BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) -- The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has helped boost the overall social welfare in the Middle East and Africa, and is highly anticipated to facilitate the overall economic and social development there.
The initiative, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, with the aim of building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.
A BOON TO GROWTH
According to Suleyman Sensoy, head of the Turkish Asian Center for Strategic Studies (TASAM), the Middle East, despite "all the richness and strategic position," has been confronted with the fundamental "weakness in the institutional infrastructure."
"The lack of qualified human resources, of relative competitive advantage, of added value production, and of the share of the global market also deepen the development problems," he said.
Dr. Baris Adibelli from Turkey's Dumlupinar University said "the creation of prosperity depends on a sustainable development. There is a need for resources and infrastructure that support this long-term process."
The Belt and Road projects are an important platform that would meet all these needs, he noted, as they "offer an opportunity for regional countries to create their own dynamism by suggesting common trade, development and welfare rather than just offering financial help."
In the eyes of Gerishon Ikiara, lecturer of international economics at the University of Nairobi, Kenya's participation in the Belt and Road Initiative "has demonstrated its socio-economic benefits in the past five years and the years ahead."
"By being paratroopers of the Belt and Road Initiative, Kenya has received a large amount of financial resources. This is rapidly modernizing Kenya's infrastructure," he noted, adding the initiative "opens up Kenya and the region to the global trading routes."
The al-Ahdab oil field project in Iraq's Wasit province, developed by both Chinese and Iraqi companies, has grasped the benefits of the initiative and elevated its oil processing ability to 7 million tons per year, bringing 13.5 billion U.S. dollars worth of revenue to the Iraqi government and some 5,000 jobs to the local people.
According to Iraqi official statistics, the country's national unemployment rate in 2016 was as high as 16 percent and over 30 percent of population lived in poverty.
AN IMPETUS FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
Turkey's Adibelli said China, with a profound historical friendship with the Middle East and African countries, can help improve social and educational development under the Belt and Road Initiative.
"The cooperation in education could help the countries become more conscious. It also encourages women to stand up in social life. When the transformation of economic and social order is completed, stability will come along and there will be no safe haven anymore for terror organizations," he said.
"The Arab Spring that started in the Middle East had brought neither prosperity nor social transformation. The only thing it brought was chaos," said Adibelli, "The Belt and Road Initiative, however, brings both common wealth and a future due to its win-win nature."
"Many young people here are working in this oil field and paid with relatively high incomes," said Muhammad Mahdi, an engineer of al-Ahdab project.
The 31-year-old told Xinhua that he has received systematic training after working here and been sent to study in China because of his well performance at work. "I have saved up enough money and been engaged with my girlfriend," he added.
The operator of the project, the Chinese National Petroleum Company, has served the local communities by offering gas to nearby power stations and liquefied natural gas to tens of thousands of families in Wasit, so as to benefit the local people directly and reduce poverty and joblessness, a major reason for social instability in the province.
PROMISING PROSPECT AHEAD
According to Turkey's Sensoy, the Belt and Road Initiative, a "global integration project," can create "a historic opportunity for stability and development" in the Middle East and Africa.
Kenya's Ikiara also said the initiative, focusing on the development of modern infrastructure along the routes, will radically enhance "the efficiency and reliability of Kenyan and the Eastern African transport infrastructure, reduce cost of transportation by more than 40 percent and raise their products' competitiveness, therefore expand the region's share of global trade."
According to Zeyad Juburi, economic professor at Baghdad University, the Belt and Road Initiative could bring historic opportunities for Iraq, an important point along the route.
Energy cooperation is a key component of the Initiative, and Iraq has rich oil resources of 143 billion barrels, 8.7 percent of the global reserve, he said.
However, the development of the initiative in Iraq has to deal with the backward manufacture industry and agriculture, the aftermath of decades of wars, sanctions and social instability, he added.
But Iraq's need for a promising future is more urgent than ever.
"My life sucks because I still need my father's money like a kid," said 25-ear-old Ibrahim Mohamoud, who has not found a secure job since graduating from college four years ago.
"I hope the government will attract more foreign companies to invest in my country, so that I can see more chances to find a job," he said.
(Xinhua correspondents Yi Aijun in Turkey, Jin Zheng in Kenya and Wei Yudong, Cheng Shuaipeng in Iraq contributed to the story)