LUSAKA, April 26 (Xinhua) -- The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has brought opportunities for Africa to accelerate the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a Zambian think tank said on Friday.
Commenting on the opening of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, the Policy Monitoring and Research Center said Africa needs to embrace the opportunities presented to enhance trade.
The think tank believes that the plans of the BRI presents a chance for Africa to link up in the global trading system.
Bernadette Deka-Zulu, the think tank's executive, said opportunities under the BRI may help Africa actualize some of the objectives in the free trading arrangement.
She said the BRI offers immense benefits to African countries to spur economic development, indicating that African countries should come up with homegrown plans on how they can fully benefit from the initiative.
She further said the BRI will help African countries increase exports as well as attract more foreign direct investments.
"Our take is that an investment injection into an African country means a direct investment into economic opportunities for those countries' people. For us in Zambia which is grappling with economic issues right now, more trade means more income," she added.
She said authorities in Zambia have come up with strategy on how the country could benefit from the initiative, adding that the initiative has demonstrated that it means for the economic development of Africa.
She dispelled allegations by some critics that the initiative was meant to create a "debt trap" in participating countries.
According to her, African countries have the right to choose who to associate with, adding that China has demonstrated that it wanted a win-win cooperation agreement.
Other Zambian experts said the BRI also presents opportunities for the country and the continent to diversify economies.
The experts said that Zambia needs to do a stock of what it is producing in terms of agriculture and other products so as to benefit more from the trade opportunities presented by China.
"We have to know what we have to offer and find out from China what products they would want," said Private Sector Development Association President Yusuf Dodia.
He pointed out that Zambia has a capacity to produce a lot of food products and the market for food in China is huge given the population of that country.
Haggai Kanenga, Lecturer and Researcher in the Department of Development Studies, University of Zambia, observed that China pledges to further open up itself.
"This is a good opportunity for Zambia to take up and make sure that we meet some of these anticipations from China," Kanenga.
He said that the messages sent by China at the forum presents Zambia with the opportunity to diversify its economy, including the agricultural sector.