USIP supports a cohort of early career scholars from across Africa as they research how China’s economic engagement in Africa impacts peace and security. In a field often dominated by outside expertise, this project builds the capacity of local researchers in a manner that prioritizes academic independence and rigor. The cohort is guided by a research advisory committee of senior experts on Africa-China relations, and the final research outputs will serve policymakers both in Africa and in the broader international community.

Much of the research that has been conducted on the impact of China’s economic engagement with Africa has focused on their economic exchanges and security engagements in isolation of one another. But few have sought to understand the interconnections between these themes. These interconnections matter, as some Chinese firms are responsible for environmental degradation, population displacement, corruption and illegal extraction activities — all of which are factors that can drive conflict. 

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, under construction on the Blue Nile in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, June 24, 2018.  (Laura Boushnak/The New York Times)

Meanwhile, Chinese actors often claim that their economic engagements are a driver of developmental peace, claiming that they are pillars of human security on the continent. In a politicized context with competing narratives, evidence-based research is vital to understand what is working and what is not for human security in the region.

African scholars are best suited to shed light on these dynamics, as their perspective is rooted in their own political systems, economies and societies. And yet, much of the analysis on Africa-China engagement to date has been conducted by scholars from outside of the continent. This program addresses that shortfall by centering the analysis and research of African early career scholars from across the continent.

About the Project

This year, a total of 17 researchers from a mixture of Anglophone and Francophone countries in Africa are conducting original, fieldwork-based research on how to address human security issues that may be arising from Chinese economic engagements.

The researchers are analyzing topics such as infrastructure construction, resource extraction, wildlife trading, technology, and arms trading in the following countries: Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zambia.

Their academic independence and rigor are ensured by the research advisory committee, who guide and support the researchers’ work and dissemination. The four members of this research advisory committee also serve as advisors on research design, facilitate networking with other experts in their fields and co-organize periodic virtual training workshops.

Latest Publications

U.S. and African Leaders Need to Focus on Democratization

U.S. and African Leaders Need to Focus on Democratization

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Ambassador Makila James;  Ambassador Terence P. McCulley;  USIP Staff

The U.S. government is gathering this month’s second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit not least because the swiftly rising challenges of the 21st century are pushing Africa squarely to the center of global and U.S. interests. Managing increased violent conflict, climate degradation and human displacement all depend on a better U.S.-African partnership, one that shares an interest in strengthening the democratic rule of law within and among nations. Democracy has eroded, globally and in Africa, since the first U.S.-Africa summit eight years ago — but this month’s conference can reverse that pattern, say two USIP experts, both former ambassadors in Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceGlobal Policy

Will the U.S.-Africa Summit Address U.N. Security Council Reform?

Will the U.S.-Africa Summit Address U.N. Security Council Reform?

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Solomon Dersso;  Tim Murithi;  Susan Stigant

U.N. Security Council (UNSC) reform has been a long-standing demand from many in the international community, but calls for an overhaul of the institution have grown louder amid renewed interest in democratizing the international system and addressing historical exclusion and injustices in its core institutions. And in a major development this past September, President Biden told the U.N. General Assembly the United States would support reforming the Security Council — specifically mentioning the addition of permanent members from Africa.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Andrew Scobell on China’s Zero-COVID Protests

Andrew Scobell on China’s Zero-COVID Protests

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.

After protests forced China to ease its zero-COVID policies, Xi Jinping will need to weigh socioeconomic stability against his authoritarian aims, says USIP’s Andrew Scobell: “You’re seeing domestically what many countries have noticed China doing beyond its borders: Being more assertive or aggressive.”

Type: Podcast

The Water Wars Myth: India, China and the Brahmaputra

The Water Wars Myth: India, China and the Brahmaputra

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Mark Giordano;  Anya Wahal

South Asia’s Brahmaputra has been cited as one of the basins most at risk for interstate water conflict. While violent conflict has occurred between China and India within the Brahmaputra’s basin boundaries, the risks of conflict over water are in fact low. This is in part because China functionally contributes less to the Brahmaputra’s flow than is commonly perceived and in part because, despite its massive volume, the river can contribute little to solving India’s significant water security challenges. Nonetheless, the Brahmaputra is and will continue to be intimately connected to Sino-Indian tensions largely through the use of water infrastructure investment as a form of territorial demarcation and control.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionEnvironment

10 Things to Know about the U.S.-China Rivalry in Africa

10 Things to Know about the U.S.-China Rivalry in Africa

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

By: Thomas P. Sheehy

Next week, nearly 50 African heads of government plan to be in Washington, D.C. for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. A broad range of issues will be discussed, from food security to global health to education. While rightly not on the formal agenda — the summit is about the United States and African countries — the United States’ rivalry with China, and how it impacts Africa, will be in the background of this major diplomatic event, certainly to be discussed and analyzed in private conversations surrounding the summit.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

EconomicsGlobal Policy

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