Contemporary China-Africa engagement endured a tumultuous start for much of the 20th century until changes over the last three decades transformed it into a salient case in international political economy. The relationship which began after World War II was inspired by geopolitical and anticolonial philosophies. These principles lingered until China’s 1990 economic boom triggered sustained economic performance that supplanted the geopolitical motives. The new geo-economics deepened China’s interactions with African countries. Trade which was previously peripheral increased exponentially, resulting in China becoming Africa’s leading trading partner. Likewise, aid and investment cooperation soared, culminating in rebranding the relationship as a win-win affair. The new win-win relationship attracted considerable attention, and has now sparked intense debate in African studies, international relations, and China-Africa relations. The debate can be structured into two: advocates and critics. Advocates see China’s African intervention comprising trade, aid, and investment as a catalyst for the continent’s transformation. For the advocates, China’s operations in Africa differ from Western assistance, hence provide the continent opportunity for self-determination. This view is countered by critics who consider China’s presence in Africa as self-centered due to excessive focus on resource extraction and market expansion. Critics argue that China’s activities in Africa are reminiscent of colonial strategies. As such, they characterize China’s approach as neocolonial and less developmental. These two views are important in highlighting the pros and cons of China’s Africa foray. However, they overly amplify China’s actions and rarely analyzes how African countries can harness the opportunities the relationship entails. To fill this lacuna, this study proposes decisive and active state interventions in forming synergistic networks with China to leverage and shape the developmental outcomes of the current relationship. This proposition seeks to rescue the relationship from being lopsided and provide a framework for evaluating the outcomes of the relationship based on African state interventions. My study focuses on Ghana’s Bui hydropower dam as a case of China’s African initiatives. The Bui hydropower dam was implemented between 2008 and 2013 with the purpose of: 1) generating 400 megawatts of electricity; 2) boosting Ghana’s socio-economic development. Although the project was perceived as a success based on improvements in Ghana’s previous large experience, the objective of using electricity to catalyze local transformation has yet to occur. The project has been plagued with several issues. First, energy output from the dam falls short of anticipated targets. Second, the project has so far generated negligible socio-economic development in and beyond the project. Third, the construction project displaced, and impoverished residents of riparian communities yet created little opportunities for livelihood improvements. These shortcomings derive from poor Ghanaian state capacity and the weaknesses of its actors in their interactions with Chinese players in designing and building the behemoth. These conclusions highlight the centrality of state capacity and interventions in development programming. The study contributes to the literature on development studies, China-Africa relations, African studies, and international political economy.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2019. Major: Geography. Advisor: Abdi Samatar. 1 computer file (PDF); xii, 248 pages.
Adovor Tsikudo, Kwame.
The State’s Role and Synergies in China-Africa Engagements: The Case of Ghana’s Bui Hydropower Dam.
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