Nairobi [Kenya], June 12 (TN): The USD 1 trillion ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) has been so poorly executed and with such a lack of transparency that it is difficult to estimate the amount of harm done by providing enormous sums of money to developing countries given the African continent’s abundant energy resources, according to NTV Kenya.
With Western financiers withdrawing from the USD 5 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), the Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM) and other state-owned companies have stepped in to fund the remaining USD 3 billion.
When completed, the 1445 km long project from the Ugandan oilfields of Lake Albert is expected to deliver 216,000 barrels. It will be sent to worldwide markets after arriving at the port of Tanga in Tanzania’s Indian Ocean.
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) owns a 20 per cent shareholding in Standard Bank of South Africa and is collaborating with it to act as EACOP’s financial advisor and debt arranger, according to NTV Kenya.
Although Total Energies owns 62 per cent of the pipeline, Uganda National Oil Company and Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation each own 15 per cent, with the remaining 8 per cent owned by China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), which has already begun drilling at the Kingfisher Oilfield in Lake Albert, while Total Energies operates the other oilfield in western Uganda.
It has signed deals with the China Petroleum Engineering and Construction Company to construct the Tilanga drilling facilities. The pipeline itself is being supplied by China Petroleum Pipeline Engineering, NTV Kenya reported.
Chinese infrastructure projects have not typically had a happy outcome in the recent past. After heavily indebted countries feared their international credit rating would be damaged, China lent to African countries through shell companies, such as a USD 1.5 billion loan to Zambia from Chinese banks that did not appear on the accounts of the public for years.
As questions arise as to how exactly these massive loans will be repaid in the future, one can take a look at existing actions taken to assess China’s future tactics. In a series of years-long digital intrusions, Kenya has faced cyber-attacks from Chinese hackers attempting to infiltrate key ministries and State institutions to keep abreast of its lending status and debt repayment intentions, NTV Kenya reported.
Several reports show that 35 per cent of BRI infrastructure projects are plagued by corruption scandals, labour violations, environmental hazards, and public protests. Over the past few years, China has cooperated with training police institutions across the African continent and spreading its message of security and stability among all the regimes worried about instability.
The training of presidential guards and so-called ‘hit squads’ that target political opponents are also a familiar tactic. More than 15 African countries have a new or refurbished African-themed parliament building named after a leader constructed by China, NTV Kenya reported.
The buildings typically cost hundreds of millions and are a free gift, but the billions of sovereign and hidden debts incurred by these countries are the real point of concern. Many people have also raised concerns about such infrastructure projects being used for espionage after the 2018 scandal of the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia being bugged by China.
The EACOP project is going to traverse 296 kms in Uganda across 10 districts and 1147 kms in Tanzania across 20 districts.
95 per cent of these oil and gas operations are within the protected wildlife preserves of Kabwoha and Bugungu and will have a definite impact on water bodies that are shared by complex international agreements, NTV Kenya reported.
The impact of China’s involvement gave rise to concerns about how exactly resettlement will be handled, much like climate and environmental disasters, human rights abuses during the construction of the pipeline and job losses in agriculture, tourism, clean energy and other sectors.
The destruction of plateaus and wetlands as well as the potential pollution of Lake Victoria is another concern that was raised before the implementation of the project. Earlier in May a score of scientists, including climate experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), denounced in a report that the EACOP project as a “carbon bomb” that will produce “over the twenty-five years announced, more than 379 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent”.
It also “contributes to documented human rights violations in Uganda and Tanzania.” If the climate concerns are not enough to motivate the halt of the project, the displacement of tribes, rise in food insecurity in the region, inability to adapt to a high-tech environment, human-wildlife conflicts, and rise in gender violence should motivate an overall reconsideration of the project, NTV Kenya reported.
The difficulties in executing such an encumbered project should deter China from its high-risk investment strategy, but it does not appear to be stopping them from rushing to upstage the West and to some extent dooming the whole world to a future where the two African countries are devastated and further contribute to the global temperature rises by 1.5 degrees. (TN)