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China’s Role in Africa’s Economic Transformation

Over the past 20 years China has played a pivotal, arguably indispensable role in Africa’s economic development. China is by far Africa’s largest bilateral trading partner, a major source of foreign investment and a vital player in helping Africa to close its huge infrastructure deficit. But in recent years, since around 2015, the economic relationship between these two regions has been steadily evolving. Now, with the rise of the Belt and Road, China is no longer as dependent on Africa for the oil, timber and minerals that make up the bulk of Chinese trade and investment on the continent.

Tsinghua University professor Tang Xiaoyang and Overseas Development Institute Research Fellow Linda Calabrese recently published a new paper that explores China’s role in Africa’s economic transformation. They join Eric & Cobus to discuss their findings and share their insights on the current state of China-Africa economic ties amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, this week, we feature a short interview with Ghana Business News Managing Editor Emmanuel Dogbeviabout his determination to continue publishing after a fire destroyed almost all of the company’s equipment.

Show Notes:

About Tang Xiaoyang and Linda Calabrese:

Tang Xiaoyang is a resident scholar and the deputy director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and an associate professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University. His research interests include political philosophy, China’s modernization process, and China’s engagement in Africa. At the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center, Tang’s research focuses on China-Africa relations, with a particular emphasis on the differing aid models and dynamics in Africa between China and countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Before he came to Tsinghua, Tang worked at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC. He also worked as a consultant for the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and various research institutes and consulting companies.


Linda Calabrese works on trade, investment, and economic transformation. She has focussed on trade facilitation and export-led manufacturing in East Africa, on the role of trade policy in promoting industrialization, and on the economic transformation impact of foreign investment in Myanmar. In particular, she is interested in the role of China in developing countries.  Prior to joining, Linda was working as a consultant for the Economic Policy and Strategy Practice at Maxwell Stamp PLC, where she managed the company’s projects on trade negotiations and access to finance in East and West Africa, as well as Central Asia. Linda worked as a country economist for the International Growth Centre, Rwanda. Based in Kigali, she worked on the program’s portfolio in the areas of trade and regional integration, tax policy and administration, and urbanization. Linda started her career as an ODI Fellow for the Ministry of African Community Affairs, Uganda, where she supported the implementation of the regional integration agenda and she provided research inputs to the policy processes.

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