By Shannon Najmabadi
A study released Monday claims China has committed over $75 billion in aid to African countries in the past decade – an amount only outdone by the US’s $90 billion donation, according to the South China Morning Post.
The database – released by the Center for Global Development – shows that most of China’s funding went to debt relief, followed by transport and storage products. However, China-funded initiatives ranged from a defence college in Zimbabwe to an opera house in Algeria.
Per year, only about $1.1 billion of China’s aid went to “official development assistance,” which is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as being aid that has “economic development as the main objective.” Additionally, any loans must also have concessional rates or a minimum of 25 percent of money coming in grant form to meet the group’s definition.
“Pound for pound, when you compare the US versus China, the total official finance is roughly comparable. However, different people mean different things when they talk about Chinese aid,” said Bradley Parks of the College of William and Mary, who is executive director of the AidData initiative behind the study.
Though they excluded countries that recognize Taiwan, Beijing distributed money widely across the African continent – with Ghana being the largest beneficiary of China’s aid.
Amid the rapid growth of China’s economy, the emerging Asian power has increasingly been seen as a major player in international development, but it has resisted calls to be more transparent on its spending.
Western countries have made known their reservations about Beijing’s motives in foreign aid – citing interest in Africa’s natural resources as an incentive, and criticizing Beijing’s disregard for promoting good governance.
According to Parks, co-author of the study, researchers’ main goal was to provide public information on China’s foreign aid and not to “answer questions on Beijing’s intentions.”
Faced with opaque data from Beijing, the new database instead draws on thousands of media reports about Chinese projects, tracking them to verify that they are going forward.