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Pathways to sustainability: how China’s Belt and Road Initiative is shaping responsible production and consumption in Africa

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Abstract

Africa faces significant economic and environmental challenges, including waste generation, food insecurity, and energy inefficiency, jeopardizing future generations. To address this, Africa has adopted the 10-year Sustainable Consumption and Production Framework for Africa (10-YFP), evident through national and local projects focusing on sustainable food and agriculture, technology transfer in water irrigation, and related initiatives. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) presents an opportunity for promoting green cooperation and sustainable development in Africa, though its impact on ethical production and consumption remains unexplored. This study evaluates the BRI’s role in achieving Africa’s Twelve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and catalyzing responsible consumption and production. Through interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs) involving 42 participants from 19 African countries, thematic patterns emerged using the thematic inductive method. Findings indicate that BRI initiatives effectively integrate advanced technologies to enhance sustainable agriculture and industrial production. Notably, BRI investments in countries like Morocco, Algeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Zambia are fostering renewable energy projects to provide electricity to underserved communities. A stronger alignment between national sustainable development plans and the green BRI is essential to maximize the benefits without compromising BRI principles of inclusivity, coordination, coherence, and capacity building. This research fosters dialogue among academics, educators, government officials, business leaders, and investors about the transformative potential of China’s BRI in African nations. By shedding light on the positive strides made by BRI programs, this study underscores the need for strategic synergy between international cooperation efforts and localized sustainability agendas, ultimately propelling Africa toward its long-term development goals.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

Conceptualization: A.S.; formal statistical analysis: I.M.A.; data collection: A.S. and M.J.K.B.; investigation: A.S., M.J.K.B., and H.N.A.Y.; methodology: A.S. and J.H.C.; supervision: A.S.; writing final draft: I.M.A.; review and editing: H.N.A.Y., and J.H.C.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hui Nee AuYong.

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All methods used in research projects involving human subjects were approved by the institutional research committee (UTAR + GD-IPSR-R&D-011).

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Senadjki, A., Bashir, M.J.K., AuYong, H.N. et al. Pathways to sustainability: how China’s Belt and Road Initiative is shaping responsible production and consumption in Africa. Environ Sci Pollut Res 31, 1468–1487 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-31132-0

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