Two more African states join China’s Belt and Road initiative

ISLAMABAD: Eritrea and Guinea-Bissau have announced their intention to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), actively promoted by Beijing.

The two countries are said to have signed a formal agreement with China ahead of a key regional forum.

The ambitious multibillion-dollar BRI, also known as the New Silk Road, was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, with the aim of strengthening connectivity and cooperation between Asia’s East, Europe and East Africa. The major project is expected to significantly expand world trade, halving trade costs for the countries involved.

Eritrea is considered strategically important because of its access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, as well as to the waters of the Persian Gulf, and therefore to the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile, Atlantic Ocean nation Guinea-Bissau is expected to bolster China’s maritime interests along the West African coast. The country is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which has removed tariffs between African countries.

China has pledged to build a $ 184 million biomass power plant in Guinea-Bissau and is reportedly involved in several redevelopment projects in the country. Beijing is reportedly backing a $ 48 million project to renovate the dilapidated telecommunications system and the construction of highways. Chinese investors have also expressed interest in the logging sector, deep-sea fishing and oil exploration.

Beijing plans to help Eritrea bring back a skilled workforce, develop infrastructure in the country and “wean it from an agricultural base to a higher level of industrialization.” In 2019, the China Shanghai Corporation for Foreign Economic and Technological Cooperation (SFECO) began construction of part of the 500 km road between the port city of Massawa and the port of Assab, both of which have economic zones. special.

The two African states signed the memorandum of understanding a few days before the next FOCAC Ministerial Forum in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, which will begin on November 29.

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