The theme of this report is that, while western nations, especially the U. S., lock down and adopt isolationist policies, China is forging full steam ahead. Oops. That’s a bad metaphor. China is building electric trains connecting East African countries and state-of-the-art international airports to boost African tourism.
Electric train service connects Djibouti and Ethiopia.
Let’s start with the trains. The New York Times reports that Joyous Africans Take to the Rails, With China’s Help
The 10:24 a.m. train out of Djibouti’s capital drew some of the biggest names in the Horn of Africa last month. Serenaded by a chorus of tribal singers, the crush of African leaders, European diplomats and pop icons climbed the stairs of the newly built train station and merrily jostled their way into the pristine, air-conditioned carriages making their inaugural run.
“It is indeed a historic moment, a pride for our nations and peoples,” said Hailemariam Desalegn, the prime minister of Ethiopia, shortly before the train — the first electric transnational railway in Africa — headed toward Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. “This line will change the social and economic landscape of our two countries.”
But perhaps the biggest star of the day was China, which designed the system, supplied the trains and imported hundreds of engineers for the six years it took to plan and build the 466-mile line. And the $4 billion cost? Chinese banks provided nearly all the financing.
Many of the projects are part of Beijing’s new Silk Road initiative, a $1 trillion effort intended to deepen ties between China and its trading partners in the developing world.
Much of that spending has been directed at rail projects that planners hope will transform the way Africans travel and do business with one another, and the rest of the world.
Chinese-built and -financed projects include a two-year-old light-rail system in the Ethiopian capital; a $13 billion rail link between the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and the port city of Mombasa that will open later this year; and an ambitious rail modernization project in Nigeria that includes an urban transit system for Lagos.
China’s enthusiasm for constructing railroads, schools and stadiums in Africa stands in marked contrast to the role of the United States, which has largely shied away from financing infrastructure on the continent. One of the few exceptions, Power Africa, a $9.7 billion initiative announced by President Barack Obama in 2013, has fallen far short of its goal of providing electricity to 20 million households within five years.
When it comes to trade, China surpassed the United States in 2009 to become Africa’s biggest trading partner.
It remains unclear how that calculus might change under the Trump administration. President Trump has questioned the benefits of free trade agreements, and a questionnaire from his transition team that was sent to the State Department last month expressed skepticism for foreign aid and development efforts in Africa.
That worries some African officials and longtime experts, who fear the loss of American influence and largess — and the good will that is often produced by desperately needed infrastructure projects.
Amadou Sy, director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said the United States was also missing opportunities to cultivate loyal customers.
“If you’re looking for new markets, Africa is the place to be,” he said. “But right now, the U.S. is not leveraging Africa’s huge potential. By contrast, the Chinese are there, and they are willing to take risks.”
Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority, said he hoped the new railway linking his country to the Ethiopian capital would be just the first leg of a long-dreamed trans-Africa route, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.
“The train is already a game-changer,” he said, noting that it will cut to 12 hours what until now had been a grueling three- or four-day trip by truck.
Mr. Hadi praised the Chinese for going all in after Western banks declined to help finance the nation’s glaring infrastructure needs.
“We approached the U.S., and they didn’t have the vision,” he said. “They are not thinking ahead 30 years. They only have a vision of Africa from the past, as a continent of war and famine. The Chinese have vision.”
China invests in African airports
This last September Mr. And Mrs. Scriber were on safari in two African nations, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and witnessed some of China’s visionary investment in that continent. Here are snippets from the local news papers.
Africa News reports Zimbabwe: Mugabe opens $150m China funded Victoria International Airport.
Now Mugabe is not a savory character but you gotta get beyond that and look at what China is doing in the region.
Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, on Friday officially opened the Victoria Falls International airport. The facility was funded by the China Exim Bank at the cost of $150m.
The airport was opened in 1966 as a regional airport but efforts to upgrade it to the ‘international’ status started three years ago. It is expected to be able to handle up to 1.5 million passengers each year.
With the current expansion, bigger aircrafts like the 747 Boeing will be able to land at the 60-meter wide, 4km long runway, the state owned Herald newspaper reports.
The upgrading is indeed a milestone achievement and Zimbabwe forges ahead with the transformation of its air transportation, forging ahead naturally with its all weather friend.
On his part, the Chinese Embassy’s Charge D’Affairs who represented the country’s ambassador said, ‘‘I’m grateful to attend this completion ceremony, a milestone in our bilateral relations … it shows the enduring friendship between China and Zimbabwe. This landmark project means a lot for both our countries.’‘
The main tourist attraction in the area the airport occupies is the ‘‘Victoria Falls,’‘ or ’‘Mosi-oa-Tunya,’‘ a waterfall in southern Africa on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. It has been described by US-broadcaster, CNN, as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.
In neighboring Zambia, the Lusaka Times reports Mfuwe Airport US$122 million tender awarded to a Chinese firm.
GOVERNMENT has awarded a US$122 million tender to China National Complete Engineering Corporation for the construction of Mfuwe International Airport.
Zambia Airports Corporation Limited (ZACL) managing director Robinson Misitala said the project will be completed in two years. Negotiations on the scope of work and conceptual design are underway.
Mr Misitala said this in Livingstone yesterday shortly after touring construction works at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport, which scheduled for commissioning next month.
“Traffic for Mfuwe is still low at 30,000 passengers per year and our target is to raise the figure to 300,000 passengers per annum."
Also in Zambia, the Lusaka Times reports, Construction of new Kenneth Kaunda International Airport terminal begins.
Works, Supply, Transport and Communication minister Yamfwa Mukanga says the works will be completed within the stipulated 54 months period.
Mr. Mukanga who inspected the works in Lusaka today said the funders EXIM Bank of China has released 1 hundred and 8 million dollars out of 3 hundred and 60 million dollars earmarked for the project.
He has told the media in Lusaka that government is hopeful that Zambia will have a national flag carrier by the year 2018.
He said government wants the country to have a national airline once the modern Kenneth Kaunda International Airport Terminal is completed.
Let’s close with a quote of the day: “The Chinese have a vision.” The above snippets indicate that the U. S. Does not. And that is likely to get worse in the Trump/Bannon isolationist alternative universe. The vacuum left by the U. S. withdrawal is being filled by Africa’s “all weather friend,” China.