Not so long ago, most official aid to poor countries was provided by rich Western governments that carefully report what they give and to whom. However recent years have seen a rapid increase in aid from non-Western sources that do not always prioritise transparency.
A new report from the Centre for Global Development (CGD) attempts to measure aid flows to Africa from China. The data is based on an open database of media reports on 1,673 Chinese-backed projects across 51 African countries from 2000 to 2011 and it offers a tool to understand China’s growing role in Africa.
The report says that China committed $75 billion in aid between 2000 and 2011, almost as much as United States ($90 billion) and nearly one fifth of the total flows reported by Western governments. The report also discusses the challenges of quantifying Chinese development activities and provides an overview of Chinese development finance in Africa as tracked by this new database.
Two of the largest identifiable aid categories, by value, were transport and energy, which indicates that China’s aid is targeted at securing natural resources. However given that the western democracies focus on aid to education or health, it is actually complementary to the West’s. Below is a chart from the Economist showing the recipient flows.