with Bernadette Deka -Zulu ( PHD Researcher)

THE Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a visionary international development initiative spearheaded by China, has celebrated a decade of transformative success in Zambia. 

Launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the BRI aims to create an extensive trade and infrastructure network linking Asia, Africa, and Europe. 

Over the years, Zambia has emerged as a shining example of how the BRI can bolster economies, enhance infrastructure and generate employment opportunities.

Historical roots

The roots of the BRI in Zambia stretch back to the 1970s when the TAZARA (Tanzania Zambia Railway), a pioneering project, was constructed with Chinese assistance. 

This railway line has not only facilitated transportation but also connected Zambia with the global trade network. This historical foundation set the stage for the BRI’s subsequent impact.

Current development landscape

Today, the BRI continues to flourish in Zambia. A series of significant infrastructure projects, such as the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Project, the Lusaka-Ndola Dual Carriageway, and the Chipata-Mwami Border Bridge, are either underway or completed. 

These initiatives have not only improved transportation networks but have also expanded access to electricity, propelling economic growth. 

Zambia’s infrastructure and energy sectors have experienced a remarkable transformation, laying the groundwork for further development.

Positive impact on Zambia

The BRI has yielded numerous positive outcomes for Zambia:

1. Infrastructure Development: By financing major infrastructure projects, the BRI has bolstered Zambia’s transportation network and electricity accessibility, creating the foundation for economic growth.

2. Economic development: Foreign investment, notably from Chinese companies, has surged across sectors like mining, agriculture, and manufacturing. This investment has catalysed job creation and diversified Zambia’s economy, reducing its reliance on copper exports.

3. Capacity building: Chinese companies have played a pivotal role in enhancing the skill sets of Zambian workers through training in various domains, including engineering, construction, and management. This investment in human capital strengthens Zambia’s workforce for the future.

4. People-to-People exchanges: The BRI has fostered cultural and educational exchanges, strengthening the bonds between China and Zambia. These exchanges promote mutual understanding and cooperation, enhancing diplomatic relations.

Impact on economic growth

The BRI is set to be a catalyst for Zambia’s economic growth. It is poised to generate employment, attract foreign investments, and advance infrastructure development. 

These factors will make Zambia an even more attractive destination for international investors. Furthermore, the BRI will help Zambia diversify its economy by enticing investments in emerging sectors like manufacturing and tourism.

This diversification is crucial in reducing Zambia’s reliance on copper exports.

Collaborative efforts and reflective support

High-ranking officials, including Chinese Ambassador Du Xiaohui, past Zambian republican presidents and the current President, have expressed their unwavering support for the BRI. 

They have emphasised its mutual benefits, promoting peace, cooperation, and the shared development of both nations. These speeches underscore the consensus among leadership in Zambia about the importance of the BRI for the nation’s development.

Fruitful achievements of the BRI in Zambia

The BRI has brought about a multitude of fruitful achievements in Zambia, profoundly impacting the lives of its citizens and reshaping the nation’s future:

ØImproved living standards: The BRI’s infrastructure projects, such as road upgrades and the expansion of electricity access, have directly improved the quality of life for Zambians. 

Better roads have enhanced connectivity, making it easier for rural communities to access markets and services. 

The increased availability of electricity has not only powered industries but has also illuminated homes in remote areas, promoting social development.

ØRural Development: Beyond the major cities, the BRI has reached remote regions of Zambia. For example, the construction of the Chipata-Mwami Border Bridge has opened up trade routes with neighbouring countries, boosting commerce in previously underserved areas. 

This has enabled rural farmers and businesses to access broader markets, increasing their income and sustainability.

ØEnhanced healthcare: The BRI has also contributed to the healthcare sector in Zambia. New hospitals and healthcare facilities have been established, improving access to medical services in underserved regions. 

This development has had a significant positive impact on public health and well-being.

ØEducation opportunities: Through the BRI, scholarship programmes and educational exchanges have been established, enabling Zambian students to pursue higher education in China. 

This not only fosters cultural understanding but also equips the youth with valuable skills and knowledge to contribute to Zambia’s development.

ØCultural Exchange and Tourism: The BRI has facilitated cultural exchange programmes, bringing Chinese and Zambians closer. This cultural exchange has not only enriched the lives of citizens but has also promoted tourism. 

Zambia’s natural beauty and cultural heritage have attracted Chinese tourists, boosted the tourism industry and created employment opportunities in the hospitality sector.

ØEnvironmental Conservation: The BRI has also supported environmental conservation efforts in Zambia. Projects related to clean energy and sustainable development have been initiated, aligning with global efforts to combat climate change and protect the environment.

In conclusion, the Belt and Road Initiative’s impact on Zambia goes far beyond economic development; it has positively transformed the livelihoods of Zambians. Through infrastructure development, job creation, healthcare improvements, education opportunities, and cultural exchange, the BRI has laid the foundation for a more prosperous and interconnected Zambia. 

As the partnership between China and Zambia continues to thrive, it is clear that the BRI will remain a driving force behind the nation’s continued progress and the well-being of its citizens.



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