Follow CAP on Social Media

Listen to the CAP Podcast

The Blurry Lines Between Chinese Aid and Investment in Africa

For most countries, aid and investment are two entirely different things. Not with the Chinese, though, where until recently the country’s aid programs were actually managed through the Ministry of Commerce.

Because the Chinese have such an opaque system, it’s very difficult for outsiders to understand what programs are being managed by which ministry and what are the objectives. Again, this is not the case with other donor countries like the U.S. or the UK where there are high levels of disclosure and transparency in the development finance process.

The Chinese, for their part, do say they are committed to making the distinction between aid, investment and lending more transparent. The first step came last year with the introduction of the new China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), the supposed Chinese equivalent to USAID, DFID and other traditional donor agencies. Now, just more than a year old, CIDCA hasn’t done very much and is still yet to prove itself.

Pippa Morgan, a teaching fellow at New York University’s Shanghai campus, is an expert in Chinese aid and development. She recently completed her Ph.D. on the topic at Fudan University in Shanghai and recently co-authored a paper with Professor Yu Zheng from Fudan University’s School of International Relations and Public Affairs entitled “Tracing the Legacy: China’s Historical Aid and Contemporary Investment in Africa.

Show Notes:

About Pippa Morgan:

Pippa Morgan’s research is motivated by a desire to understand the political economy of South-South economic engagement, with a focus on China’s foreign economic relations, and Chinese aid, foreign direct investment, and contracting projects in Africa. More broadly, she is interested in combining quantitative and qualitative methods to understand how history influences contemporary political economy, and in how political and sociological factors impact prospects for economic development. Pippa is also the assistant editor of two academic journals, the Chinese Political Science Review and the Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

  • Get a daily email packed with the latest China-Africa news and analysis.
  • Read exclusive insights on the key trends shaping China-Africa relations.
  • Connect with leading professionals on the China- Africa Experts Network.

You've reached your free monthly article limit.

Subscribe today for unlimited access.

What is The China-Africa Project?


The CAP is passionately independent, non-partisan and does not advocate for any country, company or culture.


A carefully curated selection of the day’s most important China-Africa stories. Updated 24 hours a day by human editors. No bots, no algorithms.


Diverse, often unconventional insights from scholars, analysts, journalist and a variety of stakeholders in the China-Africa discourse.


A unique professional network of China-Africa scholars, analysts, journalists and other practioners from around the world.