in The Belt and Road Initiative in Asia, Africa, and Europe (edited by David Arase and Pedro Miguel Amakasu Raposo de Medeiros Carvalho)
London: Routledge, 2022
Abstract: Chinese-built infrastructure in Africa has been dominating the discourse on Beijing’s increasing influence in the region. Considering that Africa’s humongous infrastructure gap is estimated to require massive investments to the tune of US$130–170 billion a year, China’s focus on the sector has naturally been welcomed by most African governments. Their unanimous support to the BRI—overlooking the strong pushback Chinese projects have received on the ground—is critical to further the narrative of the ‘benign BRI’ and provide a canvas for ‘brand China’ to showcase its standards, efficiency, and an ‘alternate method of doing business’. This chapter explores whether China’s mega infrastructure projects address Africa’s connectivity conundrum especially as the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to slow down construction. It also tries to reimagine what opportunities a scaled-down BRI could provide for Indian engagement with countries in the African continent. The findings in this chapter are based on fieldwork conducted in East Africa as part of a project undertaken at the Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) between 2018 and 2019.
About the author: Veda Vaidyanathan was a HYI Chinese Studies in India Visiting Fellow from 2016-17.