The African continent's position on the "Belt and Road" is located at the far west of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Historically, the eastern coast of Africa is remembered as the westernmost stop on Admiral Zheng He's epic 15th century voyages across the Indian Ocean. In 2005 there was great fanfare in the Chinese press when Mwamaka Sharifu, a Kenyan girl who was reportedly the descendant of one of Zheng He's Chinese sailors, received a scholarship from the Chinese government in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's first voyage across the Indian Ocean. The infrastructural projects to be undertaken in Africa under the "Belt and Road" framework include the development of deepwater ports in coastal cities including Bizerte, Tunisia; Dakar, Senegal; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Djibouti, Djibouti; Libreville, Gabon; Maputo, Mozambique; and Tema, Ghana. These will be key sites of the transcontinental exchange of manufactured goods and commodities between Asian and African economies along the Maritime Silk Road.These ports are also likely to be developed as industrial hubs, following the model of China's development of the new Cameroonian deepwater port of Kribi.
While China Harbor Engineering Company started constructing the new port in June 2011, the development plan also includes the creation of a 260 square kilometer industrial zone, as well as roads and railways connecting Kribi to major cities in Cameroon, projects which will be undertaken by other Chinese companies.In Kenya, China is constructing a railway connecting the capital city Nairobi with the port city of Mombasa. This will eventually be expanded into a regional rail corridor connecting Kenya-one of the African gateways to the Maritime Silk Road-with Uganda, Burundi, and South Sudan.
As the Kribi port development project in Cameroon shows, Chinese firms have been active in Africa long before the 2013 announcement of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. According to statistics compiled by the State Council of China in 2013:
China has become Africa's largest trade partner, and Africa is now China's second largest overseas construction project contract market and the fourth largest investment destination … Up to now, China has completed 1,046 projects in Africa, building 2,233 kilometers of railways and 3,530 kilometers of roads, among others, promoting intra-African trade and helping it integrate into the global economy.
To finance these and other projects under the "Belt and Road" framework, China has created a number of key financial institutions. In November 2014, President Xi announced the creation of a 40 billion USD Silk Road Fund. The bulk of its financing will come from the Chinese government, with the remainder from China Investment Corporation, China Development Bank Capital Company, and the Export-Import Bank of China. In July 2014, China and its partners in the so-called BRICS bloc-Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa-contributed 100 billion USD to establish the New Development Bank, an alternative to the U.S.-dominated World Bank and International Monetary Fund for emerging economies to raise funds for infrastructural development.