China’s aid mostly goes to Africa – but information is limited

by Mariella Di Ciommo

China’s aid mostly goes to Africa – but information is limited

Africa received almost 46% of China’s development cooperation by end of 2009, being the largest recipient region. But further details on where these flows go, for what and what impact they have are very limited. More transparency would mean better information and assessment of China’s engagement with the continent.

Available data show that China’s development cooperation has been growing since 2000, from US$1.3 billion to US$5.5 billion in 2011.* This includes grants, zero-interest loans and concessional loans.**

China provides development cooperation in the form of turn-key projects (ie: ready-to-use products), in-kind and human resources, technical cooperation, medical teams, humanitarian assistance, volunteer programs abroad and debt relief.

Africa has been a major focus of China’s international outreach. Over the period, China engaged with 161countries, of which 123 were developing countries: 51 were in Africa, 30 in Asia, 18 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 12 in Oceania and 12 in Europe. All but four African countries (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, São Tomé & Príncipe and Swaziland) received support from China by the end of 2009.

Information on which countries receive support, types of flows, sectors and impact is not publicly available.  China published a 2011 report with some information on its development cooperation. But more systematic efforts to increase transparency would help to better understand its activities and assess impact.

Data are available in Excel and CSV format.


Gross disbursements of development cooperation, 2000-2010, in constant 2011 prices

Main source: China’s Information Office of the State Council, China’s Foreign Aid (White Paper), 2011:

*Data from 2002 are estimated.

** The Chinese government provides interest-subsidies for concessional loans, but funds for capital are collected on the private market. China considers as aid only the interest-subsidy component of these loans. Our estimates include also estimates of capital disbursements.

For details on methodology and sources see report


Development Initiatives, Development Cooperation for the Future (April 2014)