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.