Scholars from Africa and China are calling on African countries to capitalize on the opportunities being offered by the Belt and Road Initiative.

They’ve made the appeal at a forum among Chinese and African think tanks in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

Scholars, entrepreneurs, and officials from 17 African countries, the African Union, as well as China, have gathered in Lusaka for a two-day forum, discussing the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative on Africa’s development agenda.

Pamela Kabaso, Executive Director of the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, notes Africa is faced with a number of challenges in its development, such as poor infrastructure, weak production capacity and limited access to financial resources.

Kabaso says the BRI offers solutions to those problems.

“BRI provides one of the alternative options for access to finance for Africa. And the solutions from the BRI regarding the challenge of infrastructure development is evident.

As we know the BRI aims to improve global connectivity by establishing and facilitating trade corridors. Africa can leverage the BRI for its FDI and investment in research and development.

And the people to people exchange under BRI provides an avenue for building human capital.”

Pamela Kabaso says she believes the Belt and Road Initiative can create synergies with the African Continental Free Trade Area, the flagship program being promoted by African Union to spur Africa’s development.

Professor Liu Haifang with Peking University argues the Belt and Road Initiative creates huge opportunities for Africa’s development.

She says African countries need to take the initiative to tap into the potential of the BRI.

“China’s comparative advantages is infrastructure building with manufacturing capacity. And this can be easily offshored to the African continent.

China’s offshoring capacity provides potentially 70 million job opportunities. But the opportunities come in just short period time, maybe five years or ten years.

Which means if the African human capital doesn’t support this kind of opportunity, then you’ll miss it.

So what happens to the continent with BRI? It’s a question mark. It’s up to the African side to decide how to use it.”

Scholars at the event have also weighed in on the ongoing trade war between China and the United States, suggesting the friction is creating negative impacts on global development, including African countries.

As China is the largest trading partner of Africa, researchers note there could be a knock-on effect to Africa when Chinese products are hit with US tariffs.

Editor’s note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.