By Dagny Zenovia
Africa is balancing the adverse effects of others’ abuse of the environment with its own industrial revolution. Even though climate change gets hijacked as a political talking point in the West, Africa is the most exposed region to the effects of climate change while contributing the least to global warming. There could be an opportunity, while leveraging China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to develop in a way that is sustainable for African people and Africa’s environment.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) focuses on lending money to developing countries to construct infrastructure in transport, power, water supply, and other sectors. As of 2019, 37 Africans countries and the African Union have signed on to it. Some of the largest projects under BRI in Africa include $1.3 billion for the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway in Ethiopia, $1.4 billion for the Karuma hydropower station in Uganda, and $500 million for the Abuja-Masaka light rail in Nigeria. Despite these developments, some countries in the East and West have voiced concerns about an alternative agenda behind this initiative to cause these countries to be beholden to China for debt. The truth behind these concerns is still up for debate.
Africa’s Environmental Sustainability
There have been a variety of initiatives and developments throughout Africa in response to climate change and pollution. A lot of them are on the local and individual level. For example, Nesplant Ghana Ltd is an industrial processing company in Ghana that recycles all types of plastic waste into high quality industrial and domestic use, including pavement blocks. Ethiopia continues to restore the Tigray Region drylands by having its people volunteer 20 days a year to build terraces, irrigation projects, and other projects. Morocco’s Noor Concentrated Solar Power Plant is the largest solar complex of it’s kind in the world. Located in Ouarzazate, its facility is more than 6,000 acres and plans to become a destination for scientific tourism. However, for every positive input in Africa’s environment, there is a negative output. The Gambia is currently experiencing illegal Rosewood timber trafficking through Senegal. The main import destination for this group of Rosewood timber is China, where it is used to make antique-style furniture and art. Chinese companies and banks are financing at least 13 coal projects across Africa, which is being chastised by the West’s green initiatives.
This is why Africa can further leverage China’s BRI to further protect and restore Africa’s environment and development. The innovation and ideas are gradually being done throughout Africa and can really use more resources. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has the resources and is interested in investing in Africa’s development for trade and business purposes. Long-term insight can bridge these ideas with these resources. It can also emphasize the need to use these resources to prevent further adverse effects of climate change. This is an opportunity that Africa should be proactive with.