Remarks by Amb Tan Jian at the Opening Session of the Seminar on “Policy Suggestions for African Countries to Participate in the Belt and Road Initiative”
(28 June, 2018, Hilton Hotel)
Excellency Prof. Afework Kassu, State Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Excellency Ms Hiwot Mosisa, State Minister, Ministry of Transport,
Mr. Mogus Teklemichael, Deputy Executive Director of EFRSSI,
Excellencies from the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’d like to warmly welcome all of the participants for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be present here today. And my special thanks to the co-organizer of the seminar, Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute (EFRSSI) who has been working very hard to make today’s event a reality.
Today’s seminar is theme on “Policy Suggestions for African Countries to Participate in the Belt and Road Initiative”. It’s about the BR. It’s also a warm up for the upcoming Beijing Summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation to be convened in early September this year.
So, please allow me to give you a quick briefing on the BRI, to help set the stage for this Seminar.
I. What is the BRI?
It is basically about connectivity which, we all agree, has the great potential in promoting inclusive growth and sustainable development.
For the BRI, there are five priority areas, namely, policy connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, financing connectivity as well as people-to-people connectivity.
It is the initiative open to all.
Africa, being part of the historical and natural extension of the BR, has been an important participant of this initiative.
II. Why the BRI?
Against the backdrop of growing protectionism and increasing pushback against globalization, countries need to promote international cooperation, including North and South, South and South, and Tripartite Cooperation.
The Belt and Road Initiative, launched by President Xi Jinping of China in the autumn of 2013, is a platform of cooperation and an opportunity for common development.
III. How to build the BR?
In advancing the BRI, we uphold the spirit of “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit”;
We follow market rules and internationally accepted practice;
And we are guided by the principle of “extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits”. Or to put it in other words, plan together, build together, benefit together.
Acknowledging that a growing number of initiatives have been launched, we aim to seek synergy among various development strategies, forge partnership, so as to achieve win-win development.
We aim to align the Belt and Road Initiative, with the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the African Union's Agenda 2063, with the Growth and Transformation Plan of Ethiopia.
IV. What is the progress so far.
It has been well received by the international community since its inception. Up till now, more than 100 countries and international organizations have expressed their support for the Initiative and participated in the activities. So far over 80 countries and international organizations have signed agreements with China on jointly building the Belt and Road.
Major elements of the BRI have been reflected in relevant resolutions or documents of the UNGA, UNSC, APEC, G20, the Asia-Europe Meeting, etc.
A few words on China Ethiopia, China Africa cooperation.
Since ancient times, Africa and China have been connected by the maritime silk road. And in the new era, Ethiopia and other African countries have become active participants of the Belt and Road Initiative, working together to gather impetus for growth and open new prospects for common development.
In May last year, representatives from over 140 countries and international organizations attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia attended the grand event. It was during that visit, our bilateral relationship was elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership. And also in 2017, Ethiopian has become one of the African countries to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
This year is dubbed as African Year in China’s diplomatic agenda. China state leaders have visited or will visit Africa. The September FOCAC Beijing Summit is poised to chart the course for building a stronger community of shared future between China and African countries.
On 23 June, H.E. Mr. Xi Jinping, President of China, addressed the Central Conference on Foreign Affairs held in Beijing, clearly defines China's foreign policy that China will, with concrete actions, safeguard regional and global peace, promote global development, actively push forward the reform of the global governance system and realize the grand vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind.
China & Africa in general, China & Ethiopia in particular, share a strong willingness to cooperate on the Belt and Road Initiative. We have witnessed many early harvests in Ethiopia especially in infrastructure building, help transform Ethiopian from landlocked to landlinked country. China stands firmly with Ethiopian for its endeavor to realize Growth and Transformation Plan and become a Middle Income Country in 2025. We welcome the new leadership headed by H.E. Dr. Abiy to execute the policy of reform and opening up. The potential of cooperation is huge.
Let me just take tourism for example, which relates to p2p connectivity. Last year, the total outbound tourists of China amounted to 130 million, with only about 10% visiting Africa. If we can attract more Chinese tourists to Ethiopia, what a benefit!
Indeed, the BRI will lend new impetus to the win-win cooperation and common development between China and Africa.
As you may recall, last year, the Chinese Embassy hosted a seminar here in Hilton Hotel with the theme “Belt and Road Initiative: the African Perspective”. That event concluded with a big success.
This Symposium takes a step further by discussing “Policy Suggestions”. It has brought together policymakers and officials, ambassadors and diplomats, representatives from international organizations, business leaders, scholars and experts from academia, journalists.
I look forward to your insights.
Let’s pool ideas.
Let’s seize this opportunity.
Thank you very much.