BRI drives Fujian offshore fishery firm’s growth in Africa, benefits locals: representatives
Since the inception of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Fujian-based Hongdong Fishery Co has benefited a great deal from the favorable policies for offshore fishery introduced by national and provincial governments, allowing the company to better participate in co-building the BRI, said Lan Pingyong, founder and chairman of the board of the fishery.
Issued by China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce in March 2015, the Vision And Actions On Jointly Building Silk Road Economic Belt And 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road specifically stated that support would be given to East China’s Fujian province in becoming a core area of the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Later in the year, Fujian followed up with a plan to develop into a core BRI area , underlining the importance of strengthening marine cooperation by developing offshore fishery and establishing long-term and stable cooperation with coastal countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia and Africa.
Hongdong’s cooperation with African countries dates back to 2010, when the company signed a long-term fishery cooperation agreement with the Mauritanian government in June of that year. With official approval, Hongdong obtained permits for 169 fishing boats to enter the waters of Mauritania, with access to nearly 100 kinds of fish products.
Instead of following the traditional fishing method of paying certain license fees and transporting the catch directly after fishing, Hongdong chose the more difficult route of building a fishery base in Mauritania.
Although the traditional way guarantees economic benefits, it does little to promote local development, whereas “the top priority of Hongdong when entering a foreign country is to meet local needs and promote win-win cooperation,” Lan told the Belt and Road Portal.
In June 2011, Hongdong began construction of its offshore fishery base in Nouadhibou, Mauritania. “However, when phase I construction of the fishery base was completed, we faced funding issues because the cost was higher than what we expected,” said Chen Zhongjie, president of Hongdong Fishery.
“It was the implementation of the BRI that offered timely support,” Chen said, noting that China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation, China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China lent a helping hand by offering funds and information on local risks, allowing Hongdong to gain a foothold in Mauritania.
Through years of operating in the country, Hongdong not only boosted the local economy, but also showed local people how their lives could change as a result of BRI cooperation and how Chinese companies are willing to take on social responsibilities.
About 2,000 jobs for local people were promised when Hongdong entered Mauritania, and the 2,000 people not only found work, but also received essential training. “We organize staff training every week on how to drive and repair fishing boats, how to identify different types of fish, and how to ensure safety,” Chen said. “Many of the local people were able to buy their own boats and start their own business after working with us.”
At the same time, Hongdong has also made efforts in local poverty alleviation. On April 3, 2021, construction began on a road donated by Hongdong in Nouadhibou, where the fishery base is located. The 1,900-meter road, when completed, will not only make it more convenient for local people to travel around, but will also promote the city’s tourism development.
The success of Hongdong’s Mauritania fishery base has been recognized by many countries along the BRI routes, with Central and South American as well as African countries such as Guyana, Suriname and Angola reaching out to Hongdong to discuss the possibility of cooperation.
In 2019, Hongdong invested $25 million to build a multi-functional industrial park in Guyana, integrating fishery, processing and export, refrigeration and entrepot trade. Covering an area of about 30,000 square meters, the project directly creates more than 300 local jobs, with the same attention being paid to providing vocational training for employees and improving aquatic product processing technology. The industrial park has increased the incomes of local fishermen by resolving problems in processing and exporting the fishery catch, and increasing the local government’s fiscal and tax revenue.
“The BRI has brought enormous development opportunities to Hongdong, whose fleet scale reached 170 ships by the year 2021,” said Lan. “It is the support from a strong homeland that gives companies like us the confidence to firmly go global.”