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China’s Growing Ties with Sub-Saharan Africa
5
With the notable exception of the 1,860-kilometer Tanzania-Zambia 
Railway (Tazara) completed in 1976, Chinese aid during this period did not
typically focus on infrastructure. Following the economic reforms of the
assistance policy toward a more market-based approach with a move away
China’s engagement in Africa goes far back in history and includes trade
along the Silk Road (which through the Arab peninsula and India also 
reached Africa) as well as Admiral Zheng He’s travels to eastern Africa in 
the 15th century.
China’s contemporary engagement with Africa has its roots in the mid-
1950s, notably in the Bandung Conference, where Asian and African states
reinforced nonalignment and sought to promote Afro-Asian economic and
cultural cooperation. Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s tour of 10 African coun-
tries between 1963 and 1964 offered support to Africa’s people and leaders,
and Chinese overseas development assistance became a feature of relations,
focusing on infrastructure development as well as technical and student ex-
of the cooperation was construction of the Tazara railway, linking Zambia to
the coastal port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and thus providing Zambia with
an alternative route to the sea.
After Deng Xiaoping’s reforms took off in 1978, Sino-African cooperation
became less prominent for some time, but regained momentum in the 1990s.
President Jiang Zemin, who toured Africa in May 1996, presented the Five
Points Proposal establishing the contours of a new relationship with Africa,
centering on a reliable friendship, sovereign equality, nonintervention, mutu-
ally beneficial development, and international cooperation.
In October 2000, the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
was held in Beijing. The forum reached consensus on a wide range of issues
and culminated in the adoption of two policy documents—The Beijing 
Declaration and the Program of Cooperation on Economic and Social Devel-
opment. Thereafter, the ministerial conference became a triennial event 
convened alternately in China and Africa.
(continued)
A brief history of Sino-African engagement
BOX 1
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6
Building Bridges: China’s Growing Role as Infrastructure Financier for Sub-Saharan Africa
aid projects.
ticular focus on infrastructure projects. Indeed, China’s officials declared 2006
China’s “Year of Africa,” marked by intensive diplomatic outreach, includ-
of aid to Africa over the next three years. China’s African policy highlights
for China’s activities in the region (King 2006).
Commentators agree that China’s role in infrastructure finance in the re-
African infrastructure projects. At the low end of the spectrum, Agence
In November 2004, China established the China-Africa Business Council
(CABC) jointly with the United Nations Development Programme as a public-
private partnership aiming to support China’s private sector investment in
sub-Saharan Africa.
The second FOCAC conference was held in October 2006 in Beijing,
marking the culmination of China’s “Year of Africa,” with more than 40
African heads of state in attendance. At this event, China pledged US$3 
billion in preferential loans and US$2 billion in export credits to African
states over the next three years, created a special fund of US$5 billion to
encourage Chinese investment in Africa, and established the China-Africa
Joint Chamber of Commerce.
Source: Authors.
(continued)
BOX 1
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China’s Growing Ties with Sub-Saharan Africa
7
agencies and (b) an estimate of private sector activity. At the high end of the
the existence of a US$2 billion credit line for Angola alone.
nese financing. They can be compared, for example, with commitments of
Saharan Africa by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop-
the associated funding deficit.
to the government of the beneficiary country. Because the Chinese contractors
whether or not they would qualify as concessional based on the OECD’s offi-
opment purpose and are at least partially concessional in nature.”
Comparisons with traditional ODA can be misleading. On the one hand,
to lower-income countries for development purposes, usually delivered
duce poverty in the recipient country. These flows are guided by the agree-
ments made under the OECD Development Assistance Committee, which
delivers the maximum benefit to the recipient country, for example, by unty-
ing contracts, developing safeguards, and harmonizing procedures. On the
tutes official financing betweenlower-income countries, and is delivered not
through development agencies, but rather through Ex-Im banks with an ex-
.
Given the lower income level of the originating country, it makes sense that
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8
Building Bridges: China’s Growing Role as Infrastructure Financier for Sub-Saharan Africa
borrower. The export promotion logic of the financing provided also explains
,
which is standard for Ex-Im banks.
African leadership has typically welcomed China’s fresh approach to de-
Pambazuka 2006). However, a number of civil society commentators have
Chinese-funded projects in Africa (Alden and Rothman 2006; Bosshard
2007, 2008; Glosny 2006; Kurlantzick 2006; Pambazuka 2006). These re-
regulations of the host country. At the same time, the Chinese approach is
seen to provide a viable alternative development model based on a much
(Gill et al. 2007).
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9
METHODOLOGY
3.
ument this specific issue.
2
Existing Information Sources
credits and guarantees, pegged at close to US$26 billion in 2006,
3
has quadru-
pled since the year 2000. However, data on concessional lending—the relevant
closed.
The Ministry of Commerce publishes annual statistics on “foreign eco-
try level, indicate that new contractual commitments to projects in
2
3
Includes approved US$17.5 billion of export seller’s credits, US$4.24 billion of export buyer’s
s annual report
2006, http://english.Ex-Imbank.gov.cn/annual/reportall.jsp, pp. 19–23).
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10
Building Bridges: China’s Growing Role as Infrastructure Financier for Sub-Saharan Africa
four countries: Mauritania, Nigeria, Angola, and Sudan (figure 2b).
These official statistics on foreign economic cooperation merge together
tractors but financed by multilateral agencies (such as the World Bank), and
palaces and parliamentary buildings.
Finally, during a six-nation tour of Africa in June of 2006, Premier Wen Ji-
Source: Ministry of Commerce, PRC (2006).
Figure 2:  Chinese foreign economic cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa, 2002–05
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Methodology
11
years to finance 900 infrastructure projects.
4
In 2005, he stated that the Chi-
nese government provided US$950 million in aid to Africa. During 2007,
China’s top leaders visited about half of the 48 African countries with which
China has diplomatic ties,
5
signing debt relief and aid agreements with 28
countries.
6
A New Project Database
ing upon both international sources and Chinese sources.
atically reviewed and attempts were made to verify them through World Bank
channels.
The starting point was international English language media. The Factiva
4
News, August 28, 2006.
5
(2007) AFRICA-CHINA: Hu’s Tour Africa Research Bulletin: Economic, Financial, and Tech-
6
China Ministry of Commerce (http://xyf2.mofcom.gov.cn/aarticle/workaffair/200712/
20071205263642.html).
Table 1:  Estimated upper bound of Chinese infrastructure finance commitments in
sub-Saharan Africa, 2002–05 (US$ millions)
2002
2003
2004
2005
Foreign economic cooperation in 
1,869.2
3,128.6
5,283.9 5,941.0
sub-Saharan Africa
Less
Chinese FDI in sub-Saharan Africa
62.8
107.4
432.0
345.6
Value of multilateral contracts in 
sub-Saharan Africa secured by 
Chinese contractors
30.2
24.0
259.9
276.2
Yields
Estimated upper bound of Chinese 
1,776.2
2,997.2
4,592.0 5,319.2
infrastructure finance commitments 
in sub-Saharan Africa
Sources:Ministry of Commerce, World Bank, African Development Bank.
12
Building Bridges: China’s Growing Role as Infrastructure Financier for Sub-Saharan Africa
Factiva, a Dow Jones & Reuters company, is a database of international news-
country, sector, Chinese agency involvement, nature of project, type of financ-
scription of the database structure. To understand the linkages between
was created documenting natural resource projects using the same method.
ects underway, it suffers from a number of shortcomings. To the extent that
the media may cover the initial announcement of a financing commitment,
T
of financial commitments.
Subsequently, interviews were undertaken with World Bank operational
against the World Bank’s Debtor Reporting System (DRS) up to 2005, which
debts.
jected to a validation process using the official Web sites of the relevant Chi-
nese government institutions and state-owned enterprises.
The Chinese press search was conducted using a powerful Chinese search
engine (www.baidu.com), as well as a commercial database, Chinese Journal
W
portant Chinese Newspaper Full Article Database (including 430 types of
Chinese newspapers from 2000). Newspapers proved to be more valuable
.
Methodology
13
including some industry-specific/professional newspapers; and provin-
cial/municipal/private newspapers with a more local or regional focus.
The next stage was to validate press reports by matching them up against
information provided through the Web sites of relevant government institu-
accurate Chinese source of information. However, in some cases, the data are
limited in terms of project coverage and level of detail.
First, the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China (MOF-
COM)
bidding among Chinese contractors online. The announcement includes the
of the information is required by law.
Second, MOFCOM also has local Economic and Commercial Counselor’s
Offices (ECCOs) housed within the network of Chinese embassies across
Africa. The ECCOs normally have well-maintained Web sites reporting local
ground.
Third, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the State-Owned Assets
project-specific information from time to time on their Web sites, especially
relating to large projects.
its annual report.
The final stage was to look at the Web sites of those Chinese contractors
kets, annual reports are normally unavailable. However, some information
can be found from material posted on their corporate Web sites. Although
to be usually reliable.
picture on a specific project, but instead they can be complementary. For 
of conducting cross-checks among the Chinese sources cited.
To summarize, the different methods of data collection and validation de-
14
Building Bridges: China’s Growing Role as Infrastructure Financier for Sub-Saharan Africa
what is happening, but which on their own are of questionable accuracy.
The second are the official sources, whether World Bank or Chinese govern-
tified through the press.
ious official sources. In numerical terms, however, the percentage of finance
commitments cases that could be confirmed is substantially lower, represent-
ited number of large commitments.
proach and report only on projects reported by the Chinese press whose val-
ues could subsequently be confirmed from official Chinese sources. In value
firmed both by Chinese and international sources.
However, it is important to note that even the signature of an intergov-
ernmental agreement does not guarantee that the project will eventually
go ahead, and there have been some important cases of such projects sub-
sequently being questioned or halted. Moreover, the status of projects
under agreement but not yet commenced is often subject to frequent
ese
projects. Unfortunately, it is often some of the larger projects that have the
text on those projects whose implementation remains in question at the
time of writing.
tute FDI. That is to say that the projects are entirely debt financed, typically
in any of their own equity, which is a key element of the definition of FDI. The
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