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China in Africa: The Real Story

New Research on China/Brazil & Agriculture in Africa

Deborah Brautigam

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The latest edition of the IDS Bulletin reports on the first round of research from a four country project on China & Brazil's agricultural engagement in Africa, organized by the Future Agricultures Consortium.

I've read all of the papers that focus on China and Africa. Among them, I particularly recommend the overview paper by Ian Scoones, Lidia Cabral, and Henry Tugendhat, "New Development Encounters: China and Brazil in African Agriculture" for its scope and comprehensiveness, particularly in the five key questions it asks (pp. 10-13):
  • What is the political-economic context for these development encounters?
  • What relationships are being built on? 
  • What perceptions and political interests underlie these development encounters?
  • How are negotiations on agreements carried out?
  • What project-level interactions occur that shape development encounters?
This is a useful way to organize our thinking about these issues. Also excellent (as always) is a paper by the thoughtful Lila Buckley, who has been a guest-blogger on this blog: "Chinese Agricultural Development Cooperation in Africa: Narratives and Politics".

There are case studies on Chinese and Brazilian engagement in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. With regard to China, the Mozambique study was very good, with useful detail supplied by its seven (yes!) authors. It was the only case study to clearly reflect interviews and field visits. I was a bit disappointed that several of the other case studies appear to be descriptive overviews that could almost have been done (or perhaps were done) without any fieldwork. It's a starting point, at least, and no doubt the next round of this research will provide more detail.