There should be no illusion that Belt Road Initiative's (BRI) projects in Africa are wholly altruistic. More than half of the 60-plus recipient countries under China’s BRI are located in Africa.
China’s financing of its BRI projects across Africa (as in the other emerging markets where the programme is underway), is mostly comprised of loans to governments that are both very large and conditioned by signatories’ commitments to not fully disclose their terms. It is bad enough that China’s lending entities, which are government-owned, do not disclose the terms of their lending to African countries. It is even worse that African government leaders also agree to this. After all, terms of loans made to African countries by the IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank – all of which are also non-commercial institutions – are routinely made public.
The headlines in the past few months about Zambia’s struggle to repay its debt burden to China highlights just the most recent case in point.
At present, the countries in Africa with the largest Chinese debt are Angola ($25bn), Ethiopia ($13.5bn), Zambia ($7.4bn), the Republic of Congo ($7.3bn), and Sudan (6.4bn).
There are key elements of the BRI that stand out starkly as having only the most rudimentary of camouflages for Beijing’s pursuit of unspoken (but not hard to guess) motives, including those that serve to benefit China more than the recipient countries. The true motives behind the BRI are now being questioned.