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Data: Chinese Loans to Africa

Chinese loans to africa

1. CARI Loan Data Overview

In 2007, CARI researchers began collecting, cleaning, and analyzing China’s African loans.

  • From 2000 to 2017, the Chinese government, banks and contractors extended US $143 billion in loans to African governments and their state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

  • Angola is the top recipient of Chinese loans, with $42.8 billion disbursed over 17 years.

  • Chinese loan finance is varied. Some government loans qualify as "official development aid." But other Chinese loans are export credits, suppliers' credits, or commercial, not concessional in nature. China is not Africa's largest "donor". That honor still belongs to the United States.


2. Why cari data?

While CARI does not have access to any special information not available to any other research efforts, CARI’s experienced research team and methodology allows us to compile a more rigorous database.

Our loan database builds on previous work by Brautigam tracking Chinese aid finance. All data collection and cleaning is done by master’s or Ph.D. students and post-docs. Team members use Chinese, French, Portuguese, and Arabic language skills and follow a rigorous set of steps in triangulating and cross-checking reports of loans, emphasizing official websites of central banks and ministries of finance, Chinese contractors, and our own personal contacts in China and in African countries.

The desk work was supplemented by in-country interviews and meetings with Chinese and African officials. The “forensic internet sleuthing” methods that we employ cannot easily be replicated. The work is more akin to investigative reporting or detective work than accounting. Some sources are more reliable than others. Learning to judge information appropriately takes time, and depends deeply on experience, personal contacts, perseverance and inclination.


3.1 Official Data

There is no official Chinese data on loans. China is not a member of the OECD and they do not participate in the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System, the source for much of the data we have on official flows from the wealthier countries. As is the case with the United States Export Import Bank and other export credit agencies, Chinese banks also rarely publish information regarding specific financing agreements.  It is also uncommon for the recipients of such financing to fully disclose the details of the finance they receive. This creates an information gap that CARI is filling.