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Research: Chinese FDI and Structural Transformation in Africa



With funding from the DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP) in the UK, this project focused on Chinese engagement in Africa in comparative perspective: it studied how Chinese engagements in Africa compare with those in the past, with other powerful countries in Africa, with other powerful countries as they invested in China, and with Chinese approaches elsewhere in the developing world. Using a multi-step, mixed-method research approach, the project investigates the potential of the China-Africa relationship for enhancing structural transformation through direct training, technology dissemination, backward and forward linkages, subcontracting and personnel transfers. There are four components: data collection, mapping, and scoping studies; comparative, analytical narrative case studies; new survey research; and dissemination.

After conducting desk studies to map Chinese investment in a dozen African countries, CARI held a research workshop with the Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 27, 2016. CARI then organized a public event on technology transfer and Chinese manufacturing investment in Africa the following day, June 28, 2016.

To date, CARI has completed several field studies related to FDI and structural transformation:

  • Our first scoping study in Madagascar focused on locating Chinese contract farming agricultural investments, especially in rice and cotton, as well as textiles and other manufacturing sectors; we published the findings in a recent working paper

  • Our second scoping study in Kenya also focused on examples of technology transfer and linkages in a variety of sectors, including light manufacturing and agriculture. 

  • Our first comparative case study focused on technology transfer in Southern Africa (Zambia and Malawi), studying the operations of the China-Africa Cotton (CAC) in comparison with Cargill’s cotton investments.