Ascensão, F. (2020) Environmental Risks, Challenges and Opportunities Along the African Belt and Road Initiative. China and the New Silk Road. (ed. by H. Pechlaner, G. Erschbamer, H. Thees and M. Gruber M.). Springer, Cham. DOI:10.1007/978-3-030-43399-4_10.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is playing a central role in the infrastructure development of Africa, with investments centered in the transportation and energy sectors, aiming to promote the long-desired growth of trade routes between and within African regions and the world. The expansion of transportation infrastructures, seaports and airports, as well of power-lines and other linear infrastructures, is expected to foster the development of industries and economy, by improving the connectivity between human settlements and main trade hubs. However, despite the expected benefits for human well-being, the feedback of development boosted by the BRI may come with a high toll for the environment in Africa. I briefly discuss how this major development driver may threaten Africa’s unique biodiversity. Also, I highlight some unpredicted costs of infrastructures that may jeopardize the economic growth and prosperity and identify big challenges for the pacific implementation of the BRI, namely the lack of environmental commitment by Chinese companies abroad, and the poor governance in African countries. I also identify great opportunities to be pursued for sustainable coexistence between development and conservation, including broadening education to more populations, and increasing food production.