Impact and opportunity of China’s Belt and Road initiative for AfricaThe rapid deepening of ties between the African continent and China is one of the most important geopolitical trends of the 21st century. The dynamic of China-Africa relations are not limited to just governments and state-owned enterprises, but also on cultural bodies, NGOs, small and medium-sized businesses, minorities and everyday citizens.
AfOx supported the Oxford University China Africa Network (OUCAN) to host their annual OUCAN Conference, themed ‘Opportunity and Risk in the Belt and Road Initiative’. This timely topic fostered a productive discussion on China’s role in the African continent, reflecting on the current status and trajectory of the academic works on China-Africa. Whilst OUCAN has helped lead scholarship towards more nuanced, grounded understandings of China’s role in Africa, the Belt and Road is prompting new research about countries’ debt and project’s socio-environmental impacts.
The first discussion on peacebuilding debated the trajectory of China´s involvement in security operations, noting how actors have learned from earlier experiences but still confront a number of challenges.
The second panel, on industrialisation, involved a mix of scholars and practitioners from some of the African countries with the largest Chinese presence, as well as a specialist on the Chinese economy. Building on its own development experience, the Chinese approach to cooperation was seen predominantly as an opportunity for the industrialisation of African countries, and the panellists discussed the best strategies for harnessing China’s support for economic development.
Finally, in the panel on infrastructure, presenters detailed specific electricity projects in Africa or presented China’s broad ambitions in the space. On the one hand, this demonstrated China’s potential to support renewable and large-scale hydropower, but also raised questions over the quality and costs of such infrastructure.
In partnership with AfOx, OUCAN was able to bring together a number of scholars from the continent and organise side events for bilateral dialogues.