China’s most ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative

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Visual Capitalist – Costing between $4-8 trillion and affecting 65 countries, China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative is the granddaddy of all megaprojects.

By the time of it’s estimated completion in 2049, OBOR will stretch from the edge of East Asia all the way to East Africa and Central Europe, and it will impact a lengthy list of countries that account for 62% of the world’s population and 40% of its economic output.

Today’s infographic from Raconteur helps visualize the initiative’s tremendous size, scale, and potential impact on Asian infrastructure.

The tangible concept behind OBOR is to build an extensive network of infrastructure – including railways, roads, pipelines, and utility grids – that help link China to the rest of Asia, as well as Africa and Europe. 

This multi-trillion dollar project will fill the infrastructure gap that currently inhibits economic growth potential on the world’s largest continent, but it has other important objectives as well. By connecting all of these economies together, China is hoping to become the gatekeeper for a new platform international trade cooperation and integration.

But that’s not all: if China’s economic corridor does what it’s supposed to, the countries in it will see more social and cultural links, financial cooperation, and a merger of policy goals and objectives to accomplish. 

Naturally, this will expand the clout and influence of China, and it may even create the eventual scaffolding for the renminbi to flourish as a trade currency, and eventually a reserve currency.

One Road or Roadblock?

When billions of dollars are at play, the stakes become higher. Although some countries agree with the OBOR initiative in principle – how it plays out in reality is a different story.

Most of the funding for massive deep-water ports, lengthy railroads, and power plants will be coming from the purse strings of Chinese companies. Some will be grants, but many are taking the form of loans, and when countries default there can be consequences.

In Pakistan, for example, a deep-water port in Gwadar is being funded by loans from Chinese banks to the tune of $16 billion. The only problem? The interest rate is over 13%, and if Pakistan defaults, China could end up taking all sorts of collateral as compensation – from coal mines to oil pipelines.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka was unable to pay its $8 billion loan for the Hambantota Port. In the middle of 2017, the country gave up the controlling interest in the port to a state-owned company in China in exchange for writing off the debt. China now has a 99-year lease on the asset – quite useful, since it happens to be right in the middle of one of China’s most important shipping lanes to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

Natural Opposition

While most economies in Asia are willing to accept some level of risk to develop OBOR, there is one country that is simply not a fan of the megaproject.

India, a very natural rival to China, has a few major qualms:

  • The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) goes right through Kashmir, a disputed territory
  • Chinese investment in maritime trade routes through the Indian Ocean could displace India’s traditional regional dominance
  • India sees the OBOR megaproject as lacking transparency

Meanwhile, with neighboring states such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan getting billions of dollars of investment from Chinese state-run companies, it likely creates one more issue that Indian Prime Minister Modi is not necessarily happy about, either.

Source: Original article by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist, published on 15 March 2018

Namibia – Dry Port for Keetmashoop

Namibia Map (www.fao.org)

Namibia Map (www.fao.org)

Namibia – Plans by Governor of the Karas Region, Bernardus Swartbooi, to establish a dry port facility at Keetmanshoop have been hailed as a “brilliant idea” by experts who are in unison that the idea is overdue. (Maybe it is just plain common sense! Will be interesting to see how the Namibian Revenue Authority facilitate the inland movement of transit containers from Walvis Bay.)

Swartbooi presented his proposal to change the face of Keetmanshoop by making it the pivot of trade between Namibia, South Africa and possibly the rest of Africa at the Annual Logistic and Transport Workshop last week.

According to him the new venture, estimated at roughly N$10million, will see Keetmanshoop linked directly by sea, rail and road with Namibia’s capital Windhoek, Africa’s largest economy, South Africa, and the rest of the Southern African Development Community in the form of a central north-south transport corridor.

Keetmanshoop is the only town in Namibia with eight border posts and has a working relationship with the North Cape Province in South Africa.

Swartbooi said the second phase of this development will stream into the creation of a free trade zone on the eastern side of Keetmanshoop that will not only attract foreign investors but create a wealth of jobs that will significantly reduce the country’s unemployment statistics.

He also mentioned that with a free trade zone the region can eventually venture into light manufacturing that will bring about positive spin-offs for the region and the entire Namibia as a whole.

“We fight against a trend that the south was left out.. If you close down the Walvis Bay port today we will feel it later, but if Lüderitz port is to be closed today the effect will be felt within hours. There is no argument about our strategic location. No-one can compete against our land availability,” he enthused.

Twenty hectares of serviced land have so far been secured for the project that will include two weighbridges, offload facilities and accommodation facilities for truck drivers and recreation.

“We are looking at enhancing road safety and to cut down on driver fatigue,” he explained adding that key stakeholders have not yet been identified and anchor participants are being sought.. “We are looking at a private public equity where we can give someone a lease of ninety years,” he stated.

According to the Director for the Namibia German Centre for Logistics, Neville Mbai, Keetmanshoop as a regional hub is a brilliant idea and will not only serve as a buffer during labour strikes in South Afica, but will surely ease the burden on Walvis Bay port and corridors.

“It is absolutely brilliant. Kharas is adjacent to the great Gauteng region, the breadbasket of Southern Africa if not the whole of Africa. What we want to see is a shorter road from Johannesburg to Namibia. Look at the road infrastructure of Walvis Bay, if we are to add more that road will be in trouble,” he said adding that with Keetmanshoop providing a hub Namibia will no longer be severely impacted by labour strikes in South Africa, as goods can be stored to cater for the Namibian market.

“The idea must be to have a concentration of logistics hubs scattered across the country and with the port of Lüderitz and the quantity of fish production the region certainly is deserving of a hub,” he noted.

At least 1 600 trucks pass through Keetmanshoop on a monthly basis with 80 percent of Namibia’s goods being are transported through this route.

Operations Manager for Logistics Support Services Quintin Simon argues that this is indeed a positive idea and with Keetmanshoop located in the centre, distribution will become easier and faster. Source: www.newera.com