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Rebecca Latourell
Senior Program Manager
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Official Press Release: New Chinese Development Finance Data to Catalyze Research and Feedback

The January 2014 release creates a more complete picture of Chinese development finance to African countries with additional project documentation and a refined open source approach to data creation and triangulation called Tracking Under-Reported Financial Flows (TUFF).

January 22, 2014
Rebecca Latourell

Jan. 22, 2014 – WILLIAMSBURG, VA – AidData, a research and innovation lab making development finance information more accessible and actionable, released updated data from its Tracking Chinese Development Finance in Africa project today. Seeking to better understand the role of emerging donors in influencing development outcomes, AidData has uncovered more than 1900 non-investment projects worth over $83.3 billion in previously unrecorded Chinese development finance to Africa between 2000-2012.

The database includes 268 pledged projects; however, the reported total of $83.3 billion only captures official commitments, including projects in implementation and completed projects. With granular, project-level data, the public can gain new insights into the nature, distribution, and impact of Chinese development finance grants, loans, scholarships, technical assistance, debt relief and export credits.

“The typical story told about China is [their interests in] heavy infrastructure and resource extraction, but we’ve found that they are also very actively engaged in the health, education and government sectors. When you are able to break down activities to the project level and the sector level, you can get a much better picture of the nature of China’s involvement in African countries,” said AidData Research Associate Charles Perla.

The Tracking Chinese Development Finance dataset debuted on in April 2013 as the world’s most comprehensive database on Chinese development finance to Africa. AidData systematically coded and synthesized project-level data from media reports, government documents and databases, Chinese embassy websites, NGO reports and scholarly articles.

The January 2014 release creates a more complete picture of Chinese development finance to African countries with additional project documentation and a refined open source approach to data creation and triangulation called Tracking Under-Reported Financial Flows (TUFF). Incorporating new information gleaned from annual reports from recipient government ministries, as well as searches of African government and Chinese embassy websites, AidData identified 114 new projects and updated 131 existing projects in the database.

“The most important difference [about this version of the dataset] is that we have expanded the types of informational resources that we draw from in an effort to gather more data and increase the reliability of the project records,” Perla said.

Additionally, AidData undertook a five-month field study in 2013, with support from the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, to assess the accuracy of the TUFF methodology and the Tracking Chinese Development Finance dataset. Enumerators were trained to visit project sites in Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe that were remotely identified using the TUFF methodology. The study pioneered the use of ground-truthing – the direct observation of project sites and infrastructure, as well as direct interaction with project stakeholders.

“More than anything else, we have increased our confidence in the data,” Director of the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations at the College of William & Mary Mike Tierney said. “We are now more confident that these projects actually occurred and that the TUFF methodology is not yielding large numbers of ‘false positives’.”

The upgraded website includes new features that make it easier for users to access the data they need, as well as suggest corrections and improvements to project records. Project information now includes the publisher, author and date published for each source along with the URL.  A multimedia uploader enables users to contribute photos and video to specific project pages, thereby empowering a broader range of stakeholders to help AidData increase the validity of its data with evidence from the field.

About AidDataAidData makes development finance information more accessible and actionable by creating data, decision support tools and knowledge products that enable the global development community to more effectively target, coordinate and evaluate aid. With AidData’s comprehensive data portal – – development researchers and practitioners can compare data on over $40 trillion in remittances, foreign direct investment and aid from 90 donor agencies. 

Rebecca Latourell was a Senior Program Manager at AidData from 2015 to 2018.

Contact: Rebecca Latourell: 757.221.5396;