China's Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection

Date Published

Apr 29, 2013


Austin Strange, Bradley Parks, Michael J. Tierney, Andreas Fuchs, Axel Dreher, Vijaya Ramachandran



Austin Strange et al. 2013. “China’s Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection.” CGD Working Paper 323. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development.

Update: A revised version of this paper was published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution.


How big is China’s aid to Africa? Does it complement or undermine the efforts of traditional
donors? China releases little information, and outside estimates of the size and nature of Chinese
aid vary widely. In an effort to overcome this problem, AidData, based at the College of William and
Mary, has compiled a database of thousands of media reports on Chinese-backed projects in Africa
from 2000 to 2011. The database includes information on 1,673 projects in 50 African countries
and on $75 billion in commitments of official finance. This paper describes the new database
methodology, key findings, and possible applications of the data, which is being made publicly
available for the first time. The paper and database offer a new tool set for researchers, policymakers,
journalists, and civil-society organizations working to understand China’s growing role in Africa.
The paper also discusses the challenges of quantifying Chinese development activities, introduces
AidData’s Media-Based Data Collection (MBDC) methodology, provides an overview of Chinese
development finance in Africa as tracked by this new database, and discusses the potential and
limitations of MBDC as a resource for tracking development finance.

Funding: This work is supported by generous funding from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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