Interview on the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa

Today, I share with you some of my answers from an interview on recent developments in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa.

There have been reports of a slowdown in BRI lending in Africa and in other countries. What’s your view of this?

TZ: It is important to acknowledge the structural drivers behind the BRI. The Chinese economy has faced an increasingly severe overaccumulation crisis in the aftermath of the 2007-08 global financial crisis. Massive stimulus packages in the aftermath of the crisis only exacerbated overcapacities, especially in the infrastructure and construction sectors. From an economic point of view, the BRI has been the attempt to ‘move out’ these surpluses by financing infrastructure projects that are designed to link Eurasia and Africa.

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In a fix: Africa’s place in the Belt and Road Initiative and the reproduction of dependency

Co-authored with Ian Taylor

South African Journal of International Affairs 27(3): 277-295

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to integrate Africa into an ambitious Chinese-constructed infrastructure network. The terms of this integration however deepen Africa’s dependent position and perpetuate its terms of (mal)integration into the global political economy. These terms, which are characterised by external domination and socially-injurious and extraverted modes of accumulation, are likely to be exacerbated by the BRI’s focus on facilitating extraction from the African continent while importing huge amounts from China. While the BRI aims to resolve contradictions within China’s own economy, the latent dynamics within the BRI vision may result in an entrenched African dependency.

Link to article

It’s done – finally

In March 2020, I submitted my PhD. It’s has been a long walk to freedom…

Thanks to my colleagues, friends and family! Here you can read the acknowledgements, the most important page in the entire dissertation. 😉

Foremost, I want to thank my supervisor Ian Taylor for his advice and support during my PhD journey. Not only have I enjoyed our exchanges of views, your impressive academic output, firm political beliefs and personal humility have inspired me, as the combination of these qualities seems rare in this industry. Thanks for having the confidence in me that I myself was lacking all too often. I also want to thank Vassilios Paipais for his thoughts in the initial stages of the research. Needless to say, the countless shortcomings of this study are my own doing.

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Reflections from London

Earlier toady, I witnessed the most beautiful act of loving kindness. I was sitting in a Victoria line train when a woman entered the coach and asked people to help her with some money. Clearly, the woman was not in a good state. She looked pale and exhausted.

The usual situation unfolded – one that is probably best described as collective neglect fused with individual embarassment about the same. No one turned one’s attention towards the woman. Some stared at the floor, others onto their phones. The ones with their 160 pounds Airpods pretended not having noticed the woman’s plea for help.

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“Fixing” Africa’s infrastructure: But at what price?

TIM ZAJONTZ, Pambazuka News

8,500,000,000,000 Ugandan Shilling. This is roughly the volume of a loan, which the Ugandan government currently negotiates with China’s state-owned Exim Bank. The sheer number of digits is impressive, even when converted in less inflationary currencies. The concessional loan of over US$2.3 billion is earmarked for the construction of 273 kilometres of rails between Kampala and Malaba at Uganda’s border with Kenya. The project constitutes the next stage of East Africa’s new standard gauge railway that is designed to link Mombasa at the Indian Ocean with Uganda’s capital and, if plans materialise, will extend to Juba, South Sudan and Kigali, Rwanda in the future. The first stretch of the line between Mombasa and Nairobi has been inaugurated in mid-2017 and celebrated as another milestone of Sino-African development cooperation.

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Cosmic Lottery

Zainab Magzoub writes about the ‘cosmic lottery’ she won as a refugee child.


When my mum informed me we would be relocated to Scotland at age nine, I wasn’t too happy. I hadn’t heard much about the country apart from it was very cold and that boys there wore ‘skirts’. Back home in Sudan, people refer to anywhere in the UK as London. I still frequently overhear in my mum’s conversation with friends and family in Sudan; ‘How’s life treating you in London?’ She has given up correcting them.

We arrived in the UK and claimed Asylum at the Croydon Home Office. Subsequently we were placed in a B&B in Margate for a month. Each day we would search for our names on the notice board to see if or when we were going to be taken to one of the dispersal cities. Luck of the draw found us on the eleven-hour coach trip to Glasgow. Looking back I feel both sympathy and admiration for my mum for making this journey with three young kids in tow and keeping an unwavering composure throughout. She had, after all, been through a lot worse.

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Africa’s transport infrastructure boom – empowering whom and for what purpose?

TIM ZAJONTZ, Invited talk at the 4th St Andrews Africa Summit, 24 February 2018, Hotel du Vin, St Andrews

Thanks for this warm introduction. As it was mentioned, my name is Tim Zajontz, I am a PhD student at the School of International Relations here in St. Andrews. I am also a research associate and guest lecturer at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where I did my Master’s some years ago. I have been working in German politics as well as in the European Parliament, before I came back to University. My PhD research deals with the spatial political economy of the TAZARA Corridor, that economic space connecting landlocked Zambia with Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam. As you have heard, I am also the chairperson of a Germany-based, non-profit organisation called Freundeskreis Uganda which is partnering with social projects in Uganda.

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Vom Freiheits- zum Überlebenskampf

Die TAZARA auf der Suche nach der Erfolgsspur

TIM ZAJONTZ, Afrika Süd 1/2018

„Die Tazara von heute ist nicht mehr, was sie einmal war”, erklärt mir Robert (Namen geändert), den ich zufällig an einem Bahnübergang nahe Ishitu in Sambias Norden treffe. Er arbeitet seit 25 Jahren für das binationale Bahnunternehmen. Unsere Blicke richten sich auf die verrosteten Überbleibsel eines entgleisten Güterzuges. Mein Gesprächspartner berichtet, dass Entgleisungen in den vergangenen Jahren immer häufiger wurden, genauso wie teils monatelang ausbleibende Gehaltszahlungen für die 2.797 Tazara-Beschäftigten. Robert erinnert sich aber auch an die glorreichen Zeiten der „Uhuru Railway” – zu Deutsch: Freiheitsbahn. Continue reading “Vom Freiheits- zum Überlebenskampf”

Eine besondere Reise auf einem faszinierenden Kontinent

Von Süd- nach Ostafrika – im Krankenwagen

TIM ZAJONTZ, koi – Das neue Geislinger Stadtmagazin, Ausgabe 92, Januar 2018

Seit vielen Jahren zieht es mich regelmäßig auf den afrikanischen Kontinent. Meine letzte Reise von Kapstadt über Namibia, Sambia und Tansania nach Uganda unterscheid sich allerdings von vorherigen Trips. Ich hatte entschlossen, einen Forschungsaufenthalt im südlichen Afrika zu nutzen, um für den Geislinger Verein Freundeskreis Uganda e.V. ein Fahrzeug für dessen Partnerprojekt, die Musichimi-Klinik, zu überbringen. Und so fuhr ich in sieben Monaten vom südwestlichen Zipfel Afrikas bis zum Viktoriasee – in einem künftigen Krankenwagen. Continue reading “Eine besondere Reise auf einem faszinierenden Kontinent”