The Winds of change in Africa-China relations? Contextualising African agency in Ethiopia-China Engagement in Wind energy Infrastructure Financing and Development'

Chiyemura, Frangton (2019). The Winds of change in Africa-China relations? Contextualising African agency in Ethiopia-China Engagement in Wind energy Infrastructure Financing and Development'. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Despite the long-standing tradition in the mainstream media, policy and academic scholarship on China's role in investing and providing development finance to Africa, the majority of narratives assume China dominates the decision-making processes around the engagement. Drawing on qualitative case study rooted in an extensive field based research, I challenge such assertions with contextual reference to Ethiopia-China engagement in wind energy infrastructure financing and development. Situated in the authoritarian developmental state praxis and African agency analytical framework, I first examine the drivers and motivations that contributed to both Ethiopian and Chinese actors to finance and develop the Adama wind farms. Second, I explore engagement modalities and negotiation processes between Ethiopian and Chinese stakeholders along the wind farms projects’ lifecycles. Third and finally, I examine the engagement outcomes and local development impacts of the wind farms.

The study found that, firstly, there were a plethora of drivers and motivations for both Ethiopian government and Chinese state and semi-state actors to finance and develop the wind farms. The choice by the Ethiopian government to seek financing from China and consequently award the contracts to Chinese enterprises to develop the two wind farms was driven by a bricolage of economic and political factors. Second, Ethiopia’s domestic socio-economic and political makeup conditioned the Chinese interactions with the Ethiopians to ensure that the Ethiopian government retained control, influence and direction of the engagement from brokering to commissioning of the wind farms. That said, in some cases, the Chinese were allowed to shape the processes where the Ethiopian government had limited control and local capacity. Third and finally, local outcomes and development impacts of the two wind farms are complex and are intertwined across multiple actors. On one hand, the wind farms are new frontiers for enabling environment-friendly electricity generation to sustainably power industrial growth and ensure modern energy access for all, and on the other hand, are seen as symbols of dispossession and disruption of communities’ livelihood capabilities. Such complexity underscores the contested and disruptive nature of development. Importantly, the engagement outcomes and local development impacts of the Adama wind farms were dependent on Ethiopia’s regulatory and governance structure, and to a lesser extent the conditioning effects of Chinese transnational capital features. This thesis’ findings, therefore, help to develop a new reading and better understanding on politics of development in Ethiopia and the role of African agency in shaping engagement outcomes with external actors.

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