Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation
(Beijing, 17th October 2023)
Theme: New Space for BRI Cooperation:
Health, Green, Digital & Innovation
Contribution by Ambassador Hisham El-Zimaity,
Former Assistant Foreign Minister of EGYPT
It is an immense honor to be here in the great city of Beijing to celebrate together our common achievements during the first BRI decade.
Since China launched its game changer initiative of BRI in 2013, three flagship initiatives enriched the BRI mainly: the Global Development Initiative to assist developing countries meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and help cement the understanding of development that focuses on economic security; the Global Security Initiative which aims to bring countries on board of a security landscape governed by the principle of mutual non-interference; and the Global Civilization Initiative, which advocates respect for the diversity of civilizations, instead of the murky idea of “universal values” that is fundamentally western and includes vague concepts such as “rules-based order” as opposed to and instead of committing to UN Charter and rules of International Law.
My country Egypt adhered to the BRI in 2013. It remains an active participant in its various projects encompassing upgrading its infrastructure, enhancing trade with China and participating states of BRI, and promoting educational exchanges and research networks between various academic institutions and relevant think tanks.
Moreover BRI is aligned with Egypt’s 2030 vision which is its national strategy for sustainable development. The TEDA projects in the Suez Canal economic zone represent a manufacturing and logistical base for Chinese investors to tap into the potentials of the Egyptian market and expand further south to Africa and north to the European Union, thus fully benefiting from Egypt’s unique geographical location and its various regional free trade agreements.
On the other hand, Egypt considers green transition a priority. As a follow up to COP 27 climate change summit a strategy of increased reliance on renewable energy was formulated in which 40% of energy generation would come from renewable energy platforms comprising solar, wind power and green hydrogen and methanol. A number of projects are currently being considered particularly with China in an effort to boost green and sustainable development. The Ben Ban solar plant in Aswan, the fourth largest of its kind in the world with total installed capacity of 2 GW has been co-financed by China-based Asian infrastructure development Bank.
The Health Silk Road aims to enhance public health and foster international cooperation in the healthcare sector by strengthening and expanding global healthcare infrastructures.
This includes direct aid such as medical supplies and equipment, infrastructure projects such as hospitals and research centers, and cooperative initiatives such as training programs and research cooperation.
In this context, both China and Egypt stood together to combat the COVID-19 pandemic culminating in establishing storage and manufacturing of vaccines in Egypt as a hub to serve domestic and African needs, thus showcasing a noble example of solidarity between both countries at times when wealthy nations disregarded developing countries shortage of vaccines and palliatives during the pandemic.
The Digital Silk Road is a vital area of cooperation. Egypt embraces digital transformation and embarked on constructing smart cities, modern transportation and logistical systems, creating innovative solutions to streamline bureaucracy and improving business environment opportunities, whilst upgrading its fiber optics, terrestrial and underwater cables and cloud computing networks. Many of these projects are being executed in partnership with Chinese companies to enhance connectivity both within the Egyptian territory and with China and participating states of BRI
Since oil companies are currently investing in renewable energy as the global economy transitions away from fossil fuels to lower-carbon alternatives. The good news is that the oil industry has enough time to transition as it will take decades and trillions of dollars of investment to shift the global economy away from fossil fuels.
China’s major energy companies plan to invest a combined $15 billion in renewable energy, in efforts to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2060. They are encouraged to invest in green transformation in Egypt and Africa in order to provide access to affordable electricity, mainly renewable, solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, not only by generation but also through transmission including smart grids, extending much needed clean cooking energy across Africa.
By 2050, shipping must halve its CO2 emissions. The challenge is that while emissions are expected to fall across the maritime industry, international trade is growing and – with it – global shipping traffic. By 2050, the IMO expects the industry to expand by 50-250%. The shipping industry generates approximately 940 million tons of CO2 each year, accounting to roughly 2.5% greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. In this context GHG emissions should be mitigated in 2030 by 50% and reach net-zero by 2050.
Initiatives to tackle looming challenges over the world’s supplies of critical minerals are coming thick and fast. But as yet the facts on the ground haven’t changed much since the energy transition will require huge additional quantities of critical minerals.
Moreover, there are huge challenges to achieving this increase in supply in a timely manner, and without triggering major geopolitical tensions as operators are developing solutions to these challenges, albeit some of these solutions risk backfiring. In that respect, we need to learn lessons from the history of past resource scrambles. No longer can western companies exploit Africa’s resources and walk away. We must ensure that at each stage, proper measures are taken to comply with environmental and social standards.
The Climate Economics Index stress-tests indicate how climate risks will affect 48 countries that form 90% of the world economy.
Achieving sustainable, green, and resilient city-port-industry connectivity is vital. As of October 2023 all Egyptian ports have become green. So instead of entering ports, boats access with tugs, thus they do not generate exhaust as they enter without starting their engines.
Innovation through cooperation is needed without delay on various fronts such as policies and strategies, green infrastructure, trade, green funds and finances, people to people exchange and knowledge enhancement, promoting sustainable development and fostering open, green, and clean cooperation on the way to attain the SDGs. In this context, China continues to play a major role in connecting nations towards green actions, especially partners in Africa and in the developing world.