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Belt and Road Initiative’s Benefit to Namibia

The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the One Belt One Road, is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013.

 It aims to invest in more than 150 countries and international organisations. The BRI is considered a centerpiece of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s foreign policy. The initiative has been compared to the American Marshall Plan.

The BRI consists of two main components: Silk Road Economic Belt. This refers to the proposed overland routes for road and rail transportation through landlocked Central Asia along the historical trade routes of the Western regions.

The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road refers to the Indo-Pacific Sea routes through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The BRI aims to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future. It has been incorporated into the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party since 2017. As of August 2023, 155 countries have signed up for the initiative, accounting for more than half of the world’s GDP and almost 75% of the world’s population.

The BRI involves various infrastructure investments such as ports, skyscrapers, railroads,
roads, bridges, airports, dams, coal-fired power stations, and railroad tunnels. Its target completion date is 2049, which coincides with the centennial of the People’s Republic of China’s founding.

Numerous studies conducted by the World Bank have estimated that the BRI can boost trade flows in participating countries by 4.1% and reduce the cost of global trade by 1.1% to 2.2%. It is also expected to grow the GDP of East Asian and Pacific developing countries by an average of 2.6% to 3.9%.

Namibia, being a participant in the BRI, can benefit from this initiative in several ways:

Infrastructure development: The BRI will bring construction funds, high-quality production capacity and advanced technologies to Namibia. 

This can help improve the country’s infrastructure, such as roads, railways, ports, and energy facilities.

 For instance, Namibia’s long-awaited new railway line project called Trans-Zambezi Railway Extension Grootfontein-Rundu-Katima Mulilo could benefit from the BRI. The new Railway Line network will link Namibia to Zambia, Zimbabwe, Southern DRC and Angola, and other Southern Africa countries. This will improve the movement of goods and services, as well as job-creation, thus contributing to the economic development of Namibia.

Investment opportunities: The BRI promotes China’s investment in partner countries.  Namibia is well-positioned to serve the region as a logistics hub and a gateway to nearby landlocked countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Botswana. Investment opportunities include: local production of perishable agricultural crops that are currently being imported; solar power generation; desalination and transportation of water; cross-border trade facilitation; support services to the mining industry; food distribution, mass housing developments and education. Namibia can attract Chinese investment through the initiative, which can lead to economic growth and job creation.

Trade facilitation: The BRI aims to enhance connectivity and practical cooperation between countries. Trade facilitation helps reduce trade costs, streamline the export and import processes of goods, and boost global trade. It is especially important for developing and emerging economies and for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, as they suffer more from cumbersome border procedures. 

By participating in the initiative, Namibia can benefit from improved trade routes and increased trade with other participating nations.

Economic diversification: The BRI provides opportunities for countries to diversify their economies. Namibia’s economic diversification would require expanding investments in the non-mining, non-government sector and positioning these investments to be weighted towards exports rather than consumption. Economic diversification is Namibia’s front-line defence against unemployment, and the additional revenue that economic diversification brings can be directed to growing those sectors which are labour-intensive such as agriculture, retail and wholesale. Namibia can explore new sectors and industries for development, leading to a more balanced and sustainable economy.

It is important for Namibia to leverage its participation in the BRI by identifying specific business opportunities and collaborating with Chinese partners. This can help maximise the benefits of the initiative for Namibia’s economic development.