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Belt & Road Expands in Africa as Morocco Signs Joint Implementation Plan With China

Moroccan flags - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.01.2022
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China and Morocco agreed on Wednesday on a joint implementation plan for the North African country's integration into the Belt and Road Initiative, a globe-spanning infrastructure megaproject initiated by Beijing.
The deal was signed by Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, whose delegations met via video link.
Morocco is the first North African country to sign such an agreement, which lays out the practical cooperation on construction between the two countries.

"The Implementation Plan depicts the road map of jointly building the BRI between China and Morocco by clarifying cooperation principles and guidelines, cooperation priorities, coordinating mechanisms, etc.", China's NDRC explained in a news release.

"The two sides will seek to better identify the areas of shared interests between the BRI and the Economic Take-off Plan, as well as Industrial Strategy of Morocco by deepening pragmatic cooperation in infrastructure construction and logistics, trade and investment, industry, agriculture and fisheries, energy, finance, culture, sports and tourism, education, science, technology and green development, health, security, non-governmental cooperation, and other relevant fields", the commission added.
Bourita emphasised that the deal "was not born yesterday … It is supported by long-standing diplomatic relations", according to Morocco World News. The two nations signed a memorandum of understanding on the BRI in 2017.
Ning said the deal "carries a spirit of peace and cooperation" and is based on prior deals, such as a July 2021 deal for Morocco's Sothema to produce 5 million doses of Sinopharm's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine at its factory in a Casablanca suburb.

"Currently, the direct investment from China to Morocco reaches $380 million. Most goes into infrastructure, mobile parts, telecommunication, and fishery. In 2020, the bilateral trade reached $4.76 billion with a 2% increase compared with last year, even with COVID-19 pandemic and a recession in international trade", he said, adding that bilateral trade would break $6 billion this year.

© Chinese National Development and Reform CommissionNing Jizhe, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hold copies of an agreement on a joint implementation plan for the North African country’s integration into the Belt and Road Initiative on January 6, 2022.
Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hold copies of an agreement on a joint implementation plan for the North African country’s integration into the Belt and Road Initiative on January 6, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.01.2022
Ning Jizhe, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita hold copies of an agreement on a joint implementation plan for the North African country’s integration into the Belt and Road Initiative on January 6, 2022.
According to 2019 data, China bought just 1.47% of Morocco's exports, buying minerals like lead, zinc, copper, and calcium, and Morocco obtained 9.09% of its imports from China, the largest of which were broadcasting equipment, tea, and pile fabric. In both categories, Spain and France were Morocco's largest trade partners.
Trade with Morocco has come under increased scrutiny of late, with the European Union Court of Justice ruling in September 2021 that a fisheries deal was invalid since it had been made without the consent of the Polisario Front, a liberation front recognised by the United Nations as the legitimate representatives of the Saharawi people, who are indigenous to Western Sahara. Polisario has long sought to deter other nations from investing in or buying products made in Western Sahara, saying it endorses what they call a colonial occupation by Morocco.
China isn't one of the 41 United Nations member states that recognises the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) declared by the Polisario in Western Sahara in 1976, making them the only socialist state never to do so. However, in October 2021, Luoyang-based China Molybdenum ended the importation of phosphate rock mined in Western Sahara by its Brazilian subsidiary, Copebras, under pressure from its investors, according to Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW).
BRI's African Partners Expand
Other African nations have recently expanded their cooperation with China as well, including Eritrea, where Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks with President Isaias Afwerki and Foreign Minister Osman Saleh on Wednesday.
The two nations' foreign ministries jointly announced a new Strategic Partnership, saying it was "rooted on the tradition of mutual support, based on similarities in the historical trajectories of the two countries and their shared values, predicated on respect of the rule of law, independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and cooperation, aimed at promoting global and regional peace, stability and prosperity". The Red Sea state joined the BRI last November.

After visiting Eritrea, Wang proceeded to Kenya on Thursday, which the Global Times described as "a model for jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a vital player in settling the turmoil in the Horn of Africa".

According to the Chinese Embassy in Kenya, Wang will meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta in discussions that will "promote the implementation of the outcomes of the 8th FOCAC Ministerial Conference, dovetail new measures for practical China-Kenya cooperation, and support African countries in defeating COVID-19 and achieving economic recovery at an early date".
© AFP 2022 / TONY KARUMBAOne of Kenya's newly acquired standard gauge rail locomotive, carrying Kenyan President pulls into Voi railway station on May 31, 2017 in Voi, during an inaugural ride on Kenya's new standard gauge railway from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi.
One of Kenya's newly acquired standard gauge rail locomotive, carrying Kenyan President pulls into Voi railway station on May 31, 2017 in Voi, during an inaugural ride on Kenya's new standard gauge railway from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.01.2022
One of Kenya's newly acquired standard gauge rail locomotive, carrying Kenyan President pulls into Voi railway station on May 31, 2017 in Voi, during an inaugural ride on Kenya's new standard gauge railway from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital, Nairobi.
Wang will also reportedly tour a new $353 million oil terminal being built by the China Communication Construction Co. in Mombasa, just one of several infrastructure projects Chinese firms are building in the East African state. Others include a 480-kilometre-long Standard Gauge Railway linking the port city of Mombasa to the inland capital of Nairobi and a 27.1-kilometre elevated expressway in Nairobi.
Several western institutions have accused China of forcing African states into its sphere of influence with BRI contract clauses they call "debt trap diplomacy". However, Beijing maintains a strict policy of non-interference in other nations' affairs and regularly forgives large parts of the debts owed to Chinese institutions by other nations. This is in sharp contrast to Western institutions like the International Monetary Fund, which mandates neoliberal economic restructuring when it gives nations loans.
Of the 53 nations in Africa, only Ethiopia has never been a colony of European powers, which waged bloody and often genocidal wars of conquest across the continent in the 19th and 20th centuries that left tens of millions dead.
At a China-Africa summit hosted by Senegal in November 2021, Beijing pledged 1 billion SARS-CoV-2 vaccines to Africa, the world's least-vaccinated continent, and that it would help African nations recover from pandemic-related economic troubles "without imposing its will".
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