China Going Global – in Africa


By improving evidence, building capacity and fostering joint actions for sustainable investment in Africa's natural resources, we promote China-Africa relations that benefit the economy, poor communities and the environment.

The timber depot of a Chinese-owned timber concession licensed to operate in Nampula, Mozambique (Photo: Mike Goldwater)

Research rooted in grassroots fieldwork – both in Africa and China – is key to IIED's China-Africa work. We carry out research in the forests of the Congo Basin, rural farming communities in East Africa and the bustling markets in African capital cities.

In China, we work directly with policymakers, academics, NGO practitioners and journalists who are reshaping the policy framework for China's overseas engagement.

Our current work includes:

  • China-Africa agriculture engagement: Mapping Chinese agricultural aid, trade and investments in Africa, developing related case studies, supporting surveys of Chinese agriculture technology exchange with Africa, and building relationships with key stakeholders in China and Africa. See related publications here and here
  • China-Africa Forest Governance Project: Improving evidence, capacity and joint action for sustainable Chinese investment in Africa's forests.
  • Africa-China Informal Resources Trade research project: Examining the social and environmental implications of small-scale investments and trade by the Chinese (and others) in Africa's informal economy – specifically in agriculture, mining and timber trade in Eastern and South-east Africa. Read a backgrounder or watch a short video.
  • Research on Bilateral Investment Treaties in the China-Africa relationship: Exploring how bilateral investment treaties (BITs) feature in China’s economic diplomacy with Africa, and whether BITs actually influence investors’ decision-making. 

Our past research has included:


Chinese investments and Africa’s small-scale producers: disruptions and opportunities, Xiaoxue Weng, Lila Buckley, Emma Blackmore, Bill Vorley, George Schoneveld, Paolo O. Cerutti, Davison Gumbo, Kaala B. Moombe, Stephen Kabwe, Jaqueline Muzenda, Kingstone Mujeyi, Maisory Chacha, Maria Njau, Jesper Jønsson (2018) Research report

Contract farming and informality: drivers and governance responses in Zambia and Zimbabwe, Stephen Kabwe, Jackqeline Mutambara, Kingstone Mujeyi, Emma Blackmore, Bill Vorley, Xiaoxue Weng (2018) Research report

The new face of informality in the Tanzanian mineral economy: Transforming artisanal mining through foreign investment? George Schoneveld, Maisory Chacha, Maria Njau, Jesper Jønsson, Paolo Omar Cerutti, Xiaoxue Weng (2018) Research report