Interview: China's Belt and Road to link Africa with global markets amid COVID-19, says expert
The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is expected to help Africa connect with global markets during the COVID-19 pandemic, thus creating jobs and promoting growth, said a Kenyan expert.
Edward Kusewa, an economics lecturer at the Nairobi-based St. Paul University, told Xinhua in an interview on Wednesday that the BRI will spur economic growth by improving trade efficiencies between African nations.
"The digitization proposed by the BRI could have a transformative effect because partner nations will benefit from the world-class innovations developed by China," Kusewa said.
He noted that the BRI can help Africa achieve its goal of becoming seamlessly interconnected.
"Africa's fragmented markets require infrastructure to promote movement of goods and people across its borders," said Kusewa. "Through the digital economy, Africa will leverage e-commerce to ensure goods can reach international markets."
He said that the digital Silk Road will positively alter the digital ecosystem of the continent by providing a foundation for the growth of smart cities and the rapid adoption of modern technologies such as financial technologies.
Proposed by China in 2013 to promote common growth and gain shared benefits, the BRI involves infrastructure development, trade and investment facilitation and people-to-people exchanges aimed at improving connectivity on a trans-continental scale.
Kusewa said that support for global connectivity through developing hard and soft infrastructure has not only boosted economic growth in Africa, but also helped connect countries with the rest of the world.
The African continent began trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area on Jan. 1 with 54 nations signing the trade pact, creating the world's largest trade bloc with approximately 1.3 billion people.
Kusewa said the trading bloc is expected to boost intra-Africa trade, drive the continent's economic recovery, and help African nations diversify their markets.
"It will help Africa's post-COVID-19 recovery by enabling nations to take advantage of nearby markets," he noted.
The scholar also noted that multilateralism will ensure that Africa has access to critical raw materials that can spur industrial development on the continent and lucrative international markets for its commodities.
He added that a multilateral trading system where even small African countries have a say will help lift millions out of poverty.
"Multilateralism is key to achieve globally shared prosperity where everyone including vulnerable communities can enhance their living standards," Kusewa said.
Yet he said the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a threat to the free movement of goods and people within the region and regional supply chains, as well as to the free movement of labor and commodities across borders.
The expert noted that structural deficiencies of low-income African states have also been exacerbated by the pandemic, further devastating already ailing economies.
As of Wednesday, the continent has 3.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 74,444 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.