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Developing Sustainable Infrastructure in Africa Together – Perspectives from Africa, China and Europe

Posted: Dec 07, 2020

On December 3, 2020, the “Forum on Developing Sustainable Infrastructure in Africa Together – perspectives from Africa, China and Europe” was jointly organized by the Chinese International Contractors’ Association (CHINCA) and GIZ in Macao, China. The event was an official part of the 11th International Infrastructure Investment and Construction Forum (IIICF), which focused on the topics of responding to current challenges and promoting global infrastructure development. The IIICF was endorsed by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the relevant authorities, and jointly organized by CHINCA and the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute, on December 2-3, 2020 in Macao SAR, China. The IIICF 2020 included a total of 32 conferences and special events and was attended by more than 1,000 guests from 42 countries and regions.

Developing infrastructure in Africa is a key precondition for economic development, post-pandemic recovery and more broadly for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the Agenda 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. To address infrastructure needs it is important that actors from government, private and financial sectors join forces to plan, finance, build, and operate infrastructure in a sustainable, low-emission, climate-resilient, qualitative manner. African governments discuss their infrastructure development with a broad variety of international partners. There is also growing interest in China and Europe to engage in joint infrastructure funding and construction. Still, African, Chinese and European stakeholders rarely discuss joint interests, expectations, existing good practices and share suggestions to facilitate cooperation. Building on previous successful cooperation between GIZ and CHINCA in the context of the Emerging Market Sustainability Dialogues (EMSD) project, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), both partners decided to co-organize this event to provide a platform for such a dialogue. The event was held under the cooperation framework of the Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development (CSD). Due to travel limitations, the event was organized in a combination of online and offline participation, which allowed invited speakers and stakeholders to join online, and interact with moderators and guests on site.

Mr. Thorsten Giehler, Country Director and General Representative of GIZ in China, opened the event, briefly reviewing the past decade of cooperation between GIZ and CHINCA on sustainable infrastructure. He emphasized the great potential and significance for Chinese and German companies to work together in new and innovative ways to facilitate sustainable infrastructure development in Africa. Mr. Wang He, Vice Chair of CHINCA, suggested that sustainability, government support, and the principle of equality and mutual benefit, are key to facilitate Africa-China-Europe cooperation. Only based on those principles will it be possible to achieve “1+1+1>3” outcomes.

In the opening ceremony, representatives from the governments of Germany, China and Ethiopia expressed their respective support. Mrs. Natalie Zange, Policy officer on Globalization and Development (Cooperation) at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to China, reiterated the willingness of the BMZ to actively engage with China using different approaches to jointly solve global challenges and realizing the SDGs. Mr. Wang Tianruo, First Secretary within the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MofCom), reviewed the over 40 years of successful Sino-German cooperation, recognizing Germany’s contribution to China’s development. He confirmed China’s willingness to work together with Germany to contribute to sustainable development in Africa. Mr. Teshome Toga Chanaka, Ethiopian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to China, elaborated the importance of infrastructure development to the economic growth of sub-Saharan Africa. He called for further strengthening infrastructure planning and investment to realize Africa’s huge development potential. Sending his greetings via video message Mr. Federico Bonaglia, Deputy Director of the OECD Development Centre pledged the support of OECD for Africa-China-Europe cooperation.

During the event the report “2019 Best Practices of Sustainable Infrastructure Projects Undertaken by Chinese International Contractors” was released. It includes 19 projects in 17 countries and regions, covering sub-sectors of construction, road, railway, dam, hydropower, wind power, airport, water supply and many more. The collection and analysis of these cases was conducted against the Guidelines of Sustainable Infrastructure for Chinese International Contractors (SIG), which was developed by CHINCA with support of EMSD. The case collection and report publication help to translate the rather high-level SIG prescriptions into action through implementation benchmarks, raise awareness of sustainability standards and best practices amongst CHINCA companies, involve more Chinese contractors and incentivize SIG implementation through publicity, and promote peer-learning.

After the release of the report two panels were held.

The first panel featured representatives from Chinese and European companies who discussed cooperation for sustainable infrastructure development from company perspectives. They shared their experiences on joint China-Europe cooperation with Africa, and how this cooperation contributes to sustainable development. Panelists included Bai Shaotong, Vice-President of China National Machinery Industry Co., Chairman of China Machinery and Engineering Corporation; Zhao Lianzhi, Vice President, China Road and Bridge Corporation; Wu Haining, Country Owner of Greater China, SAP Globalization Service; Zhou Shiyuan, Representative/Partner, Qair China; and Robert Herzner, Director of Shanghai Office, Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI).

The dialogue unveiled examples of complementarities which make business sense and contribute to sustainability: combinations of funds and technology, of quality control and technical implementation and of specific technological solutions from European, Chinese and African partners. It also showed that more strategic institutional cooperation and a political cooperation framework can increase effects beyond individual projects. The contributions and discussions also highlighted that renewable energy is a cooperation sector with significant cooperation potential.

The second panel featured representatives from the public sector, from Africa, China and European panelists shared their experience with the respective policies, modalities and practice for facilitating infrastructure cooperation and how to ensure sustainability in these cooperation projects. Panelists included Mohamed Abdelsattar Mohamed Elbadri, Egyptian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to China; Li Xinqiu, Deputy Director General, Department of Commerce of Hunan Province; Ellen Kelly, Development Counselor, Delegation of the European Union to China; Hagen Ettner, German Director, Sino-German Center for Sustainable Development; Cyrille Bellier, Senior Advisor of Strategy, Partnerships and Communication Directorate, Agence Française de Développement (AFD); and Wang Shuai, General Manager, Cross Border Debt Advisory, Standard Advisory, Standard Advisory (China) Ltd..

The panel showed that co-funding and blended funding are cooperation modalities worth further exploring based on existing first examples. The contributions from the discussants also illustrated a significant potential to increase effectiveness and sustainable impact through cooperation: the combination of China’s public infrastructure development in Africa with technical cooperation approaches and projects from the German side.

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