Chart of the week: Tracking China's investments in Africa

Much has been written about China in Africa - a relationship that has been described as neo-colonial as China's appetite for African resources has boomed and China has embarked on landmark projects such as the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. But quantifying the China-in-Africa story has been hard. There are official projects, aid donations, gifts, credit lines and more. Adding all that up is tricky - but a new database from AidData shows just how vast and sprawling Chinese investment in Africa has become. Chart of the week has run the numbers.




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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