Specifically, the Chinese investments In African port infrastructure have accelerated through the years, making experts concerned due to the fact that operators and the government should understand that these ports have a free access when Chinese companies are operating in these ports, as Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies commented.
That would protect ports against the potential of China blocking other countries from using them.
Devermont, a former US intelligence officer for Africa, identified at least 46 existing or planned port projects in sub-Saharan Africa with some Chinese involvement.
Moreover, as DW addressed, more than of the 46 coastal port projects were financed by Chinese entities and 11 are operated by them, according to the CSIS.
Yet, despite the port development, African ports are still concerned, as they need to modernize and reduce traffic at their ports. In other words, by 2050 more people will be living in sub-Saharan Africa than in South and Central Asia, according to UN projections. The region’s ports need to be equipped for the growing market.
Logistics consultant Lars Greiner quoted to DW
The ports are the first step in the developing efforts of any country...What’s missing in Africa is there’s not a single hub port at the moment. The race is now on as to who’s going to create the first one of those.
The poor performance coming from African ports, is the result of the low level of regional trade; In detail, Intra-Africa trade only holds the 17% of exports, which is significantly less in comparison to Asia’s 59% and Europe’s 69%.
Although there are some initiatives being conducted, as inland transportation projects, they are stalling; For instance, in East Africa, plans for an oil pipeline between Uganda and Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam have stalled because the two governments cannot come to an agreement.
In light of the above, experts say that African countries need to cooperate to develop multilateral solutions to boost regional trade, and that's why the Chinese model could be fruitful.
However, despite Chinese efforts on boosting regional trade, China is being affected by local politics. One of the continent’s most ambitious projects is now on hold. Tanzania’s Bagamoyo Port was set to be the home of the continent’s largest port — built and operated by the Chinese. But the current government doesn’t agree with the terms of the $10 billion project the country’s previous administration made with Beijing. Tanzanian officials have said that the deal isn’t commercially viable.