29 Mar 2007

New Choices for Africa? The Open University explores the politics of Chinese involvement in Africa

The Future of Africa?

The Future of Africa?

China’s enhanced role within the global economy has profound political implications across the world, but particularly in Africa.

New research led by Dr Giles Mohan of The Open University will consider the political implications of China’s enlarged role in Africa and will seek to evaluate the political, social, economic and other implications.
Meeting China’s increased demand for resources from Africa and expanding her markets also means securing political influence.

Over the past few years China has pumped in much aid and technical support to Africa and for the first time since the end of the Cold War, African leaders have genuine choices about which aid donors and investors to work with.

Given the problems of governance across much of the continent these new economic and political choices will have major impacts on African leaders, political parties, civil society groups and other aid donors.

Dr Mohan said: "China’s current interests in Africa are often presented in the western press as self-serving and of recent origin. But in fact they build on very long political, economic and cultural relationships between Africa and China. Moreover, China’s interests in Africa are no more or less self-serving than all the other superpowers that have benefited from their involvement in Africa over the years.

"In reality we don’t know what the longer term impacts are for African politics and development, but we do know that ill-informed and speculative scare-mongering is not the answer.

"Our research project seeks to systematically analyse the experiences of two African countries – Ghana and Angola - in terms of their past and current dealings with China. Angola possesses oil resources that China desperately needs, whereas Ghana lacks strategic resources, but is an important market and political ally.

"China has been involved with them for many years and supported anti-colonial struggles as well as provided training and infrastructure. Recent involvement is more about mineral resources and markets, but is accompanied by substantial development aid.

"We want to know what impact this is actually having on these African states and whether it is making these countries more stable politically or whether it will undermine efforts to build accountable political systems and viable economies. Knowing the answers to these questions will help policy-makers in Africa, China, the USA and the UK deal more effectively with one another."

The project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), runs for two and half years and assesses what impact Chinese aid, trade and investment are having on the politics of specific African countries and the extent to which it excites geopolitical competition.

The research is based on semi-structured interviews with opinion leaders and case studies of specific Sino-African collaborations.
The research is being carried out in collaboration with colleagues at Durham University.

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