ISLAMABAD: Eritrea and Guinea-Bissau have announced plans to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), actively promoted by Beijing.
The two nations have reportedly signed a formal agreement with China ahead of a key regional forum.
The ambitious multi-trillion-dollar BRI, also known as the New Silk Road, was announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aiming to boost connectivity and cooperation between East Asia, Europe, and East Africa. The major project is expected to significantly expand global trade, cutting trading costs in half for the countries involved.
Eritrea is seen as strategically important due to its access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, as well as to waters in the Persian Gulf, and thus to the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic Ocean nation of Guinea-Bissau is expected to boost China’s maritime interests along the West African coast. The country is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) that removed border tariffs between African nations.
China has committed to building a $184 million biomass plant in Guinea-Bissau, and is reportedly involved in several redevelopment projects in the country. Beijing is reportedly supporting a $48-million project aimed at renovating the antiquated telecommunications system and highway construction. Chinese investors have also expressed interest in the logging sector, deep-water fisheries and oil exploration.
Beijing is planning to help Eritrea to bring back trained labor, to develop infrastructure in the country, and “wean it off an agricultural base to a higher standard of industrialization.” Back in 2019, the China Shanghai Corporation for Foreign Economic and Technological Cooperation (SFECO) began construction of part of the 500-km road between the country’s port city of Massawa and Assab harbor, both of which possess special economic zones.
The two African states inked the memorandum of understanding days before the forthcoming FOCAC Ministerial Forum in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, which kicks off on November 29.