“Global infrastructure connectivity” refers to the linkages of communities, economies and nations through transport, communications, energy and water networks across countries. This linkage, of course, facilitates the flow of goods, people and information. The flow, in turn, enhances economic growth and job opportunities and provides greater access to markets.

The G20 Global Infrastructure Connectivity Alliance aims to create value by addressing bottlenecks to connectivity and engaging G20 members and non-members, international organizations and other coalitions. The members of the G20 have agreed to seek out and share international best practices, share information on financing requirements and propose connectivity programs.

At his keynote speech for the opening ceremony of the B20 (a parallel summit of the G20 that gathers business leaders), President Xi Jin Ping stressed the importance of the Global Infrastructure Connectivity Alliance Initiative. He said, “China has put forward…[the initiative] to encourage multilateral development banks to…give greater funds and intellectual support to infrastructure projects to speed up the process of global infrastructure connectivity.” China, once isolated from the global economic and political landscape, is now firmly pushing for global connectivity.

China’s deep ambition to connect itself to the rest of the world was evident when President Xi introduced the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and the Silk Road Economic Belt (referred to as One Belt One Road) in 2013. Many analysts concluded that this modern iteration of the ancient Silk Road is meant to not only stimulate China’s growth by accessing new markets, but also by serving as a diplomatic tool. Amid fears that China is creating parallel institutions and systems that threaten organizations set up by the West, President Xi Jin Ping reassured G20 leaders saying, “I wish to stress that the new mechanisms and initiatives launched by China are not intended to reinvent the wheels or target any other country. Rather, they aim to complement and improve the current international mechanisms…China’s opening drive is not a one-man show. Rather, it is an invitation open to all.”

Despite the controversies, Africa has much to gain from connectivity. Many Africans are not even able to achieve connectivity within their own locales. For instance, it is estimated that only 34 percent of rural Africans live within two kilometers of a road that can be used in all seasons. Millions of Africans hope that closing the infrastructural gap and achieving connectivity will result in greater prosperity. The question is, would these initiatives empower the truly vulnerable in the continent?