Written by ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua)

China’s infrastructure development projects in Africa have been boosting employment while enabling skills development and technology transfer, according to speakers at a seminar recently organized in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to deliberate on the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Organized under the theme, “Belt and Road Initiative: African Perspective,” the seminar has attracted speakers and presenters of senior government officials, diplomats, scholars and representatives of international institutions among others.

Recalling a report by the World Bank, Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, Resident Representative to Ethiopia of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), said Sub-Saharan Africa lags other developing regions in all dimensions, especially in the power sector, where electricity generating capacity per capita has changed little over 20 years.

Only 35% of the population has access to electricity and Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest road and railroad densities among developing regions, noted the UNDP Official.

“China is playing an important role in addressing the infrastructure gap in Africa,” she said.

She also underlined the need for UN and other institutions to forge closer partnership with China to crowd-in private investment in infrastructure, support countries to improve efficiency in public investment in infrastructure.

Atnafseged Kifle, Advisor to Ethiopian State Minister of Transport, noted on his part that all engineering projects undertaken by China involve the construction of infrastructures much needed by Africa. For that purpose, he said China introduces competitive industries urgently needed by African industrialization and hires large number of local workers for the construction.

“Global investment that follows infrastructural advance not only boosts local employment but also generates spillover effects, such as skill development, management experience, and technology transfer, which also help to reduce the high unemployment rate in Africa,” he said.

He said Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transport has a strong view that African policy makers to make the most of Chinese investment in infrastructure development coined under the “Belt and Road Initiative,” so as to foster sustainable development.

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He further noted that African countries need to seize the unprecedented opportunity of Africa-China partnership to team up in planning and promoting infrastructural development and industrial collaboration.

The UNDP official has also hailed the development cooperation between China and Ethiopia.

“China’s role as an international player in development cooperation continues to grow, through bilateral cooperation and multilateral channels. At the 2015 UN Summit in September, China announced a South-South Cooperation Aid Fund worth 2 billion U.S. dollars,” she said.

The South-South cooperation remains an important framework for engagement between Ethiopia and China on promoting sustainable development, she said, adding that the UNDP has used this vehicle to promote cooperation between China and Ethiopia in the area of renewable energy technologies.

Regarding the Belt and Road initiative, the UNDP Resident Representative said the initiative presents a unique opportunity to Ethiopia by building on the existing good partnership with the China on several fronts.

“The UN stands ready to support the Government to develop bankable proposals that China could consider funding under the initiative.”

“I also trust that the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be hosted by China in May 2017 will help to further consolidate the support within the context and aspirations of Agenda 2063 and 2030 agenda for sustainable development,” she said.

Ethiopia is aggressively pursuing a transformative agenda anchored on industrialization for structural change to achieve middle income status by 2025, reiterated the UNDP Resident Representative.

“This is an excellent opportunity for collaboration between the UN agencies and China to support this outcome by strengthening systems, knowledge, and technology adoption towards industrial transformation in Ethiopia,” she said.