Economic development researchers on Monday unveiled a database of China’s aid to Africa in an effort to work around Beijing’s secrecy about the numbers, as a debate rages over the intentions and impact of Chinese assistance.
The study and database by the Washington-based Center for Global Development and AidData includes 1,673 Chinese development finance projects worth US$75 billion in 50 African countries from the years 2000 to 2011.
The Chinese figures, using standard measures of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Other Official Finance (OOF), are roughly on par with US aid to Africa during the same period, the Center for Global Development said.
While official ODA from Western countries and some major developing countries is openly reported and easily tabulated, Chinese aid has been much more difficult to track, the creators of the database said.
“China treats its aid activities as a state secret and this is an attempt to uncover what’s going on,” said Andreas Fuchs, an economics professor at Heidelberg University in Germany and a visiting researcher at Princeton University.
“This topic arouses very strong reactions, positive and negative, and people are very polarized in their strong opinions,” added Brad Parks, executive director of AidData and a researcher at the College of William and Mary.
The database, compiled from English and Chinese-language media reports on African projects, includes an interactive map that breaks down information to country and project levels. It will continually incorporate contributions from those involved in African aid, Parks and Fuchs said in an interview.
The creators of the database offered no judgments on the contentious questions surrounding Chinese aid to Africa, saying their aim was to inform the debate.