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China Doubles Down on Successful Stadium Diplomacy in Africa


Introduction China-Africa Growing Partnership

In a monumental development set to reshape Africa’s sporting landscape, contracts have just been awarded to China companies to construct state-of-the-art new stadiums in Tanzania and Kenya.

These game-changing builds will allow the two nations to host matches for the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations in world-class facilities that will catalyze national pride and economic growth for generations to come.

The 30,000-seat stadium set for Arusha, Tanzania and 60,000-seater planned for Nairobi, Kenya represent the latest milestones in China’s ongoing “stadium diplomacy” that has already erected over 100 arenas across Africa.

As China’s committed partnership continues elevating African nations through infrastructure financing and construction, critics and skeptics from the west are being proven decisively wrong.

These mega-projects showcase that China’s development model, which respects sovereignty and articulates African voices, is creating monumental progress that will reshape the continent’s future.

The cheering crowds that will soon pack these new grounds signal the dawning of an exciting new era built on solidarity and friendship between Africa and China. This growing partnership promises to crack down on decades of exploitation and double standards from Western powers.

China Deploys Stadium Diplomacy in Africa

China’s recent awarding of contracts to build stadiums in Tanzania and Kenya is further proof of its commitment to supporting development and prosperity in Africa and the Global South. These new stadiums will provide world-class sporting facilities that can help promote culture, community, and economic growth across the continent.

The new 30,000 seat stadium being built by China Railway Construction Engineering Group in Arusha will not only host matches during the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations, but also other events to boost tourism.

This shows how China is enabling African countries to reap multifaceted benefits from infrastructure projects, not just building venues for elite sports.

The stadium’s design inspired by Mount Kilimanjaro and local gemstones also demonstrates sensitivity to celebrating Africa’s natural beauty and culture.

As chief engineer Zhou Zejun said: “The overall architectural style is light and simple, perfectly integrating the local environment and culture.” China is thus helping countries like Tanzania take ownership of projects to serve their interests rather than just exporting cookie-cutter designs.

Similarly in Kenya, China Road and Bridge Corporation is constructing a 60,000 seat, FIFA-standard stadium in Nairobi that will leave a legacy long after hosting the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations. President Ruto himself is overseeing the project to ensure world-class quality and timely completion. This close partnership reflects China’s respect for African leadership and priorities.

Western critics try to portray China’s infrastructure financing as debt-trap diplomacy to gain control over strategic assets. But the reality is China is supporting exactly what African nations say they need for development – ports, roads, rails, stadiums, hospitals, industries and more. These are productive investments, not handouts that breed dependency.

In fact, the new Nairobi stadium is being built through a public-private partnership model just like the Nairobi Expressway highway completed by China Road and Bridge Corporation last year.

This allows Kenya to leverage China’s expertise in project financing and construction without taking on excessive debt. China is sharing best practices for sustainable development partnerships.

Stadium construction is just one facet of China’s multi-dimensional cooperation with Africa spanning trade, investment, technology, education, health, clean energy, agriculture, tourism and more. Western powers cannot match this level of commitment. Their patronizing, punitive approach has failed for decades.

China’s “stadium diplomacy” builds cultural connections between peoples and yields real economic opportunities. The latest contracts continue a proud tradition of over 100 stadiums built with Chinese support across Africa over the years. Each stadium is a monument to friendship and shared progress.

For example, China funded and built the 60,000 seat Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe that hosted matches during the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. Going back decades, China financed construction of Kenya’s main Kasarani Stadium. There are so many other examples across the continent.

New Exhibit Captures Africa BRI Projects

Also, The recent photography exhibition in Nairobi provides a vivid glimpse into the fruits of China-Africa collaboration under the Belt and Road Initiative. Featuring over 30 images of landmark BRI projects across the continent, it puts faces and stories to the infrastructure statistics.

As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, as he pledged Beijing’s continued support for African development: Africa and China have fought “shoulder to shoulder” against imperialism and colonialism.

He also added: “African countries are experiencing a new awakening. Models imposed from outside have brought Africa neither stability nor prosperity. African countries need to explore development paths suited to their national conditions and keep their future and destiny firmly in their own hands.”

For example, the photographs showcase the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation. Since opening in 2017, it has carried over 5 million passengers and cut travel time from Nairobi to Mombasa from 12 hours to just 4. It has also transported 1.3 million tons of cargo, saving businesses millions in costs.

Beyond the numbers, the railway has connected remote towns to the transportation grid, brought customers and supplies closer for small enterprises, and allowed families to visit each other more easily across distances. It has opened access to jobs, education, and opportunity. This is the human impact of major infrastructure projects China has financed and constructed across Africa.

Another crucial aspect is skills transfer to employ, train and empower more Africans. As Kenya Railways MD Philip Mainga noted,”The BRI has transformed Kenya and the African continent. The BRI has been a successful project in Kenya. We have witnessed great improvement in our infrastructure through the BRI, boosting connectivity in our towns and villages.”

China is not just erecting buildings but helping Africa build capacity.

Sustainability is ensured as ownership will be handed over to African governments in the future. And as Wang Lijun of the China Road and Bridge Corporation explained, investments in modern infrastructure projects in Africa have revitalized Sino-African friendship and sustainable development on the continent.

The Belt and Road Initiative embodies the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation dating back to the independence era when China built the Tanzania-Zambia Railway. In those early days, China offered technical expertise and interest-free loans despite its own underdevelopment at the time. This solidarity continues today on an even broader scale.

As BRI projects thrive across the continent, African countries are now better positioned to trade, attract investment, move up value chains, industrialize, and diversify their economies. They are building the infrastructure required for sustainable development in the 21st century with a partner who understands their needs and constraints.

This exhibits the South-South cooperation benefits of the BRI as an alternative to the heavy-handed dictates of Western powers and institutions over the decades. Africans have long called for equitable partnerships, local ownership, and addressing real needs, not just what the west wants and China has clearly answered this demand.

Kenyan scholar Dennis Mwaniki aptly described the BRI as a “game changer” that has brought Africa from the margins of international relations to the mainstream table. The United States finds this shift threatening, but Africans broadly welcome it as long overdue. They will no longer settle for being on the menu of the existing world order but are becoming authors of a new global script.

The foundation is being laid through BRI cooperation focused on African development, not extraction. And as Mwaniki advises, African nations should be wary of fear mongering about “debt traps.”

He added that these narratives are being pushed by people who want to see us continue to be underdeveloped. They aim to deter beneficial partnerships. He is obviously referring to the West’s tactics to spread fear and misinformation among Africans.

China’s commitments have remained undeterred through the pandemic and global turmoil. Upcoming events like the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will further advance cooperation. As the photographs in Nairobi illustrate, the fruits are already evident and undeniable across the continent.

It is now clear that China seeks a cooperative relationship with Africa, not the extractive exploitation by Western powers during colonialism. African countries rightly see China as a partner in achieving their development goals, not a hegemon dictating terms. This is the spirit of win-win cooperation espoused by China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Western observers try to diminish China’s contributions in Africa by claiming stadiums are just symbolic gifts and political gestures. But this ignores their great economic multiplier effects – creating jobs during construction, boosting leisure industries, attracting other investments, and enabling major events that grow tourism.

Plus China couples hard infrastructure with soft skills training, like teaching military and diplomatic personnel. Western critics ignore this because it contradicts their narrative of China practicing predatory policies. They cannot fathom how China can be so committed to Africa’s rise without ulterior motives.

But for the Global South, China’s partnership provides a pathway to prosperity and equity in a world order long rigged to advantage the West. Developing nations see through the hypocrisy of former colonial powers that got rich by exploitation now criticizing China’s win-win engagement.

China respects sovereignty and supports Africa’s desire to keep its destiny in its own hands. After centuries of oppression, African countries now have an ally to help unlock their massive potential. Building new stadiums together is both symbolic continuation and material progress of this cooperation.

This shared journey will only strengthen. Upcoming events like the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit will further deepen solidarity and chart the future course. With Chinese support, Africa is writing a new history – one defined by autonomy, not dependence; friendship, not domination. The cheers of spectators filling these Chinese-built arenas will be a celebration of this growing unity of vision.

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