Staff members work on the fiberglass production line of Jushi Egypt in Suez, Egypt, June 26, 2023. (Xinhua/Wang Dongzhen)
Speaking of the groundless accusations and malicious attacks by some U.S. politicians on the Belt and Road Initiative, Freeman, an American expert on Africa, said claims that China conducts the so-called "debt trap diplomacy" have been repeatedly proven false by Western experts.
by Xinhua writers Deng Xianlai and Xu Yuan
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Lawrence Freeman, an American expert on Africa, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has made important contributions to improving global political and economic relations since its inception a decade ago, especially on the African continent.
He believes that the severe shortage of electricity is the most intractable infrastructure problem facing Africa, which not only exacerbates poverty, but also "kills" Africans.
"This is not a metaphor," Freeman said, because without electricity, industrial and agricultural production and basic infrastructure such as hospitals would be impossible. China is actively working with many African countries to address this issue, he added.
Belt and Road projects in Africa cover energy, ports, airports, roads, railways, schools and other aspects, Freeman said, and it is a proven fact that China's involvement in Africa's infrastructure construction and economic and social development "is right now irreplaceable."
As an expert on Africa, Freeman has advised many governments in sub-Saharan Africa on economic development policies and has witnessed several Belt and Road projects on the continent.
"One economic minister in Africa once told me: 'If you take China out of Africa, there is no substitute that would step in,'" he said.
For years, Freeman has been vehemently advocating for the African Union's visionary Integrated High Speed Train Network, which is a flagship project of the AU's "Africa 2063 Agenda" adopted in 2015 and, when finished, would connect African capitals and commercial centers. As such, Freeman is particularly impressed by the several high-standard railways China helped build on the African continent.
This photo taken on Aug. 21, 2023 shows the Karuma dam at Karuma Hydropower Plant in Kiryandongo, Uganda. (Photo by Hajarah Nalwadda/Xinhua)
In 2016, Freeman attended the ceremony marking the inauguration of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti electrified railway -- an early harvest project of China-Africa production capacity cooperation -- in Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia. And his decades-long dream of taking a train in Africa was realized on a Chinese-built railroad in Nigeria.
"Of the 30 years I've been traveling to Africa, I finally got a ride on a railroad in 2021," Freeman said, adding it was on the railway linking Abuja -- the Nigerian capital -- and Kaduna, a northern metropolis and a major transportation hub in the country.
"I've driven that route on a poorly paved road," Freeman recalled. With the completion of the Abuja-Kaduna railway, "I could sit back on a train ... It was comfortable, it was smooth ... I enjoyed every second of it because I've been waiting for decades to take a train in Africa."
Speaking of the groundless accusations and malicious attacks by some U.S. politicians on the Belt and Road Initiative, Freeman said claims that China conducts the so-called "debt trap diplomacy" have been repeatedly proven false by Western experts.
"China is not intervening into domestic affairs (of countries along the Belt and Road)," he said. "China lends money with no conditionality."
"Yet we have ignorant people in the U.S. government, in the State Department, in the Congress who repeat this" (false rhetoric) about China's Africa policy, Freeman said.
Some U.S. diplomats and members of Congress have repeatedly discredited China's Africa policy, throwing out "unfounded or ignorant attacks on China" despite "having access to knowing better" what the reality is, he noted.
"They're repeating something that is known to be untrue. So that is no longer ignorance. That's deliberate disinformation," Freeman said.■