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The status of BRI projects in AFRICA

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Africa’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) began in 2013 when China first unveiled its ambitious global infrastructure project. Recognizing the potential for enhanced connectivity, economic growth, and development, several African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, and Egypt, joined the BRI. Africa saw the initiative as a means to address its infrastructure deficit, promote trade and investment, and strengthen its ties with China.

Here are the year-on-year trade statistics and balance of payment of Africa with China from 2017 to 2022:

YearAfrica’s Imports from ChinaAfrica’s Export to ChinaBalance of Payment
2017199.3 billion USD95.7 billion USD-103.6 billion USD
2018232.2 billion USD106.7 billion USD-125.5 billion USD
2019265.3 billion USD117.7 billion USD-147.6 billion USD
2020298.4 billion USD128.7 billion USD-169.7 billion USD
2021331.5 billion USD140 billion USD-191.5 billion USD
2022364.6 billion USD151.3 billion USD-213.3 billion USD
Trade statistics of Africa with China from 2017 to 2022

List of some of the projects that have suffered cost overruns:

BeninCotonou Port Expansion Project
BotswanaKazungula Bridge Project
CambodiaPhnom Penh Railway Project
CameroonKribi Deep Seaport Project
CameroonN’Djamena-Doba Railway Project
ChadN’Djamena-Doba Railway Project
DjiboutiDjibouti International Airport Expansion Project
DjiboutiDoraleh Multipurpose Port Project
GhanaTema-Aflao Railway Project
KenyaMombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway
KenyaLamu Port and Lamu-Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor
LiberiaBuchanan Port Rehabilitation Project
MalawiNacala Logistics Corridor Project
MauritiusPort Louis Waterfront Project
MoroccoTanger-Med II Port Expansion Project
MozambiqueNacala Logistics Corridor Project
NigeriaLagos-Kano Railway
RwandaBugesera International Airport Project
SenegalDiamniadio International Airport Project
Sierra LeoneLungi International Airport Expansion Project
TanzaniaDodoma City Water Supply Project
TanzaniaTanzania-Zambia Railway Project
TunisiaEnfidha International Airport Expansion Project
UgandaKaruma Hydropower Project
ZambiaLusaka Water Supply Project
ZambiaVictoria Falls Airport Expansion Project
ZimbabweVictoria Falls Airport Expansion Project

Here are some of the problems that have plagued the BRI Projects in Africa over the years. The first bar shows the finished projects out of the 31 projects in Africa that make up the sample size. Only 19.35% of the initiatives from Africa in previous years were finished. As the last bar in the bar graph indicates, 9.68% of the projects were abandoned because of budget constraints and local opposition. In the report below, the precise causes are being looked into.

The most common issues encountered by BRI projects in Africa were environmental damage (74.19%), which includes the destruction of local ecosystems triggering climate change and the displacement of local communities as a result of skewed and shoddy environmental impact assessments (EIA), and cost overruns (77.42%), which have multiplied the projects’ costs.

Delays in project execution (58.06%) brought on by Chinese companies’ reluctance to move the project forward, corruption cases (64.52%) encompassing the stakeholders involved, and low-quality building materials (35.48%) were also major factors in the BRI’s dismal performance in Africa.

Issues faced by the BRI projects in Africa

Examples of projects in Africa that have been linked to corruption allegations involving Chinese companies:

CountryProject NameChinese Company
AngolaSoyo RefineryChina State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC)
BotswanaGaborone International AirportChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
CongoInga III Hydropower ProjectZhongjian International (Group) Corporation
EgyptNew Administrative CapitalChina State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC)
EthiopiaGrand Ethiopian Renaissance DamSalini Impregilo
GhanaTema Oil Refinery ExpansionSinopec
KenyaStandard Gauge RailwayChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
LiberiaMount Coffee Hydropower ProjectChina International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE)
MalawiBingu International Conference CenterChina Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC)
MauritiusPhoenix International AirportChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
MozambiqueNacala Port ExpansionChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
NamibiaWalvis Bay Port ExpansionChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
NigeriaAjaokuta Steel MillChina Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC)
RwandaKigali International AirportChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
SenegalDiamniadio International AirportChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
Sierra LeoneLungi International AirportChina Communications Construction Company (CCCC)
South AfricaGautrain Rapid Rail SystemChina Railway Group Limited (CRG)
TanzaniaJulius Nyerere Hydropower ProjectChina Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC)
UgandaKaruma Hydropower ProjectChina International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE)
ZambiaKafue Gorge Lower Hydropower ProjectChina Three Gorges Corporation (CTG)
ZimbabweVictoria Falls Airport ExpansionChina Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC)
BRI projects under the scanner in corruption cases

Analysis of the flagship projects

Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, Ethiopia and Djibouti

Environment Damage, Delayed, Cost Overrun, Corruption, Poor Quality


Addis Ababa-Djibouti (AAD) Railway

The Addis Ababa-Djibouti (AAD) Railway Modernization Project is Africa’s first cross-border electrified railway. The railway line is a 753 km electrified single-track standard gauge route between Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and the Port of Djibouti, with 45 stops in total. The new standard gauge route runs parallel to and replaces an abandoned 1 m gauge railway built more than a century ago.

The EDR, a joint venture of the two state-owned firms ERC and SDCF, owns the railway line.

The project was built by Chinese state-owned corporations China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC) under the BRI, which is operating the railway for a period of six years following construction completion. The freight route began in October 2015, while passenger service was formally inaugurated in October 2016. On January 1, 2018, it became officially commercially operating.

The project has faced issues with delays and construction quality, which have resulted in the railway being temporarily shut down several times for repairs due to failures. The project has also been detrimental to the environment and the indigenous communities.

Bagamoyo Port Project, Tanzania

Halted, Poor Quality

Tanzania’s Bagamoyo Port Project set a new course in China-Tanzania ties. The deal for the Bagamoyo port project was inked in 2013 after numerous African organizations dubbed it a “killer Chinese loan” and asked that Tanzania’s previous President, Jakaya Kikwete, refuse the offer. Regardless, the offer was accepted.

The government negotiated the project badly and on terms that amounted to surrendering Tanzania’s sovereignty.
John Pombe Joseph Magufuli
The fifth president of Tanzania, serving from 2015 until his death in 2021.

However, in January 2016, President John Magufuli declared the project’s halt.

Bagamoyo Special Economic Zone Project, Tanzania

Environment Damage, Cost Overrun, Corruption, Halted

The Bagamoyo Special Economic Zone Project in Tanzania was originally part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but it was suspended in 2019 due to concerns over its high cost and environmental impact.

The project aimed to build a new port and a special economic zone in Bagamoyo, a town located about 75 kilometers north of Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. The project was expected to cost around $10 billion and was being developed by the state-owned China Merchants Holdings International, in partnership with the Tanzanian government.

However, the project faced criticism from environmentalists and local communities, who raised concerns over its potential impact on the nearby Saadani National Park, as well as the livelihoods of local fishermen. In addition, the project was seen as too expensive for Tanzania, which was already grappling with a growing debt burden.

In 2019, the Tanzanian government announced that it was suspending the project, citing concerns over its high cost and the potential impact on the environment. Since then, there have been no further updates on the status of the project, and it is unclear whether it will be revived or canceled altogether.

Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone Project, Kenya

Environment Damage, Delayed, Cost Overrun, Corruption,  Poor Quality

The Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Project in Kenya is a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project that aims to create a world-class economic hub in the country’s coastal region. The project is being developed by the Kenyan government and the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) under the BRI.

However, the project has faced several issues since its inception. The project has faced land acquisition issues, with local communities expressing concerns over inadequate compensation and loss of livelihoods. The project has also faced financing challenges, with some investors pulling out due to concerns over the project’s viability. The project site is located in a sensitive ecosystem, and there are concerns that the development could cause irreversible damage to the environment. Some experts have also raised concerns about the impact on the nearby marine ecosystem and the potential for pollution.

There have been several issues related to the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in the development of the Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in Kenya. Some of the main problems include:

Delay in project implementation: There have been delays in the implementation of the project due to the slow pace of work by CRBC. The Kenyan government has accused CRBC of not working fast enough to complete the project on time, which has resulted in significant delays.

Lack of transparency: There have been concerns about the lack of transparency in the awarding of contracts and procurement processes for the project. The Kenyan government has been accused of not following due procedures in awarding contracts to CRBC and other companies involved in the project.

Environmental concerns: As mentioned earlier, there are concerns about the environmental impact of the project, and CRBC has been accused of not taking adequate measures to mitigate the impact of the project on the environment.

Land acquisition: There have been allegations that CRBC has been involved in the forced eviction of local communities from their land without proper compensation. This has led to protests and delays in the project’s implementation.

Labor issues: There have been reports of labor exploitation and mistreatment of workers employed by CRBC in the project. Some workers have reportedly been forced to work long hours without proper pay and benefits.

When Ij-reportika team contacted the locals they complained that either local workers are not employed in this project or if they are employed, they are mistreated and exploited by the Chinese masters at the workplace.
Sherman B. Erdmann (Kenyan resident’s pseudoname)

Overall, CRBC’s involvement in the Dongo Kundu SEZ project has been controversial, with several stakeholders accusing the company of not adhering to best practices in project implementation and management.

SGR Phase 2A Project, Kenya

Environment Damage, Delayed, Cost Overrun, Corruption, Poor Quality

Read about the SGR project in the complete report.

The SGR Phase 2A Project is one of several infrastructure projects in Africa that are being funded by China as part of the BRI. The project is expected to cost $3.8 billion and will involve the construction of a 471-kilometer railway line from Nairobi to Naivasha. The railway line will be the second phase of the SGR in Kenya and will connect the country’s capital city to its main inland port. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2024.

The SGR Phase 2A Project was first proposed in 2015. In 2017, the Kenyan government signed a $3.8 billion loan agreement with China Exim Bank to finance the project. The construction on the project began in 2018 and it is Still Under Construction.

The main contractor for the project is China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) while the other companies involved in the project include China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), China Railway Group Limited (CR), and China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC).

Protests against the SGR Phase 2 project

In 2019, the Kenyan government forcefully expropriated land from a group of landowners who were refusing to sell their land for the railway line. This led to protests and legal challenges, which further delayed the project.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya, struggled tremendously to refute claims that his nation had constructed the standard gauge railway (SGR) that led “nowhere” in 2019. This occurred during the commissioning of SGR project phase 2A, which abruptly ends in the prickly bushes of Naivasha, around 120 km from the capital Nairobi.

The 140 km ($1.2 billion) railway that runs from Nairobi to Suswa has remained mainly inactive for four years after being put into service. In reality, because both the goods and passenger service trains arrive at Suswa, where the 20-kilometer section from Suswa to Duka Moja terminates, the infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating.

Protests against the SGR Phase 2 Project by Environmentalists

In addition to the much-discussed “SGR to nowhere” debate, the project also encountered several demonstrations and the ire of the people. After the government revealed intentions to construct a railway line through Nairobi National Park in 2019, demonstrations broke out in Kenya. The railway line, according to environmentalists and wildlife conservationists, would divide the park and interfere with animal movement patterns.

The government said that the railway line was essential to spurring economic growth and generating jobs. They said that there will be little environmental effect during construction. The government finally decided to relocate the railway line around the park, but the demonstrations persisted.

Mambasa-Nioka-Lubumbashi Railway Project, Democratic Republic of Congo 

Environment Damage Delayed

The Mambasa-Nioka-Lubumbashi Railway Project is a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project in the Democratic Republic of Congo that aims to improve transportation links between the country’s eastern and southern regions. The project is being developed by the Congolese government with the help of Chinese state-owned companies including China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), and China Railway Engineering Corporation (CREC). These companies are responsible for the construction of railway tracks, associated infrastructure, and other components of the project.

The project has faced delays and funding issues due to the complex and challenging terrain through which it will pass. There have also been concerns over the environmental impact and displacement of local communities.

Overall, the involvement of Chinese state-owned companies in the Mambasa-Nioka-Lubumbashi Railway Project has been controversial, with several stakeholders accusing the companies of not adhering to best practices in project implementation and management.

Maputo-Katembe Bridge  Project, Mozambique


Cost Overrun, Poor Quality

Southern Mozambique’s Maputo Bay is crossed by the Ponte de Maputo a Katembe, a suspension Bridge. The Bridge links the southern bank’s neighborhood of Katembe with the northern bank’s capital city of Maputo in Mozambique. The Bridge’s construction work started in 2014, and it was formally inaugurated on November 10, 2018. The Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation handled the construction work, while the Chinese Exim Bank provided loans for the majority of the project’s funding.

Our investigations found that the project’s price and quality are a downside and overall, it is not financially feasible.  The expenses total 726 million US dollars, of which the Chinese Exim Bank provided special loans for 85% (681.6 million US dollars) of the cost. These have a 20-year term and a 4% interest rate. A further 10% (or $72.5 million) is granted under different conditions through the Exim Bank, and 5% will be covered directly by the Mozambican government. These loan conditions turned out to be unsustainable for Mozambique.

Kribi Deep Sea Port Project, Cameroon

Environment Damage, Cost Overrun, Corruption


The Kribi Deep Sea Port Project in Cameroon is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The project was developed with funding and technical support from China and is considered to be one of the flagship infrastructure projects of the BRI in Africa.

The Kribi Deep Sea Port is located in the southern region of Cameroon, near the border with Equatorial Guinea. The port is designed to handle large container ships and bulk carriers and includes a terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. The project also includes the development of a new industrial zone and a special economic zone, with the aim of attracting foreign investment and promoting economic growth in the region.

Several Chinese companies were involved in the construction and development of the Kribi Deep Sea Port Project in Cameroon.

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), a state-owned enterprise under China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), was the main contractor for the project. CHEC was responsible for the design, construction, and operation of the port, and also provided technical support and equipment for the project.

China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) was also involved in the project, providing engineering, procurement, and construction services for the terminal for liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. In addition, China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) provided insurance coverage for the project.

Other Chinese companies were also involved in the development of the new industrial and special economic zones associated with the port, including China National Complete Plant Import & Export Corporation (Complant) and China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

Overall, the Kribi Deep Sea Port Project was a major collaboration between Chinese companies and the government of Cameroon.

Terms of the unviable loan taken for the project (Source : https://china.aiddata.org/projects/350/)

But in addition to being financially unaffordable for the government of Cameroon, the project was plagued by problems including delays, corruption, evictions, and degradation of the local ecology.

Download the complete report to know the status of the following projects:

Project Name Country
Nairobi-Mombasa Highway ProjectKenya
Zambia-Malawi Railway Rehabilitation ProjectZambia and Malawi
Karuma Hydropower ProjectUganda
Lamu Coal Power Plant ProjectKenya
Batoka Gorge Hydro-Electric Scheme ProjectZambia and Zimbabwe
Kano-Maradi Railway ProjectNigeria and Niger
Lomé Container Terminal Expansion ProjectTogo
Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) Rehabilitation ProjectTanzania and Zambia
Grand Inga Dam ProjectDemocratic Republic of Congo
Mtwara-Dar es Salaam Natural Gas Pipeline ProjectTanzania
Nacala Corridor Railway and Port ProjectMozambique and Malawi
Nacala International Airport ProjectMozambique
Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway ProjectEthiopia and Djibouti
Coastal Corridor Highway Improvement ProjectMozambique
Lekki Port ProjectNigeria
Kafue Gorge Lower Hydroelectric Power Station ProjectZambia
Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Plant ProjectNigeria
Dar es Salaam-Isaka-Kigali/Keza-Musongati (DIKKM) Railway ProjectTanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi
Central African Backbone (CAB) ProjectCentral African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Cameroon
Zambia-Malawi Interconnector ProjectZambia and Malawi
Tema-Aflao Railway ProjectGhana
Dodoma City Water Supply ProjectTanzania


In conclusion, the comprehensive report on the status of BRI projects in Africa brings attention to a range of significant challenges and concerns. The findings reveal a troubling pattern of issues, including the plundering of resources, prioritization of Chinese workers over African natives in employment, substantial cost overruns, and environmental damage.

One critical issue highlighted in the report is the exploitation of African resources in the name of BRI projects. There have been instances where natural resources have been extracted without adequate consideration for environmental sustainability or long-term benefits for the local communities. This pattern of resource exploitation raises concerns about equitable partnerships and the genuine development of African nations.

The report also exposes the issue of preferential employment practices, with Chinese workers being prioritized over African natives in BRI project implementation. This imbalance not only deprives local communities of job opportunities but also limits the transfer of skills and knowledge to African workers, hindering their own development and capacity-building.

Furthermore, the report underscores the occurrence of significant cost overruns in various BRI projects in Africa, such as the Maputo-Katembe Bridge Project in Mozambique. These cost overruns have resulted in inflated project expenses, leading to financial strain on the host countries and potential long-term economic burdens.

Environmental damage is another alarming issue highlighted in the report, exemplified by projects like the SGR Railway Project in Kenya. Destruction of local ecosystems, inadequate environmental impact assessments, and the displacement of local communities have contributed to climate change concerns and social disruptions.

Statistics provided in the report reinforce the prevalence of these issues. Environmental damage and cost overruns were identified as the most common problems faced by BRI projects in Africa. Delays in project execution, corruption cases, and the use of low-quality building materials were also significant contributing factors to the overall poor performance of BRI projects in the region.

To address these challenges, it is crucial for African nations and their partners, including China, to prioritize sustainable and inclusive development. This involves conducting comprehensive and transparent environmental impact assessments, ensuring fair employment opportunities for local communities, and promoting responsible resource management. Additionally, robust governance mechanisms, effective anti-corruption measures, and stringent project oversight are essential to mitigate the negative impacts of BRI projects in Africa.