Speech: Making Africa Move – The New Belt and Road Opportunity

 In speech

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning!

It is my honor to be here today, I am the CEO of an international development consultancy called Rui Na Xin (Development Reimagined), and the former deputy country director for UNDP here in China. Today I have the great pleasure to share opportunities for China’s logistics companies and other stakeholders to invest and create partnerships in African Countries and thereby deliver on China’s Belt and Road Initiative, first announced in 2013.

But before I share those opportunities, let me share with you why I believe such partnerships are important, and what needs African countries have.

Logistics Matter for African countries’ development

The African continent is now the home of 395 million poor people, the world’s majority. The continent has the largest number of landlocked countries in the world.

And, there is a correlation between logistics and development.

As a result, or as a reason, trade volumes to and within the continent are also very poor.  Africa accounts for less than 4% of China’s trade, the same for the US. Even within the region, only 10% of trade is inter-African trade.

There are similar patterns in terms of overseas investment. It’s improving but not fast enough to catch-up with the rest of the world as yet.

But here is the good news.

First, African countries are committed to green growth and industrialisation. I was pleased to hear yesterday about the work of Chinese companies to promote green transport. African governments need this, and they are also creating special economic zones often in partnership with Chinese local provinces and contactors. All of these should be helpful for growth, jobs and will need logistics.

Second,African countries –although government leaders are old – mostly have young populations, who are very dynamic, entrepreneurial and ready to work and consume.  In a recent expert survey, 32% of respondents suggested that the main driver of logistics growth in the continent is the growth of the middle class, which is rising rapidly. Africa’s population is currently 1 billion people, but by 2050 will have 2.5 billion –  compared to China at only 1.3 billion, and India at 1.7. There is a huge potential market there.

Third, Africans are also technology savvy. Witness the use of mobile banking across the continent. Mobile phones are used for all sorts of needs – by farmers and city dwellers, and many new apps from healthcare to music are developed in country, by clever young programmers.

African countries offer increasingly important opportunities for China

These needs and three factors presents great opportunities for Chinese companies.

And then, from the China side there is the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which determines China’s increasing international footprint and focus.

12 African Countries so far have signed overarching Memorandums Of Understanding with China on the BRI, while 6 are  members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The forthcoming Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in September is slated to bring the entire continent under BRI, which is good news for everyone in this room. Why?…

It means there is a real opportunity for China to shape and support Africa, as it simultaneously promotes and proceeds with BRI.

But how exactly?

Three ways China and African countries can work together on logistics

With the introduction of BRI, there are three ways China can be relevant with regard to logistics.  Today we will explore the potential of all three.

First, the experience of China’s logistics progress may be worth African countries exploring and emulating. Is it?

China has had huge successes in logistics.  Efficiency has remained stable while the markets have grown and grown, reaching more and more people across the country. And the numbers speak for themselves. Some 10 out of the 15 largest harbors in the world are in China—with Shanghai at the very top.

How? Infrastructure investment from the government, direction & incentives from government, as well as strong problem solving – for example on e-commerce – which is applicable to other fast-growing poor countries. Indeed, as a Kenyan, I often find Chinese thinking and its structure of the economy somehow fairly similar. So there is a great deal of potential here.

Second, Chinese companies can actively seek to enter and cooperate with local markets and partners.  There are two ways they can enter local markets.

First, global and cross-regional logistics is a ripe market.

African countries all different. Many African countries landlocked, have different qualities/levels of ports, roads, etc.  Different pricing points mean opportunities. If logistics companies can find a way to utilize existing infrastructure well, can be profitable.  For instance, I just returned from Rwanda last week, where Chinese investors complain that the cost of one standard container from Mombasa or Dar es Salaam to Rwanda is around US$2000, almost equal to the cost from Shanghai to East Africa.  Solving this problem for exports out of region as well as across countries in region is key.

And African governments are already taking the right steps. There are currently 64 ports across the continent, many of which are being upgraded and more are being added. Other routes will be made more efficient through a new continental air transport agreement and a free trade agreement that makes the African continent the largest free trade area in the world.

And there are many African logistics partners and Chinese companies already manufacturing in Africa for export that would benefit from partnership or investment from Chinese logistics companies.  Ethiopian airlines has just agreed a partnership with DHL. A Chinese company could have done the same.

Indeed, China has a vested interest in this. If better logistics can make manufacturing in Africa cheaper then it will help China’s own transition out of manufacturing and towards high-value added and services.

The second opportunity for entry is internal logistics–within countries and especially cities, but there are also some urban-rural opportunities, in the same way that Alibaba’s e-commerce model has been helpful in rural areas – the “Taobao Villages”.

Again, every African country logistics has different characteristics, but most are currently inefficient. There is a relative lack of internal roads – African countries generally have a quarter of the world average. There is a relative paucity of rail – Africa as a whole is considerably larger than China, but has less than half its rail network.

This is not bad news. It’s good news. Think of being the first mover in a nascent market like this… If a company can use motorbikes or even drones to deliver food or other goods at scale to that proportion of the 2.5 billion people that represent the rising middle class consumers, there is a lot of profit to be made.

And some cities are very attractive because they are full of young, professional people. Jumia, the continent’s best e-commerce platform is available in cities in Nigeria, and Kenya – but its no-where near as efficient as “jingling” or “waimai” because it hasn’t yet got the logistics right.  Ethiopia and Nigeria are the only cities so far in the entire continent with light rail. There is so much opportunity!

China’s own opening up is also an opportunity for logistics and development

Let me now come to the final, third opportunity for China-Africa cooperation on logistics, China’s own opening up.

Indeed, the Belt and Road Initiative is not just about China going out. It is also about what is coming into China. If factories relocate abroad, whether to make toys or shoes, they need to easily maintain the markets they had before. Logistics will be fundamental to make this happen.

Yesterday we heard about blockchain being used for bringing Ecuador bananas to China. Blockchain is very interesting and important for ensuring quality and effective marketing. For example, Chinese consumers are increasingly demanding organic, clean, and unique products, and African countries are a great source for this. In fact, an Ethiopian coffee company recently used blockchain to increase its efficiency as well as gain market share by showing its consumers that it was organic and its workers had been paid well. I really urge logistics companies to not just look to Latin America or established markets like Europe or Australia in terms of higher volumes into China – look to African countries too. It is a very dynamic source market.

We are here to help secure triple-win partnerships

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you today for your interest in collaboration.  The evidence is clear. Development cannot happen without logistics, logistics cannot happen without development.

As a consultancy focused on facilitating sustainable development in Africa and elsewhere, our hope is to stimulate logistics companies and partners to join us and work towards the Belt and Road Initiative delivering a sweet spot “triple-win” partnership with logistics at the core, and poverty reduction as the ultimate goal. I am sure we will achieve it.

Thank you all for your attention!

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Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.


    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.


China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.


Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.


Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.


Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.


Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.


Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.



Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.



Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.


Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.


Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.


Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.


Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.


Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.


Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.


Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.