Kenya will lobby for development of regional projects under the Belt and Road Initiative to enhance intra-Africa trade, a top government official has said.
“This is a very good initiative that we are following through,” Henry Rotich, Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
“We see inter-regional and regional projects benefiting from it. We are going to lobby for such projects that open up regional markets to enhance intra-Africa trade,” he said.
The Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa with a vast logistics and transport network, using roads, ports, railway tracks, pipelines, airports, transnational electric grids and even fiber optic lines.
In East Africa, the initiative is related to the Chinese-funded 480-km Standard Gauge Railway from the Kenya port city of Mombasa to the capital of Nairobi and is expected to extend to the neighboring Uganda.
Another combination of infrastructure projects including roads, railway, new port and oil refinery to connect the Indian Ocean town of Lamu in Kenya to Ethiopia and South Sudan is being constructed.
“We shall look at what connects Africa, like the railway line linking several African countries for trade benefit,” said Rotich.
African experts see the projects under Belt and Road Initiative not only enabling intra-Africa trade, but also helping to open other foreign markets for Africa.
In late March, African leaders launched Continental Free Trade Area which is meant to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business persons and investments, and thus pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union, according to the African Union.
Intra-African trade is extremely low and currently accounts for only 10 percent of all commerce on the continent, data from the African Union shows. This is due to, among others, lack of interconnecting infrastructure across the countries making it harder and expensive to move goods within the continent.