ICT Aid Flows From China to African Countries: A Communication Network Perspective

Rong Wang, François Bar, Yu Hong


The challenge in evaluating China’s foreign aid has always been the unavailability of reliable data sets. This study constitutes the first analysis of the AidData data set from a communication network perspective. It examines China’s development aid to Africa in the ICT sector from 2000 to 2014. Combining data mapping, network modeling, and regression, it uncovers general trends of aid allocation, central players, and collaboration patterns among aid agencies. The results demonstrate the variability in the distribution of China’s foreign assistance to 44 African countries. In particular, African countries with less population, worse economic development, but higher oil rents are more likely to receive ICT aid from China. This study also finds that aid implementation is less likely to occur through collaboration within the same sector or between state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private companies. This research reveals nuanced geometries of aid with “Chinese characteristics” that move beyond the extractive “Angola model” or the mutual benefits model. These findings provide implications on how Chinese telecommunication companies are shaping Africa’s digital future.


foreign aid, ICT, network analysis, China, Africa, telecommunication, ERGM, Belt and Road Initiative

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