Plans include investments in healthcare © MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP via Getty Images
Plans include investments in healthcare © MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP via Getty Images

Which four sectors are set to benefit from China's new Silk Road?

16 February 2021

Social infrastructure, logistics, smart city projects and transportation are set to receive most investment under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Middle East, a survey has found.

The survey – of 500 senior executives, including 75 based in the MENA region or working predominantly on BRI projects there – found 44% of MENA respondents planned to target social infrastructure (hospitals and healthcare), followed by logistics (41%), smart city projects (37%), and transportation (35%). 

International law firm CMS, which commissioned the survey, said BRI had been hit by geopolitical tensions and the pandemic but had attracted significant interest across MENA, with railways, ports, roads, power projects and smart cities seeing significant Chinese investment.

China sees the region as a strategic crossroads for the initiative. CMS said China had recently pivoted towards a more sustainable BRI, with greater emphasis on greener projects and the “digital and health Silk Road projects” that will lead to China sharing technology and health solutions such as its Covid-19 vaccine.

CMS said there was also rising interest in the region in greener, more sustainable and eco-friendly sectors such as renewables and hydro, with 24% of MENA respondents planning to target renewables projects and 17% looking at conventional power developments.

David Moore, CMS infrastructure and projects partner and UAE managing partner, said he believed China’s desire to strengthen its supply chains was likely to be reflected in strategic BRI infrastructure projects.

“There remains ample scope for infrastructure development in MENA. According to figures from the World Bank, the region will need to spend 8.2% of GDP to meet its infrastructure goals by 2030, compared with the 3% spent annually over the previous decade,” he said.

Two-thirds (65%) of MENA respondents believed national governments and political issues were among the greatest obstacles to BRI activity.

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