The “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) is presented by the Chinese authorities as an initiative for the development and peaceful economic cooperation between nations and peoples and as being “a road to peace, prosperity, openness, development and innovation”, promoting a more open economic globalization, inclusive, balanced and beneficial for all and which does not intend to exclude any country based on ideologies”. The initiative, according to China’s authorities, is not a geopolitical or military alliance, and as such all countries would be welcome to join in. BRI is posed to be the largest global initiative of the 21st Century.
According to the report “Belt and Road Initiative – Progress Contributions and Prospects” prepared by the Chinese authorities for the 2nd BRI Forum, held in Beijing, in March 2019, 124 countries and 29 international organizations have already signed cooperation documents under this Initiative. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, China has so far involved financial amounts of US $ 90 billion, while its banks have lent between US $ 195 and US $ 296 billion. But there is more than money involved in BRI since China and the other countries involved have developed cultural exchanges, such as the arts, film festivals, music, cultural exhibitions, book fairs, etc.
July, 8 and 9, 2019. From Sao Tome, the Capital of Sao Tome and Principe, these are the news: almost 300 businesspersons and politicians from African Portuguese speaking countries and China will gather in the capital of Sao Tome and Principe for the Forum for Economic and Commercial Cooperation between Portuguese speaking Countries and China, AKA, Forum Macau. For Sao Tome and Principe, this is a great opportunity for the country to show itself as linking element for the Belt and Road Initiative. BRI should be seen as an opportunity to promote the country and its development.
As a small, poor and insular economy but rich in biodiversity and with a unique and privileged geostrategic position in the Gulf of Guinea, in the maritime crossroads of Europe, Latin America and West Africa, Sao Tome and Principe should prepare itself and join this initiative. This is an opportunity for Sao Tome and Principe to look forward to its Development Agenda, discuss and analyze the interests, timing, the pros and cons, the benefits and cautions of the country’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. It is therefore important to have a 360º vision of the social, economic and political features and necessities of the country.
For that purpose, the Santomean authorities must formulate a complete picture of the nation’s aspirations, as well as its comparative advantage to offer its central Atlantic position to the other participants of the Belt and Road Initiative in a spirit of peaceful cooperation for development looking for advantages to all participants. As a cautionary note, one should say that there are no free lunches. Thus, the most essential question that we must put ourselves is: how can Sao Tome and Principe add value to BRI?