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Analysis on the Belt and Road Initiative trade route linkages.docx (335.59 kB)

Analysis on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) trade route linkages

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posted on 2024-06-28, 11:37 authored by Mmamashilo MmakoMmamashilo Mmako

Maritime trade routes strategically connect the world, creating access to ports and hubs, and critical maritime chokepoints. China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) strategically connects many parts of the world through maritime corridors and hubs. As such, the BRI's extension to Africa positions the continent's interconnectedness with the wider Indo-Pacific nations as the BRI extends to ASEAN nations. ASEAN is considered the Indo-Pacific’s nucleus—the centrality of the Indo-Pacific region and thus, geopolitical and maritime linkages are imperative for Africa to benefit from. Interconnected overland and maritime corridors linking Africa and ASEAN, including critical BRI hubs, ports, railways, and multimodal channels can be geopolitically harnessed by the African nations of the Western Indo-Pacific in its inclusion in the framework and debates of the Indo-Pacific region. These include ports in Singapore and Egypt and railways linking Mombasa, Nairobi, and Addis Ababa. The Mombasa-Nairobi and Addis Ababa Djibouti railways strategically connect East Africa and the Indo-Pacific through the major BRI maritime corridor channels. The multimodal channels also connect Africa and the wider Indo-Pacific through hubs, such as in Djibouti, Lagos, and Chittagong (from Bangladesh—an ARF member). Further, BRI overland and maritime corridors that not only connect Africa and Asia but include Europe and South America through its six strategic economic corridors—the China-Pakistan economic corridor; Bangladesh China-India Myanmar; the Eurasian Land Bridge; China-Mongolia-Russia; China-Central Asia West Asia; and the China-Indochina Peninsula. Africa can therefore find constructive collaboration within the BRI’s economic corridors by integrating the BRI and AU Agenda 2063. The BRI is an important channel for promoting and expanding Africa’s geoeconomic landscape, as its infrastructure-building is valuable for promoting the AfCFTA.

The argument of the study has been that Africa is largely excluded in the geopolitical discourse of the Indo-Pacific as it is unequally accounted for among regional powers in their Indo-Pacific visions and discourses. However, the BRI presents opportunities for Africa’s inclusion in the Indo-Pacific region. The BRI creates Africa-Asia linkages with economic implications for Africa and strategic Africa-ASEAN and the broader Eurasia linkages. The regional consensus on ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific region emphasised the need for broadened Africa-ASEAN cooperation. ASEAN offers Africa diverse markets and trade opportunities, with a combined GDP of $3.66 trillion in 2022. Africa’s geoeconomic importance has increased owing to global demand for natural resources and a growing population, and economic development. ASEAN and Africa benefited from strategic BRI infrastructural projects, such as ports and railways creating strategic synergies between the two for broadened cooperation. ASEAN-Africa cooperation can help balance Africa’s overreliance on its trade with China. As it stands, Africa only accounts for 2% of ASEAN’s net trade. Therefore, Africa can benefit through leveraging the BRI to broaden its market exports to the ASEAN nations and the broader Indo-Pacific and Eurasian region. the geostrategic and geoeconomic significance of the BRI enables Africa to benefit from continental cooperation with ASEAN rather than bilaterally. This approach will likely experience the integration of key African policies and structures, such as the AU Agenda 2063 and AfCFTA, also benefitting smaller economies lacking a global trade agency. Implementing the AU Agenda 2063 and BRI offers opportunities for Chinese investment along AU-determined channels. Thus, a China-led inclusion of Africa in the BRI-centred engagements with ASEAN in the broader Indo-Pacific may likely lead to mutually beneficial regional trade partnerships. The BRI’s broader linkages with the European, Middle Eastern, and South American regions also present opportunities for interconnected trade and integration of the AfCFTA. Already implemented is the regional trade cooperation among SADC, MERCOSUR (comprising the South American region) and the EU.

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