moderate poverty by 2030. Furthermore, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to promote the connectivity of Asian, European and African continents and their adjacent seas, establish and strengthen partnerships among the countries along the Belt and Road, set up all-dimensional, multi-tiered and composite connectivity networks, and realize diversified, independent, balanced and sustainable development in these countries. The connectivity projects of the Initiative will help align and coordinate the development strategies of the countries along the Belt and Road, tap market potential in this region, promote investment and consumption, create demands and job opportunities, enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and mutual learning among the peoples of the relevant countries, and enable them to understand, trust and respect each other and live in harmony, peace and prosperity.
Despite these benefits, the Initiative is perceived as a debt trap and strategy by China to dominate the world. Shichor (2018) revealed that the BRI practically ignores a variety of obstacles and risks such as; piracy, terrorism, Islamic extremism, ethnic and national rivalries, internal and interstate violence along the routes along the routes (both on land and sea). These challenges if not addressed may disrupt the movement of investments, goods and people at unexpected times. Similarly, it is hard to find reliable data on BRI. This is because it is difficult to distinguish a BRI project from regular economic or diplomatic relations. Hence, BRI lacks clear description; leaving the reader with a choice of interpretations. It is against this background, the School of Business and Management Science, University of Nairobi in conjunction with Zhejiang University, Ocean College and the RMIT University is organizing the BRI Conference for Africa to bring academicians and researchers in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) from the partner countries along the Belt and Road to exchange insights on Belt and Road Initiative past, present and future challenges and opportunities. All accepted papers will be peer reviewed and published in referred journals.