China launches first-ever intermodal service to Africa
China set in motion a new intermodal service connecting the country with Africa via Europe. The rail part of the service will run between Chengdu, in southwest China, with Hamburg, in Germany, via the China-Europe Railway Express. From there, goods are shipped to Casablanca, in Morocco, by sea.
This is the first-ever service with this kind of connection. The inaugural train left Chengdu on Saturday, 15 October, and the total transit time should revolve around 35 days. The service should benefit mainly the Chinese textile industry, especially in the west of the country.
China and Morocco’s recent developments
This new service shows the strong relationship between China and Morocco. The latter joined the BRI in 2017 and upgraded the term of the relationship at the beginning of 2022. This new agreement enabled China to provide Morocco with a vaccine against COVID-19, the Sinopharm.
In August, in addition, Morocco adhered to the One-China policy, which states that China, including Taiwan, is part of one Chinese nation and one Chinese government. China exports to Morocco mostly textile materials, tea, and broadcasting equipment. On the other hand, Morocco sends China various raw materials, including copper, calcium phosphates, and zinc ore.
China’s investments in Africa
China has been heavily investing in Africa since the turn of the century with the launch of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOAC), which was integrated into the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2018. The FOAC currently includes 53 out of 54 African countries, with the exception of the Kingdom of Eswatini, in the south of the continent.
Since 2000, members have been meeting every three years, alternating between China and Africa for the meeting locations. China can provide aid in the forms of debt forgiveness, aid grants, concessional loans, and interest-free loans through the FOAC. For example, in 2021, China claimed it would forgive 23 interest-free loans that had matured at the end of that year for 17 African countries. During that year, moreover, China invested over 47 billion euros in Africa.