China’s BRI Paving the Way for African Progress
In a landscape marked by burgeoning development needs and untapped potential, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has emerged as a beacon of hope, driven by a brigade of talented visionaries championing global growth. Key among them is Cao Fengze, a Civil Engineering doctorate from China’s elite Tsinghua University.
Cao, an engineer with a Chinese state-owned infrastructure behemoth, has been instrumental in spearheading vital hydropower projects in Zambia, Lesotho, and Tanzania. His interaction with the local populace has made him acutely aware of the development chasm African nations grapple with, largely due to inadequate public resources to sustain their burgeoning populations.
As China extends its support to Africa via the BRI, there’s hope of countries navigating past the Malthusian trap and embracing sustainable growth, a vision Cao ardently shares.
Cao Fengze: An Emblem of BRI’s Impact
This account forms a segment of the Global Times’ “Witness to history,” celebrating individuals shaping history. From academia to the common man, these tales underscore humanity’s journey, drawing lessons from the past and present.
The Kafue River, a sprawling 1,576-kilometer-long waterway wholly within Zambia, played host to our conversation with Cao. Ninety kilometers south of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, he oversees the Kafue Gorge Lower (KGL) hydroelectric power station. Dubbed Zambia’s Three Gorges Project, this station is a landmark development, the first major hydroelectric initiative in four decades.
Amid the clamor and dust, Cao stands resolute, clad in safety gear, a stark contrast to his Tsinghua days and peers. But for him, witnessing Africa’s industrial metamorphosis is a reaffirmation of his unique trajectory. Unlike many millennials who missed China’s evolution into an industrial titan, Cao has a ringside view of Africa’s transformative journey courtesy of BRI.
As the assistant director at Power China’s subsidiary, Sinohydro Bureau 11 Co’s African branch, Cao has observed the multiplier effects of Chinese-funded projects. These initiatives not only light up villages but infuse African economies with vigor, making them self-reliant and dynamic.
BRI: A Catalyst for Transformation
One such tale of transformation is Thompson, a Lusaka-based merchant. His store, a modest establishment dealing in grain products and spreads, was often stymied by Zambia’s erratic power scenario. Exorbitant tariffs, unstable voltage, and persistent outages rendered businesses like Thompson’s vulnerable.
But the inauguration of the KGL hydroelectric power station heralded a new dawn. Boosting Zambia’s power generation by 38%, it ensured that nearly 40% of the populace, including Thompson, enjoyed consistent electricity. For businesses, this meant reduced operational costs, translating to affordable pricing for customers. Thompson, now reaping the benefits, generously donates processed cereal to Lusaka’s underprivileged children, though aware it’s but a temporary solution to a larger Malthusian predicament.
Cao’s discussions with Thompson reinforced his commitment to alleviating Africa’s developmental constraints. “While Malthusianism may be passé in the West, it’s very much alive in Africa. Rapid population growth, outpacing agricultural and economic strides, fosters impoverishment and depopulation,” Cao opined in his conversation with the Global Times.
“The fertility rate in some major African countries is above 5, and a lack of female empowerment. If the effects of Malthusianism spill over, developed countries in the world could even be profoundly affected by this massive population change,” Cao warned.
Championing basic infrastructure as the antidote, Cao emphasized the foundational role of electricity in modern existence. It’s the lifeblood of industrial and communication services, allowing private entities and local businesspeople to propel economic rejuvenation. Without such infrastructure, escaping the poverty vortex remains elusive.
Zambia isn’t an isolated case. Cao recollected power disruptions during his tenure in Tanzania. In a light-hearted recollection, he narrated an amusing shower episode marred by an outage, a humorous personal incident that underscores the challenges myriad Africans face daily.
Looking Ahead: BRI’s Lasting Legacy
The KGL station, with a 750-megawatt capacity, is poised to be a game-changer. Preliminary assessments by ZESCO Limited, Zambia’s national electricity company responsible for the project, indicate that it can buttress Zambia’s industrial aspirations for the next century.
In closing, the tale of Cao Fengze epitomizes BRI’s transformative essence. It’s not merely about concrete and steel, but about sculpting futures, fueling aspirations, and fostering global partnerships for a brighter, inclusive tomorrow.
The Backbone of Zambia’s Development: Cao Fengze and BRI’s Localized Approach
Zambia, Africa – Amidst the flourishing infrastructural developments stemming from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Zambia, the unsung heroes are the skilled individuals who infuse their expertise into these projects. Central to this cast of professionals is Cao Fengze, a passionate Chinese engineer with a commitment not only to the projects but also to the local communities they serve.
Building Skills for the Future
Zambia, a nation rich in natural resources, paradoxically grapples with a scarcity of technical know-how. Recognizing the critical need for skilled labor, the Chinese contractor under BRI has founded a training school. Endorsed by the government, this initiative offers free education, accommodation, and even a living allowance to its students. Designed to equip locals with essential skills, the curriculum covers subjects ranging from civil engineering and mechanical maintenance to welding and surveying.
To date, over 300 individuals have graduated, armed with skills that resonate with the nation’s infrastructural needs. Many have already integrated themselves into the projects, reflecting the school’s success in bridging the skills gap.
Moving Beyond Misconceptions
BRI’s endeavor in Zambia isn’t limited to power projects. Schools, hospitals, and training centers have mushroomed around these infrastructural landmarks. This aligns with the overarching vision of ensuring that development is comprehensive and holistic.
However, Cao is quick to debunk a widespread myth. “Many perceive these as charity initiatives, but in reality, they are standard profit-making ventures,” he clarified. They operate on principles of mutual benefit, dispelling notions of one-sided gains.
On the controversy surrounding the so-called ‘Chinese debt trap,’ Cao stated it succinctly: “The idea of creditors not wanting their debts repaid on time is ludicrous. The essence of BRI is mutual growth, not dominance.”
An Engineer’s Devotion Beyond Borders
Local villagers collecting water near Lake Victoria in Mwanza, Tanzania paints a vivid picture. This image is emblematic of the daily lives of countless Africans whose narratives intertwine with the developmental arcs initiated by projects like those under BRI.
For Cao, each day is a blend of challenges and rewards. His responsibility encompasses not only overseeing the monumental tasks associated with infrastructural projects but also managing seemingly trivial yet crucial administrative duties. Whether it’s maintaining the warehouse’s cleanliness, addressing minor infrastructural glitches, or ensuring the safety and professionalism of his team, Cao’s commitment remains unwavering.
Reflecting on his journey, Cao draws parallels with Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, historically significant for its transformation from an agricultural hub to an industrial powerhouse. It was here that he witnessed the tenacity of young individuals who migrated, braving challenges to industrialize the northern frontier. “Industrialization demands people with grit,” Cao mused, hoping to embed the same indomitable spirit in his African endeavors.
While the dam projects and the infrastructural developments herald a new dawn for the African continent, few might recognize the relentless drive of engineers like Cao Fengze. Yet, as the turbines whirl and lights illuminate homes, they silently testify to the efforts of those who turned blueprints into realities, transforming landscapes and lives.