Friday, August 28, 2015

China-Africa Pre-Doctoral Research Fellowship

The China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies is seeking one or two part-time, pre-doctoral research fellows, who will lead student teams in collecting, cleaning and analyzing Chinese finance and investment data, and writing papers and reports based on the data and on African fieldwork reports. The candidate should hold a Master’s degree and be currently enrolled in a doctoral program, with ABD status, i.e. with course work and exams complete. We seek a creative individual with the skills of a detective or an investigative journalist, an organized and cheerful perfectionist, a quick learner, diligent and tenacious in tracking sources. This will be desk research, but will involve extensive follow up by telephone and other means.
The successful candidates should have knowledge of China and be able to read Chinese. Knowledge of Excel and some knowledge of China are required, while ability to do research in Chinese, knowledge of Stata and some econometrics would be helpful. Experience with China Development Bank or China Export-Import Bank or Africa would be an asset. Major responsibilities include (1) serving as primary leader of student teams working on data collection, cleaning, and analysis; (2) drafting papers analyzing the data; (3) maintenance of databases and data archival system. The role will require up to 20 hours per week for a 9 month commitment starting in September 2015, and may be renewed. Applicants must be eligible to work in the United States. 
For detailed information on the post and how to apply please see the Johns Hopkins University HR website, and enter requisition number 300573 Please note that you will need to create an account (top right corner of the page) in order to apply. For questions, please contact

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What does China's Shock Yuan Devaluation mean for Africa?

This morning, CNN published my op-ed, "What does China's shock yuan devaluation mean for Africa?"

China's development decisions are critically important for Africa. In Lagos, Addis and Johannesburg, China's surprise yuan devaluation has African analysts scratching their heads.

Obviously Chinese goods will be cheaper in Africa, and African exports more expensive in China. So far, this decision is just a tremor, not a quake. Yet why did China devalue, and what is this likely to mean for Africa?

To understand China's devaluation, we need to take a step back. Beijing has been trying to manage China's enormous structural transformation ever since Chinese leaders made their historic decision to move out of poverty by turning to the market in the late 1970s. Their supercharged development model depended on low wages, high levels of foreign and public investment, and rapidly expanding, cheap exports. 

Continued here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Are Chinese Resource Companies the Worst at Transparency?

HomeWe often assume that Chinese oil, gas and mining companies are "the worst of a bad bunch" (quoting from a Global Witness email blast). Several years ago I attended a conference in the Netherlands on transparency and natural resources, where I was intrigued to hear a representative from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) state that Chinese companies were no different from others. But this was only anecdotal. Now, a new study confirms this. As Global Witness noted in the same blast, "financial disclosure by Chinese oil, gas and mining companies around the world [is] becoming their new normal." Or, as Global Witness put it: 财务披露成为中国海外石油、天然气及矿业公司的 “新常态”

Here's more from Global Witness:
"When it comes to foreign companies denying locals basic information about what they’re up to Chinese firms are frequently fingered as the worst of a bad bunch.  However a new study challenges that assumption.

The briefing by the international transparency scheme for the oil, gas & mining industries, EITI, sets out how much information Chinese companies have published about their operations in EITI member countries around the world.

The results are encouraging and indicate an ability and willingness for Chinese firms to act transparently where disclosure is the law or the commercial norm and, at times, to go beyond the minimum requirements.

Key findings from the EITI briefing include:
At least 90 Chinese companies are involved in EITI reporting globally, including some of the world’s biggest oil and mining names such as China National Petroleum Corporation, China National Offshore Oil Corporation and China Nonferrous Metal Mining.
Chinese firms disclose information about the payments they make to host governments as much as non-Chinese firms. In the limited cases where Chinese companies were reluctant to report, they were in the good (or not so good) company of businesses from countries such as Australia, Canada and the US that were also dragging their feet.
Information disclosure by Chinese firms doesn’t stop at financial payments. Indeed, Chinese companies in DRC, Mongolia and Nigeria made declarations about their ownership and control, known as beneficial ownership, while firms working in Afghanistan published their oil production contracts. 
Chinese firms are involved in EITI ‘Multi-Stakeholder Groups’ – the national committees that oversee implementation – in at least six countries, which in itself goes beyond the minimal requirements. 
The findings of the report mirror those of an earlier study by Global Witness and Beijing-based consultancy SynTao which examined the extent to which Chinese companies were publishing details of their payments to foreign governments either through EITI or in line with stock exchange reporting rules.
Both studies reflect China’s increased awareness of risks faced in overseas operations and point to the role disclosure rules can play in building a more stable investment environment for companies. Research by Global Witness and other groups has shown how questions over hidden payments can damage the reputation of Chinese companies, at a time when many are seeking greater recognition on the international stage as a basis for forging joint ventures, getting listed or gaining access to new resources. Meanwhile there is growing awareness that transparency of payments made by companies to governments can help prevent corruption and associated conflict.

Given the new evidence of widespread disclosure of financial, beneficial ownership and contractual information under EITI by Chinese companies, the time seems right for leading firms to engage with and support the scheme at a more institutional level. An immediate step would be for industry leaders in China to make a public commitment to the scheme and the principles it enshrines – something that would also go some way towards reassuring doubters that Chinese companies are committed to operating as responsible players on the global stage." 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Guest Post: When the U.S. visits Africa, so does China

Photo: Ben Curtis, AP via The Detroit News
This guest post is by Janet Eom, the Research Manager at the SAIS China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University.

After his historic Africa tour, President Barack Obama is back in Washington. It was the first time a sitting U.S. president visited Kenya and Ethiopia, and Obama’s roots in Kenya lent a personal touch. But even in a story of the U.S. in Africa, China was present.

The U.S.-China-Africa plot went something like this: Africa, young and quickly growing, is the place of the future. However, U.S. trade with the continent is declining, China’s is growing. But not to worry: where China is extracting minerals, the U.S. is planting good intentions. At the AU Headquarters (constructed by Beijing) in Addis Ababa, Obama declared, “Economic relationships can’t simply be about building countries’ infrastructure with foreign labor or extracting Africa’s natural resources. Real economic partnerships have to be a good deal for Africa. They have to create jobs and capacity for Africans. That is the kind of partnership America offers.”

But as this is a story of diplomacy, how much exactly have the two governments’ leaders visited Africa? There is rhetoric, but there is also the decision to visit in the first place.

Into Africa: A Timeline

In 2009, the year Obama became president, China became Africa’s largest trading partner, surpassing the U.S. Although we can’t conclude a cause-effect relationship between presidential visits and changes in trade, it is interesting to look at patterns. This approximate timeline of visits that involved meeting with African governments in the several years before and after 2009 is strung together via the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian and China Vitae.

George W. Bush, 2001-2009
7 days in 2003
June 2-3: Egypt

July 8: Senegal
July 8-10: South Africa
July 10: Botswana
July 11: Uganda
July 11-12: Nigeria

9 days in 2008
January 16: Egypt

February 16: Benin
February 16-19: Tanzania
February 19: Rwanda
February 19-21: Ghana
February 21: Liberia

May 17-18: Egypt

Hu Jintao, 2003-2013
7 days in 2004
January 29-February 1: Egypt
February 1- 3: Gabon
February 3-4: Algeria

6 days in 2006
April 24-26: Morocco
April 26-27: Nigeria
April 27-29: Kenya

11 days in 2007
January 31-February 1: Cameroon
February 1-2: Liberia
February 2-3: Sudan
February 3-5: Zambia
February 5-6: Namibia
February 6-8: South Africa
February 8-9: Mozambique
February 9-10: Seychelles

6 days in 2009
February 12-13: Mali
February 13-15: Senegal
February 15-17: Tanzania
February 17: Mauritius

Bonus: Hu Jintao spoke at FOCAC in Beijing in 2006 and 2012
Barack Obama, 2009- 
3 days in 2009
June 4: Egypt

July 10-11: Ghana

7 days in 2013 (traveled with the First Lady)
June 26-28: Senegal
June 28-July 1: South Africa
July 1-2: Tanzania
July 2: Senegal (stopped during return to Washington)

5 days in 2015
July 25-27: Kenya
July 27-29: Ethiopia

Bonus: August 4-6, 2014: U.S.-Africa summit of 50 out of 54 African heads of state in Washington D.C.
Xi Jinping, 2013-
7 days in 2013
March 24-26: Tanzania
March 26-29: South Africa (Durban for BRICS Summit)
March 29-30: The Congo

Quick Observations:
  • Five months into his presidency, Obama made his first visit to Africa. Xi made his two weeks after assuming office, his first foreign tour. As many people suggest, are Obama’s second-term, “end-heavy” Africa tours an after-the-fact catch-up effort? Indeed, Hu intensely traversed Africa every one to two years, before halting once the trade balance shifted in 2009. However, at the same time, Bush did conduct pre-2009 tours in both his terms. With more information, it would be interesting to track whether the trade changed first, then the tours, or vice versa.
  • While both Obama and Bush made short stops, neither Hu nor Xi had one or two day stopovers – all their visits were tours, with Hu visiting a whopping 8 countries in 11 days at one point. Perhaps this is because Chinese media does not publicize short visits, focusing on significant, committed trips instead. But maybe the Chinese trips are purposefully long to convey stateliness and intention. Chinese diplomats have been associated with formality and red carpet treatment to convey importance. Meanwhile, Obama emphasized his personal identity as the first Kenyan-American president of the U.S. What is the role of culture in diplomacy in Africa?
  • Overlap of countries between U.S. and China visits: Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia, South Africa, Senegal, and Tanzania. What may be some common priorities for potential U.S.-China-Africa collaboration in these countries?

Of course, counting visits only goes so far and there’s a lot to explore beyond this post’s scope; we need to track concrete commitments. But leader-to-leader diplomacy is symbolic, conveying priorities and intention. For now, it seems that any future U.S. or Chinese state visit to Africa will not occur without drawing comparisons to the other. It will be something for the next U.S. president to ponder.

Additional Sources:

"Chinese, Kenyan Presidents Agree to Enhance Co-op.", 28 Apr. 2006. Web. 4 Aug. 2015. <>.
"Chinese President Concludes Five-nation Trip." Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People's Republic of China, 18 Feb. 2009. Web. 04 Aug. 2015. <>.
"Chinese President Hu Jintao Wraps up Successful African Tour." China View. Xinhua News Agency, 11 Feb. 2007. Web. 04 Aug. 2015. <>.
"President Hu's Arab-African Visit Fruitful: FM." China View. Xinhua News Agency, 30 Apr. 2006. Web. 4 Aug. 2015. <>.
Stone, Amanda. "President Obama Travels to Kenya and Ethiopia." The White House Blog. The White House, 26 July 2015. Web. 04 Aug. 2015. <>.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

China, Debt, Development Finance and Human Rights (2)

Third International Conference on Financing for DevelopmentThis week, tens of thousands of people are gathering for the development finance summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the largest conference Addis has ever hosted. As one of the newest "big overseas lenders," will Chinese banks be represented? My initial scan of the program suggests not. Not a single Chinese entity or individual is listed in the provisional Roundtable program. China's Minister of Finance, Lou Jiwei, will be involved in the third Plenary session, yet there is not a single Chinese representative at any of the official side events. This suggests that there is some way to go before Chinese financiers see themselves as part of the framework of development finance as it has evolved. Is that a good or a bad thing? It depends on how you view that framework and is effect on development, so far.

My post last week on China, Debt, and Human Rights -- inspired by a Voice of America story -- generated some interesting discussion (through emails) suggesting that the Voice of America reporter had not done justice to the material released by Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the International Expert on Debt and Human Rights, at his press conference in Beijing. I was urged to read the expert's end of mission statement (preliminary report) itself, released on July 6. It makes interesting reading, for several reasons, including the degree of cooperation from the Chinese government.

Bohoslavsky notes that he received an official invitation for his mission, and that during his week's visit he met with officials in the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Finance, Public Security, Human Resources and Social Security, Housing and Urban-Rural Development, Commerce, the State Council Information Office, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the People’s Bank of China and the China Banking Regulatory Commission and representatives of the China Development Bank, EXIM Bank China, and the Chinese Enterprises Confederation, including the China Chamber of Metals, Minerals and Chemical Importers and Exporters.

Bohoslavsky also stated that he phrased the dilemma of human rights protection like this:
I posed this question in almost every meeting during this visit: how to reconcile the principle of non-intervention in domestic affairs with the idea of protecting and promoting human rights abroad [emphasis added]? There is in China a sense that this is a delicate, complex but much needed task to be carried out. In my view the solution should be to stress local ownership and the own development priorities of partner countries to achieve social inclusive and sustainable development in line with international human rights standards.
Bohoslavsky got the first part of this exactly right. Yet his solution is problematic. Ironically, Chinese banks -- like other export credit agencies and multinational commercial banks -- already stress local ownership and development priorities of partner countries (read: governments). They take a "hands off" approach, providing the finance and expecting the borrower/owner to manage resettlement, compensation, and other thorny issues. Thus, it is very often weaknesses and shortfalls in the borrowers' own systems--under local ownership--that results in aggrieved citizens, who have lost homes and livelihoods without an adequate response from their governments.

The mission was able to pose some tough questions to people in responsible positions. Bohoslavsky noted that on paper, Chinese companies and lenders are supposed to apply standards, for example, on green credit. But he was "informed that so far no sanction has been applied by the Chinese authorities to Chinese lenders and corporations for overseas investments that may have contradicted the Green Credit Guidelines."

It is tough to do interviews on these issues in China. Chinese banks are unlikely to provide examples of their responses to environmental/social issues because they would consider these highly sensitive matters not for discussion with “outsiders” and seen as the internal affairs of the borrowing country. If these issues arose and were dealt with, they would (as Bohoslavsky noted) have been viewed as the borrowing country’s “internal affairs” and this is not something that can be discussed in public. Yet there are some examples in Africa where it appears that Chinese lenders have halted loans, or Chinese companies, adjusted their approaches to mitigate environmental concerns.

According to a fascinating case study published in 2007 by the World Wildlife Fund, engagement among local and international NGOs, Gabon ministries, and a Chinese oil company that was prospecting for oil in a Gabonese national park led to a collaborative effort to mitigate impact.

Peter Bosshard at International Rivers, an activist NGO, wrote an optimistic post in 2010:
… we have witnessed progress on the ground in Gabon. With support from China Exim Bank, Chinese investors plan to develop a huge iron ore deposit in this West African country, complete with a hydropower dam, railway line and port. Brainforest, Gabon’s inspiring environmental NGO, sent a letter to the Exim Bank pointing out that the dam was proposed to be built in a national park, and would violate its environmental guidelines. In due course, Brainforest learned from the Gabonese government that China Exim Bank had suspended the project over environmental concerns. In a separate development, Sinohydro agreed to work together with the Global Environmental Institute, a Chinese NGO, in an effort to address the social and environmental impacts of the Nam Ngum 5 Dam in Laos. 
Environmental and social impact of Chinese lending overseas is an important area, but not my own research focus -- so I welcome other case studies, if anyone has them. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Will China Provide $1 trillion in finance to Africa by 2025? NO WAY

Will China provide $1 trillion in finance to Africa by 2025? No way. 

I really wanted to avoid analyzing this silly story, even when I was bombarded by colleagues sending me the link to the November 2013 South China Morning Post story quoting China Eximbank' chief country risk analyst as saying that China will provide $1 trillion in finance (investment, soft credits, commercial loans) to Africa by 2025, i.e. over the next 12 years. I wrote about it in another post on Zimbabwe, but never tackled it head on.

Let's unpack that a bit. For 2011, the SAIS China Africa Research Initiative has confirmed around $9 billion in Chinese loans (and loan commitments) in Africa. These are still mostly from China Eximbank, although China Development Bank is increasingly active. Chinese FDI in 2011 was $3.17 billion by official figures. According to Derek Scissor's China Investment Tracker, FDI was over $10 billion in 2011 (this only includes deals valued at $100 million and above).  So if we figure that Chinese finance in 2011 was about $20 billion, is it likely that we will see an additional $1000 billion ($1 trillion) by 2025?

No. As the article points out, this would mean $83 billion per year, on average. The China Eximbank official said that China Eximbank will provide "70 to 80 percent" of this amount. The entire continent's infrastructure deficit is estimated to be about $93 billion annually, but absorptive capacity and bankable projects are far below that figure.

Perhaps this another example of bad translating. How many times have I seen a translator struggling to convert Chinese numbers (based on 10,000 or "wan" where one million is 百万(or "a hundred ten thousands") into the system we use of thousands, hundred thousands, and millions? Although many stories have now spun this as a "pledge" or "commitment" of finance to Africa, I haven't seen a retraction, but I also haven't seen the figure repeated again by any Chinese official.

Update, July 28, 2015. A reader, Xiao'ou Zhou, commented that in fact China Eximbank did issue a denial of this story (in Chinese) on December 5, 2013.  They also noted that there is no such position as "chief country risk analyst" at the Eximbank. Thanks for the good research, Xiao'ou.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

China, Debt and Human Rights

Photo:  C. Chappat / Biblioteca de la ONU en Ginebra
Not long ago I received an email about a visit to Beijing being planned for Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, the United Nation's Human Rights Council's independent expert on debt and human rights. It unfortunately got buried in my inbox as I was finalizing the new book and then heading off to Ethiopia for a conference and some research. Now I see that he has completed his trip to China. His report will be finalized soon.

A story in the Voice of America website, "UN fears Rights Violations in China-Backed Projects" suggested that the UNHRC was concerned because their research suggested some patterns in Chinese finance. 
Investigations by the UNHCHR [sic] show Chinese companies and financing institutions have little concern about human rights violations surrounding projects promoted and financed by them across different countries, including some in Africa.
This concerns the United Nations because Chinese institutions and companies are funding more projects globally than the World Bank, the U.N.’s independent expert on finance and human rights said at a press conference Monday in Beijing.
Whenever I see claims about what China is doing abroad, I'm curious about the evidence. I looked on the website of the UNHCR to see if they had published their investigations and found a stack of interesting studies here. What a great resource. Systematic research on these issues is clearly growing, with environmental issues receiving the bulk of the attention.

Do Chinese institutions and companies fund more projects globally than the World Bank? "Funding" has a lot of meanings. Since the special expert's mandate is to consider debt, we can focus on loan-financed projects. Let's look at Ethiopia, since they are one of the largest clients of both the World Bank and Chinese banks. The table below is drawn from the Debt Management office at the Ethiopian Ministry of Finance and Economic Development. It compares Chinese official debt disbursements with World Bank (IDA) disbursements, over the last five fiscal years. All figures are in millions of USD.

         2009/10     2010/11     2011/12     2012/13     2013/14

IDA         525            394            551            773            851
China      169            299            372             743         1324

Source: Ethiopia Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

Commentary:   Disbursements allow us to see the figures that are actually in play, rather than commitments that might not come to pass. The Chinese figures here probably do not include disbursements of several very large supplier-financed, non-government guaranteed credits to the Ethiopia Telecoms Corporation from Huawei and ZTE for telecoms projects. Commitments made to future projects and funds disbursed after mid-2014 (for example on the Addis-Djibouti Railway) are also not included.

Without accounting for inflation, the World Bank had disbursed $3094 million in loan credits since 2009, while the Chinese government has disbursed $2907 in official lending -- but their growth rate is a lot steeper. So if there are higher levels of official finance from the World Bank side, this is likely to change very soon.

What about numbers of projects financed by each? The World Bank's website says that they have financed 25 projects in Ethiopia between 2009 and 2014 (this does not include "additional financing" for existing projects). According to the Ethiopians, since 2009 there have been 21 separate loan-financed projects from China, including those financed by suppliers' credits. So, more projects financed by World Bank credits than by Chinese loans. I expect this to continue, as the Chinese have very limited manpower to develop projects: hence, fewer but larger projects.

And human rights? It is ironic that the focus on human rights and debt at the UNHRC has its origin in concerns about "the effects of structural adjustment and economic reform policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights."  The World Bank, of course, was often criticized for its role on these issues (along with the IMF). It is a sign of how things have changed that the World Bank is now seen as more progressive and helpful, while the new bankers in town -- Chinese bankers -- are seen as the new threat.

Note: This story was updated on July 14 after I received the Independent Expert's statement.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chinese in Mauritius: Going the Way of the Dodo?

Journalist James Wan writes about the venerable Chinese community in Mauritius in his latest article for New African magazine: "Meet Africa's Most Integrated Chinese Community"  (June 15, 2015).
Since 1999, making at least five research visits, I've spent more than 12 months in Mauritius, and wrote about the Chinese there in several early articles. The Chinese connection was critical for the country's industrialization. Many Mauritian companies today are headed by ethnic Chinese, including CMT, one of the largest textile firms. The legendary Hakka town of Meixian in Guangdong is the origin of many Mauritian Chinese. James gives us a glimpse of the possible future of other Chinese settler communities in Africa: thriving economically, marginalized politically.

h/t to Winslow Robertson

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Will Africa Feed China?

I've not been blogging much as I finished my new book, Will Africa Feed China? Last week I sent off the final edits. The manuscript is in production and OUP will be shipping it out on October 1 (Amazon is predicting a November release). I will post more on the book as the publication date comes closer.

Also looking forward to having a full-time research manager, Janet Eom, who will be starting at SAIS-CARI on July 1. We have been awarded some great research funding by Carnegie and the UK Economic and Social Research Council/DFID and Janet will be busy helping us to program these funds.

I hope to be blogging more now. I have a big backlog of posts on a number of topics, including the Lowy Institute's new Chinese aid data, South African survey research on Chinese enterprises, outrageous China-Africa stories, labor unions and Chinese firms, new data on economic cooperation, and more. Off next week to an Africa investment conference in Addis Ababa co-sponsored by the World Bank, China Development Bank, Govt. of Ethiopia, China-Africa Development Fund and UNIDO. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

New research on the China International Fund in Africa

J. R. Mailey at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has just published his new paper on the China International Fund, a.k.a. "The 88 Queensway Group" (click to see his earlier work with the U.S. - China Economic and Security Review Commission.)

J.R. gave us some highlights from the new paper, "The Anatomy of the Resource Curse: Predatory Investment in Africa’s Extractive Industries," at our SAIS-CARI April conference on Chinese overseas finance. He does extensive, careful work. I haven't read this yet, but I anticipate that it will be based on sound research.

A hat tip to Winslow Robertson

Friday, April 17, 2015

Chinese aid for South Africa?

Image Credit: Flickr/ GovernmentZA via The Diplomat
I was struck by an article today in The Diplomat on Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi's visit to South Africa, where Wang met with South African president Jacob Zuma. The article noted "In their meeting, both Wang and Zuma stressed the importance of Chinese aid for South African development."

I immediately wondered about this. South Africa, is, like China, an upper middle income country. China gives South Africa very minimal official development assistance [yes, this is true even if researchers relying on AidData mistakenly list South Africa as one of China's biggest aid recipients ... sigh...]. South Africa has received only scholarships, some Confucius Institutes, and a handful of "gift" projects that are basically symbolic; there is very little official aid. The relationship is all about business -- and politics -- and has its bumpy side. Consider the long standing concern with South Africa's industrial development and competition with Chinese imports, for example, or the ongoing kerfuffle over the inability of the Dali Lama to obtain a South Africa visa.

The article linked to a video of a CCTV clip with the title "Two sides vow to strengthen industrial cooperation". Listening to the clip, I found no mention of Chinese "aid", per se, although they did mention China's "consistent support and help" to South Africa while also emphasizing that Beijing sees the relationship as one of "mutual benefit".

Does anyone else wish that we could get away from the language of "aid" -- this notion that cooperation (or support or help) to an African country should be automatically termed foreign aid -- a one-way transfer of alms from richer to poorer countries?  Here's to more discussion about things like "industrial cooperation" or even "support and help" that poor countries provide to richer countries. After all, the West clearly receives support and help for its goals from the aid it gives, no? 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Africa: Policy Briefs

Our sister website, the SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, has now published the latest (and last) in a series of policy briefs focused on Chinese agricultural investment and other engagement in Africa. These policy briefs provide original, fieldwork-based insights and information that is not available anywhere else. The papers on which they are based were presented at our 2014 SAIS-CARI conference on Chinese agricultural investment: 'Land Grabs' or 'Friendship Farms'?

  • Policy Brief 01/2014: The Political Ecology of Chinese Investment in Uganda: the Case of Hanhe Farm, Josh Maiyo.
  • Policy Brief 02/2014: Chinese Agricultural Investment in Mozambique: the Case of Wanbao Rice Farm, Sérgio Chichava.
  • Policy Brief 03/2014: Chinese Training Courses for African Officials: a “Win-Win” Engagement?, Henry Tugendhat.
  • Policy Brief 04/2015: Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Zambia: A Grassroots Analysis, Solange Guo Chatelard and Jessica M. Chu.
  • Policy Brief 05/2015: Chinese Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Africa: Case Studies in Ghana and Nigeria, Yang Jiao.
  • Policy Brief 06/2015: Assessing the Impact of Chinese Investment on Southeast Africa’s Cotton: Moving up the Value Chain?, Tang Xiaoyang.
  • Policy Brief 07/2015: Neither ‘Land Grab’ nor ‘Friendship Farm:’ Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Angola, Zhou Jinyan.
We appreciate support from the Smith Richardson Foundation and from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies that made the conference and these policy briefs possible.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mysteries of the China Africa Development Fund

The China Africa Development Fund (CAD-Fund) launched by China Development Bank (CDB) in 2007 remains poorly understood. For example, a 2012 statement by the Africa Finance Corporation outlining a strategic partnership being developed by the AFC and the CAD-Fund describes the CAD-Fund as having "US$50 billion" in funds under management.   Surprise: when fully mature several years from now, CAD-Fund will only be a $5 billion fund. In the past 3 years, no one has corrected that error at the AFC website.

Others have described the small CAD-Fund as a "sovereign wealth fund" -- this is not technically correct, as an adviser for China's sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation (CIC) confirmed to me. Sovereign wealth funds are usually funded directly from central bank reserves arising from trade and budget surpluses (e.g. Korea Investment Corporation; China Investment Corporation) or natural resource exports (Kuwait Investment Authority, etc.). The CAD-Fund is a private equity fund, and was supposed to raise its own funds on the private market, after the initial infusion of $1 billion from CDB.

After two years of trying to raise the second $2 billion, CAD-Fund had to ask CDB for help. CDB arranged to provide CAD-Fund with a loan at LIBOR plus a margin, with an 8 to 10 year term. As noted in the financial newspaper Caixin in April 2012: "Development bank takes out loan after domestic institutions decline to invest" in CAD-Fund.

On another note, it is true that the CAD-Fund is not at all transparent. Its website gives no lists of the projects in which it invests, aside from a few paltry examples. Is this standard practice for other private equity funds, or something uniquely Chinese?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

African Roads: Why So Many Chinese Contractors?

Thika Road, Nairobi      credit:
Sitting in yet another airport, after yet another delayed flight, after yet another conference on China and Africa. Pondering this question: African governments routinely award road construction contracts to Chinese and other foreign companies: South African, Italian, and so on. Why is this the case? A recent discussion in the comments section of this blog addressed that issue. Readers' thoughts welcome.

@Anonymous: Africa needs more infrastructure, no one denies that. I just have one question. Why is it that it is only foreigners who can build this infrastructure? Why can't we Africans rise to the challenge of learning how to construct the infrastructure we need? Is constructing infrastructure too hard for us Africans?

@Margaret Lee: I agree with you. Africans have the capacity to build infrastructure. The problem is that the Chinese are sending many of their people out of China to get jobs because there are too many people in China. All over the continent you have well qualified African engineers who can design new infrastructure and people to actual do the construction. In addition, most African countries have the monetary resources to pay for the needed equipment and supplies. The real issue rest with African leaders who are not serious about African development and would rather allow foreigners, like the Chinese, to do the work. This has been the problem with Africa since independence. Noted brilliant African scholar, now deceased, Claude Ake in his book on Democracy in Africa says,"..the assumption so readily made that there has been a failure of development is misleading. The problem is not so much that development has failed as that it was never really on the agenda in the first place. By all indications, political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development.."

Friday, January 30, 2015

China and Mozambique: Soft Power and Media

What I'm reading: a new paper by Sérgio Chichava, Lara Côrtes and Aslak Orre on the coverage of China in the Mozambican media, and what this says about the Chinese soft power strategy. From the conclusion: 
Where representatives of Western donor nations, so predominant in the Mozambican political landscape, actively attempt to mould the Frelimo-based elite into its own image, China’s politicians emphasise that it cooperates – and does business – with that elite no matter what it may privately may think about its virtues and conduct. This may well be a successful diplomatic strategy in the short run. The above findings go in the direction of suggesting that in the long run, the close association – diplomatically, in business and in people’s minds – of China with Mozambique’s elite, could become an obstacle, in particular [when it] concerns the question of Chinese soft power. At least if Mozambique’s newspaper reports on China are anything to go by, China’s soft power builders need to give some thought on how to make more of its positive image (“the bankroller”) and that which could potentially be positive but has not yet made a considerable mark on the Mozambican media, Chinese culture and language. Similarly, how can it play down what seems to affects it negatively the most: Illicit resource extraction and corruption in Mozambique, and authoritarian governance in China.

Thanks to Sérgio for sending me a copy of the paper and to Henry Tugendhat at IDS Sussex for circulating a link to the online version in the Future Agricultures blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

China and Industrial Policy in the South

The Huajian factory outside Addis Ababa [The Economist]
What I'm reading:  A new paper by Daniel Poon at UNCTAD: China's Development Trajectory: a Strategic Opening for Industrial Policy in the South, UNCTAD, December 2014.

Poon points out that China is at a crucial crossroad, serving at the same time as the world's low-end workshop and its most prominent proponent of industrial policy. China wants to move up the value chain, and Poon says: "The gap between China’s industrial ambitions and its current capabilities provides a strategic opening for other developing countries to bargain for enhanced opportunities for domestic investment, learning, technical change and structural transformation."

This paper helps frame the work on Chinese industrial investment in Ethiopia that we are doing at SAIS-CARI. I am just back from Addis-Ababa where we interviewed a number of firms in the leather sector with some kind of skill-building or technology-transfer linkage with China. Fascinating.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

China Africa Research Manager Position available at SAIS-CARI

Our new center, the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), has been awarded a Carnegie Corporation grant to build CARI's capacity to bridge scholarship and policy. We are seeking a full-time research manager, who will take a leading role in organizing the center's work and programs. We are looking for someone with a master's degree (or equivalent experience), excellent organizational skills, and familiarity with communications, including social media and website management. Field research experience and Chinese language skills would be a plus. Deadline for applications is January 31, 2015 with a mid-February start date (negotiable). This is a 2 year, fixed-term position, although there is some possibility of renewal, depending on funding.

For detailed information on the post and how to apply please see the Johns Hopkins University HR website, requisition number 64680:

Monday, January 12, 2015