African countries have an opportunity to embark on more interconnected trade in the
wake of the new African Continental Free Trade Area. This theme of interconnectivity
resonates with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure and services
expansion project that forms the centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy. At
a time when the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant financial crisis are battering the
African continent, it is even more crucial to boost trade. China is the African continent’s
largest bilateral trading partner and trade will top the agenda of the triennial Forum on
China–Africa Cooperation summit slated to take place in Senegal later this year. What
opportunities will emerge from linking China’s Belt and Road Initiative to Africa via the
African Continental Free Trade Area? And what will be some of the challenges? This paper
offers perspectives on current developments in the Belt and Road Initiative and the African
Continental Free Trade Area. It also highlights both the complementarities and challenges
arising from linking the two initiatives and gives readers a primer on the major points of
discussion at the upcoming China–Africa summit. One of the conclusions reached is that
while significant complementarities exist and there is interest from the Chinese side, linking
the Belt and Road Initiative and the African Continental Free Trade Area poses some risks
to African economies. A more coordinated African response is therefore needed to grasp
available opportunities without sacrificing too many competitive advantages.

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