Coronavirus: China Advised to Maintain Sustainability in Belt and Road Africa Initiative
By Adedapo Adesanya
China has been advised to sustain its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Africa despite the setback caused by the coronavirus, which emanated from the country and has killed many people and infected several others.
An influential report produced by top networking forum, the Economist Corporate Network in collaboration with multinational firm, Baker McKenzie, said the Asian giant must keep the BRI if it is to remain a major force in infrastructure development globally.
Emerging market nations in Africa alongside Latin America, Central, and Eastern Europe were all fast developing major BRI project pipelines that can be improve only by sustainable development.
The report, which involved multiple in-depth interviews with the BRI participants, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, ABB, InfraCo, and many others, showed how the initiative will be defined over the coming decade.
Through the research, it was discovered that when sustainability was raised to the top of the BRI agenda, there was a greater pool of finance available, increased political support from China, and more receptive third-party countries.
It was also noted that the immediate delays caused by the covid-19 which has spread to over 60 countries, the BRI sustainability is also growing to cover workers and local population where the projects are happening.
The partnership, in its report, noted that with climate change impacts becoming clearer and nearer, there is also a major role to play for BRI investments to also help ease some of the effects through planning and building for hotter temperatures, higher sea levels and more extreme weather conditions.
There was a recommendation of five key areas with the highest potential areas for growth and private sector participation under the BRI in the next couple of years, these are: transport; telecommunications; utilities; digital infrastructure; renewables and clean energy.
According to the report, lenders and investors who fund infrastructure projects along the BRI are now rapidly reaching a consensus that green finance should be prioritised, and over the past year China has worked with the City of London Corporation’s Green Finance Initiative to create the Green Investment Principles (GIP) for the Belt and Road.
This set of voluntary principles calls for lenders, investors and corporates that invest and operate along the BRI to ensure their projects are aligned with the requirements of environmental sustainability and the United Nations Paris Agreement.
Referencing many Africa nations, the report said many are attempting to reduce their over-dependence on natural resources to boost economic growth, noting that China was working with the continent to improve green, low-carbon and sustainable development, and to roll-out more than 50 projects during 2019-2021 on clean energy, wildlife protection, environment-friendly agriculture and low-carbon development.
According to Mr Wildu du Plessis, the Head of Baker McKenzie, Africa said: “It is absolutely inevitable that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and sustainability will become increasingly important in BRI projects.
Over the last ten years, ESG has grown in sophistication and importance. With China now being a leading voice driving this issue of sustainable finance, we can expect it to be a major area of focus for BRI activities.
“Chinese funders and investors are now becoming as focused on sustainability and ESG as any of their counterparts in the US or Western Europe.” he said.
On the part of the Asia Pacific Chair for the firm, Mrs Ai Ai Wong, she noted that sustainability was no longer a difficult thing for business leaders to consider.
She said, “To ensure long term success, businesses must plan for a world where a combination of societal, regulatory and internal pressure means substantive and ongoing cuts to the amount of waste and emissions they are able to produce.”
“China is determined to be at the forefront of this change, with the announcement that plastic bags will be phased out in major cities by year end just the latest development.
“As the Belt and Road Initiative continues to evolve, expect sustainability to be a driving force for its growth and expansion in the decade ahead,” she stated.