Africa's elite exploit Chinese development aid, study reveals

A recent study shows China's development aid for Africa flows primarily to the birth regions of leading African politicians, while geopolitical interests only play a secondary role for Beijing. EurActiv Germany reports China's growing importance for Africa is under increasing scrutiny from politicians in the West. This led an international research team, with members from the University of Heidelberg, to focus on Chinese development aid. The results show Chinese development aid for Africa goes predominantly to home regions of leading African politicians. This also applied when there was greater need for aid in another part of the same country, the authors write.

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Abstract

Chinese “aid” is a lightning rod for criticism. Policy-makers, journalists, and public intellectuals claim that Beijing uses its largesse to cement alliances with political leaders, secure access to natural resources, and create exclusive commercial opportunities for Chinese firms—all at the expense of citizens living in developing countries. We argue that much of the controversy about Chinese “aid” stems from a failure to distinguish between China's Official Development Assistance (ODA) and more commercially oriented sources and types of state financing. Using a new database on China's official financing commitments to Africa from 2000 to 2013, we find that the allocation of Chinese ODA is driven primarily by foreign policy considerations, while economic interests better explain the distribution of less concessional flows. These results highlight the need for better measures of an increasingly diverse set of non-Western financial activities.

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