LUSAKA, ZAMBIA - Stanbic Bank Zambia has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the growth of the African Continent through China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which presents an opportunity for improved connectivity between Africa and China.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along, and beyond, the ancient Silk Road trade routes established 2,000 years ago.
The bank acknowledged the huge role China is playing in Africa’s infrastructure construction, energy, tourism, agricultural sectors, creating more opportunities for socio-economic development of the continent.
“And we believe that financial institutions play a critical role in BRI because many of the envisioned projects often require large capital commitments at early stages and the payback period often is lengthy. Therefore, the development of innovative and comprehensive financing, renminbi internationalisation, and market-driven sustainable financing are all important for financial organisations to service initiative-related projects,” said Cao Min, Head of Africa-Chinese Sector Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank Group, of which Stanbic Bank is a member.
Mr Cao said this at the Africa-China Think Tank Forum, which was jointly hosted by Stanbic Bank Zambia, the Policy Monitoring and Research Centre (PMRC), the People’s Republic of China in Zambia (Chinese Embassy) and the Africa Think Tank Forum under the theme “Rebranding Africa as a Premier Destination”.
The forum aimed to bring together specialists to discuss how Africa can reposition and rebrand its development relations with China and the rest of the world, given the continent’s divergent needs, and the need for a shared vision for a harmonised Pan-African development approach going forward.
“...for a long period, China has been supporting the development of African infrastructure. In fact, around half of Chinese investment and loans to Africa to date are in transport and energy. Indeed, much of Standard Bank’s work with our strategic partner, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), has been in providing funding solutions for Chinese companies that are building infrastructure, thereby, laying the foundation for future African growth,” said Mr Cao.
He further said that it has now been more than five years since Chinese President Xi Jinping first announced the BRI, and that often, the BRI has delivered positive results for developing countries, and China ought to be commended for shedding light on the need for increased investment in infrastructure and connectivity around the world.
Mr Cao added that Standard Bank Group also believes in promoting trade, to foster financial inclusion, facilitate people-to-people exchanges, and bring the world closer together, and that unlocking economic growth in the spirit of development presents a complex equation involving numerous economic, social and political variables.
“Standard Bank, together with our strategic partner, ICBC, given our 150 years of experience in financing projects in complicated markets across 20 African countries, has developed considerable learnings – often in partnership with Chinese financial institutions and corporates,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, National Development Planning Minister Hon. Alexander Chiteme commended China for its Belt and Road Initiative, which he said promotes trade and stimulate economic growth in participating countries.
“Whilst China has invested significantly in Africa and is one of Africa’s major trading partners, there is room for more considering the existing trade and investment opportunities in Africa. In Zambia, we are encouraging more diversification, value addition and job creation related investments from China, in line with our Seventh National Development Plan.
Mr Chiteme added that for Zambia, it also complements the efforts of the Zambian Government to attain the primary goal of the Seventh National Development Plan to create “a diversified and resilient economy for sustained growth and socio-economic transformation”.
And Finance Minister Hon. Margaret Mwanakatwe, who is also PMRC board chairperson, said it was critical that Africa pursues a development path that fits into its national conditions anchored on the African Union Agenda 2063, while also strategically aligning programmes and infrastructure plans to complement the One Belt One Road initiative; that is poised to benefit the continent and enhance trade.
“Africa requires increased unity of purpose which would make it a global power to be reckoned with, capable of rallying support around its own common agenda; and emerging as the number one development and investment destination in agri-business, infrastructure development, health and education as well as value addition in Africa vast commodities,” she said.
Stanbic has been a vital part of driving that growth and has financed some of the major projects in the local agriculture, infrastructure, and mining and energy sectors. Agriculture and agri-business has been one of the main focuses for the bank with over US$155 million invested in the sector.
The banks investment in other sectors include the raising and funding more than US$3billion worth of projects across the mining spectrum from copper, cobalt, uranium and gold, to lime manufacturing, and well over US$150 million and US$385 million in infrastructure development and energy, respectively.