China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is stepping up a gear, with new BRI-related projects estimated to be worth US$350bn over the next five years. This is according to a new report by Baker McKenzie and Silk Road Associates – Belt & Road: Opportunities & Risks.
According to the report, various African countries along the BRI have the potential to provide major opportunities for investment. These countries particularly include Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Egypt.
The report explains how BRI (also known as One Belt One Road (OBOR)) is primarily divided between the overland ‘Belt’, the classically defined Silk Road that stretches from China to Europe, and the new, maritime Silk Road. The maritime Road is a densely populated consumer and industrial opportunity. Like the landlocked Belt, it also connects China and Europe, but differs in that the Road passes through Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and East Africa, a region that is home to 42% of the world’s population and 25% of its GDP, excluding China.
The report states that multinationals from all countries can expect to find significant opportunities in the maritime Road regions over the coming decades, irrespective of the success of BRI.
Kieran Whyte, head of the energy, mining and infrastructure practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg, says that for investors in Africa, “A big attraction of the Belt and Road Initiative for both governments and project sponsors is that it assists the speed of project implementation. Project stakeholders advise that the whole process is a lot quicker than other options”.
The report outlines East Africa’s integral role in the BRI, owing to Djibouti’s ports, Ethiopia’s manufacturing, and the region’s existing plans to connect rail, road and energy networks. It also details how key opportunities in Africa with regards to BRI will be transactions related to major projects in the power and infrastructure sector and related financing. China’s construction of power plants and transmission lines in East Africa is expected to be a game changer for local industry.