ADDIS ABABA, June 28 (Xinhua) -- African officials and scholars have hailed the role of China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative in fostering connectivity, thereby accelerating integration and economic diversification on the African continent.
This came on Thursday at a seminar co-organized by the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies Institute in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, with participation of government officials, diplomats and scholars, among others.
The seminar was organized to share ideas on the initiative as well as on the upcoming Beijing summit of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to be held in September.
Speaking at the opening of the seminar, Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Tan Jian, reiterated that the Belt and Road Initiative is a platform to promote global cooperation and common development based on win-win results.
With focus on connectivity in five areas including policy, infrastructure, trade, financing, and peoples, China seeks to align the initiative with the UN's sustainable development goals and the AU's Agenda 2063 which is a blueprint for Africa's development and prosperity, said the ambassador.
Launched in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which seek to serve as a platform for international cooperation, and create new drivers for shared development to benefit more countries and peoples globally.
"We are working closely with Ethiopia in advancing the Belt and Road Initiative. Ethiopia is a very important partner in this regard. We have been doing a lot of projects here in Ethiopia -- infrastructure, policy dialogue, trade, financing and people-to-people exchanges. We want to draw ideas from think-tanks, businesses and the government," the ambassador said.
In his opening remarks, Afework Kassu, Ethiopia's State Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the Belt and Road Initiative is an advantage for African countries for infrastructure development and economic growth.
He reiterated that the imitative would bring about economic cooperation, regional integration, as well as sustainable and speedy economic growth for Africa through infrastructure connectivity.
The State Minister has also underlined that African governments need to give utmost priority particularly to transport infrastructure in an effort to overcome barriers to structural economic transformation of the continent.
"It is also hoped that this initiative will open new way for Africa's economy, which is undergoing robust economic growth to integrate with the global economy," said Afework.
In his presentation on the relevance of the initiative to the African Union's Agenda 2063, James Wakiaga, Economic Advisor at the UN Development Program (UNDP), noted that the Belt and Road Initiative is vital to address the infrastructure deficit in Africa, thereby accelerate structural transformation on the continent.
"The Belt and Road Initiative is very important particularly in terms of closing the infrastructure gap. Africa's infrastructure gap is quite huge, like 95 billion dollars annually. So, we need to look for the different sources of financing to Africa's infrastructure to be able to accelerate structural transformation and diversification," he told Xinhua.
As one of the six panelists, professor Kassahun Berhanu of the Addis Ababa University Political Science Department, noted that the initiative is envisioned towards increased understanding, enhanced recognition of multiculturalism and diversity, and peaceful collaboration for achieving mutually rewarding goals and objectives.