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China's know-how helps African countries'green urbanization

During the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, "green buses" providing shuttle services to delegates were eye-catching.

The buses were in keeping with the theme, "A sustainable urban future through inclusive and effective multilateralism: Achieving sustainable development goals in times of global crises" of the session that ran from June 5 through June 9.

One of the firms offering the shuttle services is Kenya's startup BasiGo, which is the first company to launch electric buses in the country, using parts designed by Chinese automaker BYD.

"China is a global leader in electric mobility, inspiring African countries like Kenya in their quest for a dramatic shift to less carbon-intensive modes of transportation," said Moses Nderitu, chief revenue officer of BasiGo, adding that Chinese companies are open to sharing the latest technology with their partners.

Over the years, China has been sharing its experience in sustainable urban development with Africa and other developing regions, and contributing Chinese wisdom and solutions to improving the environment for people in African countries.

Green mobility

In January, the first phase of a China-built electric-powered light rail project in Nigeria's port city of Lagos was officially open for service.

Built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corp, the completed tracks of the Lagos Light Rail Mass Transit Blue Line project span 13 kilometers in the first phase and cover five stations.

As a symbolic project of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Blue Line is the first electrified railroad and cross-sea light rail project in West Africa.

Former Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari described the project as "historic", noting that it will reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as improve the lives of locals.

Many African countries are currently experiencing a rapid wave of urbanization and are thus plagued by "urban ailments" such as traffic congestion and air pollution.

With the upgrading of the public transport systems, low-carbon travel has gradually become the first choice of locals.

In Kenya, the Chinese-built Nairobi Expressway has helped reduce carbon emissions by cutting travel time from the south to the west of the capital from two hours during peak time to 20 minutes.

Some 50,000 vehicles use the 27-km road daily, and as of April this year, over 12.5 million vehicles had traveled on it since its launch in July last year, said Steve Zhao, CEO of Moja Expressway Co, which manages the modern thoroughfare.

Renewable energy

In Zambia, President Hakainde Hichilema commissioned a Chinese-built hydropower plant in March, following the operation of the plant's fifth generator.

The five generators at the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station, constructed by Chinese firm Sinohydro Corporation Ltd, have added 750 megawatts to the country's national grid.

Hichilema said the completion of the project is not only good for the country's energy sector, but also for the economy as a whole, as energy is a critical driver of the nation.

Africa is grappling with the effects of climate change, therefore, developing green energy is an inevitable choice for the continent to achieve sustainable development.

Although Africa is rich in renewable energy resources such as hydro, solar and wind power, their exploitation is currently low.

China is helping Africa tap these resources. For instance, in De Aar, a town in the northern Cape province of South Africa, Chinese company Longyuan Power has partnered with local firms to establish a wind power project that has been in operation since 2017, with an installed capacity of nearly 245 megawatts.

In Kenya, official figures show that the installed capacity of solar power is more than 100 MW, while the China-financed Garissa Solar Power Station accounts for 50 MW. Located in northern Kenya's Garissa county, it is the largest grid-connected solar power plant in East and Central Africa.

Sustainable environment

In just 11 months, a Chinese company has transformed a wasteland in Ethiopia into a green park that now hosts one of the most functional and largest urban comprehensive plazas in Africa.

Dubbed Friendship Park, it is an important part of the first phase of the China-aided Addis Ababa riverside green development project.

The project integrates landscape, architecture, municipal administration, roads, water conservancy and a garden, and is undertaken by China First Highway Engineering Co Ltd.

Wei Qiangyu, general manager at the CFHEC Ethiopia office, said the riverside green development project introduces the Chinese concept of "lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets "to Ethiopia, gaining popularity by managing the urban environment and developing tourism to drive the economy, thus embarking on a path of green and sustainable development.

In Equatorial Guinea, the Malabo Urban Sewage Treatment Project is the largest municipal engineering project invested in by the government and constructed by China Gezhouba Group Co.

Since completion of the project in 2018, the quality of the effluent from the water plant has reached discharge standards.

"Before the sewage treatment project was built, dirty water was everywhere. Now our drinking water is clean and safe to drink. We have a lot fewer cases of typhoid fever, malaria and other diseases," said Celestino Ncogo Ndong Oyana, a resident of Malabo, the capital.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, said China has been a pacesetter in urban regeneration in the recent past, inspiring the Global South, where cities are growing rapidly.

Sharif hopes that Beijing will continue facilitating the flow of technology and know-how to Africa's city planners, engineers and local investors to promote sustainable urban development on the continent.