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Durham University

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The Politics of Chinese engagement with African development: Case studies of Angola and Ghana

A research project of the Department of Geography.


This project, supported by the ESRC, focuses on on the political implications of China's role in sub-Saharan Africa. China’s enhanced role within the global economy has profound political implications across the world, but takes a particular form in Africa. Meeting China’s increased demand for resources from Africa and expanding her markets also means securing political influence in international organisations. 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.


This research seeks to understand China’s evolving political and economic role in Africa and assesses what impacts Chinese aid, trade and investment are having on the politics of specific African countries, and the extent to which it excites geopolitical competition. This will be examined through case studies of Angola and Ghana, which represent different examples of China’s development ‘partnerships’ in Africa. Angola possesses oil resources that China desperately needs, whereas Ghana lacks strategic resources, but is an important market and political ally.

The research is oriented around three main themes:

  1. The changing patterns of Chinese involvement in Africa
  2. The politics of trade, investment and African productivity
  3. Aid and regime stability


The methodology involves assembling a database from archives and websites, and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders in Angola, Ghana, UK, USA and China.


Some of the conceptual underpinnings of the project can be found in Mercer, C. Mohan, G. and Power, M. (2003) ‘Towards a critical political geography of African Development’, Geoforum, 34, 419-436.

Further publications will be available on the project website.

External Staff

From Open University, Development Policy and Practice Department


From the Department of Geography

From other departments

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