Journal Article

'Ground-Truthing' Chinese Development Finance in Africa: Field Evidence from South Africa and Uganda

Date Published

May 2, 2016


Edwin Muchapondwa, Daniel Nielson, Bradley C. Parks, Austin M. Strange, Michael J. Tierney



Muchapondwa, E., Nielson, D., Parks, B., Strange, A. M., & Tierney, M. J. (2016). 'Ground-Truthing' Chinese Development Finance in Africa: Field Evidence from South Africa and Uganda. The Journal of Development Studies, 52(6), 780-796. doi:10.1080/00220388.2015.1087510

Note: A version of this article was previously published as an AidData Working Paper.


A new methodology, Tracking Underreported Financial Flows (TUFF), leverages open-source information on development finance by non-transparent, non-Western donors. If such open-source methods prove to be valid and reliable, they can enhance our understanding of the causes and consequences of development finance from non-transparent donors including, but not limited to, China. But open-source methods face charges of inaccuracy. In this study we create and field-test a replicable 'ground-truthing' methodology to verify, update, and improve open-source data with in-person interviews and site visits in Uganda and South Africa. Ground-truthing generally reveals close agreement between open-source data and answers to protocol questions from informants with official roles in the Chinese-funded projects. Our findings suggest that open-source data collection, while limited in knowable ways, can provide a stronger empirical foundation for research on development finance.

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