The Development Impact of Chinese Development Investments in Africa

1st September 2019
Author: Rachel Cooper

This Emerging Issues report examines a number of popular narratives about the impacts of Chinese investment on economic development in Africa. Popular narratives include Chinese infrastructure investments have weak links to growth, Chinese investment leads to limited job creation in host countries, and Chinese development projects lead to environmental degradation (Bradsher, 2019). This report outlines dominant claims about the development impacts of Chinese finance to Africa in the media, grey literature and non-empirical academic literature, and assesses each claim against the available empirical evidence. It prioritises literature from 2010 onwards to ensure that data and analysis are relevant to the dynamics and trends as they are playing out now. It draws on empirical evidence including case studies based on field research and interviews, and datasets from reliable sources. Where possible this report highlights examples from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This report largely focuses on empirical studies with a rigorous, replicable methodology and therefore draws on a very small evidence base, which means it is hard to draw robust findings in all the examined areas. The challenges posed by the opaqueness of Chinese financial flows (for example, the Chinese government releases few official statistics) means that both AidData and CARI (whose work this report draws on heavily) have used media-based data collection to produce databases of Chinese development assistance (see for example, Strange et al., 2013). This allows quantitative analysis but largely produces disaggregated results.

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Suggested Citation

Cooper, R. (2019). The development impact of Chinese development investments in Africa. K4D Emerging Issues Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies.


1st September 2019


Continent: Africa

Country: Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe