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31 July 2020

The impact of China’s Belt and Road on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and infrastructure under the new normal

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria, Monday 03 August 2020 –  Members of the media are invited to join the e-symposium on the impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) on the African Continental Free Trade Area’s infrastructure development, under the ‘new normal’ posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinar will be held on Thursday, 6 August 2020 at 12h00 Southern African time (18h00 Chinese time).

The e-symposium is aimed at discussing BRI strategies to accelerate the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) infrastructure development.

Invited delegates from both the Chinese and African Think Tanks and regional organisations will address key issues such as whether the planned BRI projects under the new normal will be able to come to fruition in the current economic climate.

They will also interrogate whether Chinese development banks will be able to continue financing BRI infrastructure, particularly if long term profitability of some projects may have been compromised.

The dialogue is expected to bring out best practices that the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD (AUDA-NEPAD) should consider in implementing the AfCFTA in partnership with the BRI.

The event is organised by the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC) BRICS Research Centre in collaboration with the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies and AUDA-NEPAD.

Speakers include HE Minister Counsellor LI Nan (Charge d’Affares ad Interim, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in South Africa); HE Yu Yunquan (President of  the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies); HE Robert Lisinge, Chief (Energy, Infrastructure and Services Section, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Addis Ababa); Dr Cobus Van Staden (Senior China-Africa Relations Researcher, South Africa Institute of International Affairs); Liu Naiya (Director of Division for Social and Cultural Studies, The China-Africa Institute); and Dr Vuyo Mjimba (Chief Research Specialist, Human Science Research Council).

Details of the Webinar
Date: 6 August 2020
Time: 12h00 Southern African time | 18h00 Chinese time
Zoom link:
Meeting ID: 966 0350 5206 | Password: 619062

NB: Registration is compulsory. Please use Zoom link to register by close of business on 5 August 2020.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Adziliwi Nematandani
+27 82 765 9191

Mwanja Ng’anjo
+27 82 882 6866

Notes to the Editor


The Coronavirus disease, an ongoing global pandemic, has caused global social and economic disruption which resulted in cessation of economic activities that will lead to a significant decline in global GDP, an unprecedented social distraction, and the loss of millions of jobs.

As the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) comes into play with the objective of creating a singular market spanning 2.5 billion, it has become critical to accelerate infrastructure development.

According to the African Development Bank, Africa’s infrastructure development needs 130 billion to 170 billion US dollars a year, with a financing gap in the range of 68 to 108 billion dollars.

China has already been making efforts to develop free trade development zones and to promote industrialisation in Africa through the Belt and Road (BRI).

According to President Xi, Africa stands to benefit from the BRI as infrastructure remains the biggest bottleneck to continental development. The BRI is increasingly seen as a catalyst for African regional economic integration and competitiveness.

A successful example of the BRI is the recent $1.5 billion Chinese-built railway line linking Nairobi to Naivasha, Kenya. Moreover, a study funded by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa found that East Africa’s exports could increase by as much as $192 million annually if new BRI projects are used profitably.


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