K4D Emerging Issues Report;

The Impact of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Investment in Infrastructure on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Published on 31 October 2018

This report addresses a major “emerging issue” and central question: “To what extent does China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) contribute to closing the global ‘infrastructure gap’ and thereby help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030?” The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has grown from a proposal made by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 and its formal launch in 2015 into a global project encompassing 65 countries across all continents, configured around a series of inter-locking trade and investment corridors.

The BRI is intended to act as a primary force for facilitating critical investment to build closer and stronger channels of maritime and continental connections from China to international markets. The BRI concentrates on building greater capacity through infrastructure and prioritises key sectors such as transport, communications and energy. In its conception, the BRI operates through public-private partnerships. These partnerships are intended to harness the requisite financing as well as to provide collaboration on implementing projects.

This report explains critical perspectives on the BRI from an international development perspective. To address this question and central aim, the report has four sections: (i) a summary of the existing English and Chinese literature on key interactions between the BRI and SDGs and infrastructure development; (ii) an evaluation of complementarities and differences between the approaches of the established or orthodox approach to infrastructure development and that of China; (iii) a short case study of Africa, with specific reference to Kenya and Ethiopia; and (iv) an explanation of the policy implications for traditional donors, such as the UK, in partnering with China on BRI investment in infrastructure.


Jing Gu

Research Fellow, Centre Director

Gong Sen

Executive Vice President, Centre for International Knowledge on Development

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