China and Africa (I)

CHAIR: Isaac Kosgey, President, Moi University, Kenya

From Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to Belt-Road Initiative (BRI): Meanings for Africa

Liu Haifang, Director of Centre for African Studies, School of International Studies, Peking University

Since May 2017, the first BRI Forum was held in Beijing, both China’s own scholars and international observers have attempted to ask Why Africa was included so late into the ‘Belt &Road Initiative’? What is more important for Africa is how do we understand the relation between BRI and FOCAC from Africa’s perspective? This presentation attempts to provide an understanding of these updated issues, based on the scholar’s long-term observations and extensive empirical research on the broad-ranged evolution of China-Africa relations. In particular, the author will use her latest field work in several African countries to provide evidence based understanding of the latest changes on the ground and their implications for Africa following its inclusion into BRI which has been triggering some fast movements of capital. Both Chinese dynamics and African agency will be covered to interpret these changes, while other international players are not excluded in the process.

Promoting Developmental Models of China’s Investment in Africa: Integrating Africa into the Global Value Chain
Liu Ling, Senior Lecturer, Business School, University of Edinburgh

China’s influence in Africa has become and will continue to be a focus in both political and business studies. This talk elaborates the role of China’s investment in Africa based on two empirical papers about network-induced internationalization of firms in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and business strategies of Chinese manufacturing and service investors in SSA. We propose that China should learn from her experience as a recipient of foreign direct investment and extend further the spillovers through integrating Africa suppliers into the global value chain. China should promote localization strategy and enhance linkages by working with and transferring knowledge to local partners. In doing so, this may help to achieve a balanced resource allocation and wealth growth and poverty reduction on a fair and global level.

Railpolitik: Drivers and Challenges of Chinese-Financed African Railways
Chen Yunnan, Fellow, China Africa Research Initiative, Johns Hopkins University

Following the international surge of Chinese capital and companies in the last decade and the rise of the Belt and Road Initiative, many African countries have sought Chinese financing and technology for significant infrastructure investments. Railway construction is one manifestation of China’s economic statecraft in Africa and a sector that African leaders have eagerly leveraged. This paper examines the case of Ethiopia’s Chinese-financed railway projects, including the Addis-Djibouti Railway, contrasting it to Ethiopia’s experience with subsequent European/Turkish financed projects. Through the lens of African agency, the case shows the opportunities, missed and taken, by Ethiopian actors in leveraging external partners, focusing on areas of technology and skills transfer. The different financing arrangements entail different relationships—one politicized, one commercial—offering different scopes of bargaining power: while the political relationship offers greater flexibility regarding financing, the commercial project has been more successful for exercising agency in relation to contractors.