Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Data Base for Measuring China's Aid to Africa

AidData introduced on 29 April 2013 at the Center for Global Development in Washington its dataset on Chinese aid to Africa based on an innovative media-based data collection program.  It posted the data at aiddata.org/content/index. Estimates of the size and nature of Chinese aid to Africa vary widely.  In an effort to overcome this problem, AidData, based at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, has compiled a database of thousands of media reports on Chinese-backed projects in Africa from 2000 to 2011.  The database includes information on 1,673 projects in 51 African countries and on $75 billion in commitments of official finance. 

One of the items on the website is a paper titled "China's Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection" by Austin Strange; Bradley Parks, executive director, AidData; Michael J. Tierney; Andreas Fuchs, post-doctoral fellow at Princeton University; Axel Dreher; and Vijaya Ramachandran, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.  The paper describes the new database methodology, key findings, and possible applications and limitations of the data.  The paper and database offer a new tool set for researchers, policymakers, journalists, and civil society organizations to understand China's growing role in Africa.

The dataset is not without controversy.  Deborah Brautigam, one of the world's leading authorities on China's aid to Africa and now at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies in Washington, is critical of the methodology.  She voiced her concerns in a blog posting dated 30 April 2013 titled "Rubbery Numbers on Chinese Aid."

On 1 May 2013, AidData responded to Deborah Brautigam in a blog posting titled "A Rejoinder to Rubbery Numbers on Chinese Aid."  Let the debate continue!!!

Writing for The Guardian on 29 April 2013, Claire Provost and Rich Harris comment on the dataset in an article titled "China Commits Billions in Aid to Africa as Part of Charm Offensive - Interactive."

The China Africa Project has a 58 minute podcast on this issue and a Chinese project in the DRC that appears under the title "The AidData Controversy: Tracking Chinese Finance in Africa."