‘Small yet smart’ to be highlight of the BRI’s next decade


Launched in 2013 to revive the ancient Silk Road and Maritime Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative has empowered civilizations across the world for the past 10 years.

While taking stock of the BRI’s achievements, President Xi Jinping, during the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October in Beijing, elaborated on the philosophy that is driving the cooperation.

Anchored on the three pillars of “planning together, building together and benefiting together,” the BRI is lauded as the most ambitious and influential infrastructure project that the world has ever seen. It has created more than 3,000 projects and 420,000 jobs while advancing an investment of about $1 trillion.

The first decade of the BRI has indeed delivered fruitful results to the more than 150 participating countries and over 30 international organizations involved. These countries have experienced world-class development and modernization from the construction of roads, railways, airports, ports, pipelines and energy infrastructure, among other projects that have significantly transformed their economies.

According to the United Kingdom-based Centre for Economics and Business Research, the BRI is likely to increase the world’s GDP by $7.1 trillion per year by 2040.Furthermore, the World Bank indicated in a 2019 report that, when fully implemented, the BRI will contribute to lifting 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million people out of moderate poverty, mostly in corridor economies.

In setting the agenda for the BRI’s second golden decade, President Xi noted at the BRI forum in Beijing the eight major areas of focus for continuing to promote a community with a shared future for mankind and jointly pursuing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

One key area will be carrying out practical cooperation through the undertaking of signature projects as well as “small yet smart” livelihood programs. To actualize this agenda, Xi pledged to set up a 700 billion yuan ($98 billion) financing window through the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China to finance people-centered projects.

Touching the hearts and minds of people in BRI participant countries, China plans to carry out 1,000 small-scale livelihood assistance projects. China will also enhance vocational education cooperation through initiatives such as the transformative Luban Workshops, which promote professional and technical skills of young people in Africa and other parts of the world to meet the requirements of the emerging global market.

According to China’s Ministry of Education, about 27 Luban Workshops have been established in countries participating in the BRI.

According to Yang Yan, deputy director of the Tianjin Luban Workshop Research and Promotion Center, more than 50 course majors have been offered under Chinese-foreign cooperation within the framework of the program, providing degrees to 9,000 students and training 18,000 people for local communities.

These programs are implemented in vocational middle and high schools, as well as in application-oriented bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. They have nurtured a workforce that is highly skilled, professional and innovative.

In Africa, nearly 50 percent of the population is under the age of 18, according to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. This demography fits within the target population of Luban Workshops. Thus, the workshops provide a platform to advance people’s aspirations for a better life.

China has also implemented other small yet smart programs in areas that enhance food and water security. According to the China International Development Cooperation Agency, since 2012, China has built 1,000 wells in Zimbabwe, greatly alleviating the country’s water shortage in approximately six provinces and benefiting more than 400,000 local people. In Rwanda, China Geo-Engineering Corp has successfully drilled about 150 wells in different parts of the country.

These “small yet smart” projects do not burden any country or increase their fiscal debt. On the contrary, they will help developing countries achieve their national aspirations as well as the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is a clear show of confidence that the Belt and Road Initiative will emancipate civilizations from absolute poverty and under-development.


*The author Dennis Munene is the executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Kenya-based Africa Policy Institute.

Source: China Daily Global