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Africa’s Shifting Infrastructure Landscape

Motorists drive on Mombasa road, next to construction of the Nairobi Expressway, undertaken by the Chinese contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation in Nairobi on February 10, 2021. Simon MAINA / AFP

In the current heated discussion about the fluctuations and debt implications of Chinese infrastructure funding to Africa, one sometimes forgets exactly how transformative Chinese financing has been on the continent. It’s no secret that over the last fifteen years or so China has been the main funder of African infrastructure. However, coming face to face with its actual scale is quietly mindblowing.

A new report by Nancy Lee and Mauricio Cardenas Gonzales, writing for the Center for Global Development, this week provided the bare numbers. Its biggest headline is that Chinese infrastructure financing to Sub-Saharan Africa from 2007 to 2020 amounted to 2.5 times more than all other bilateral development finance institutions combined. China Exim Bank alone dwarfs its closest Western competitor (the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation) ten times over.

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