Chinese national oil companies and the economic development of African oil producers

Professor Giles Mohan, Open University

Start date: Mar 2015   |   End date:  Mar 2018

Research Councils UK project page
Project website

African economies are experiencing growth rates that are among the fastest in the world. Much of this growth is based on the export of commodities, like oil, to China and other emerging economies.

This project aims to explore the interaction between China’s oil interests and African state and non-state actors in three African countries, Ghana, Angola and Sudan. It will assess whether policies can help maximise the benefits to Africa’s development.

While the research is interested in the ‘methods of operation’ of Chinese National Oil Companies (NOCs), it also wants to move away from a crude ‘impact of China on Africa’ focus to a more holistic analysis which takes account of African impact. This includes both the drivers of China’s presence in the African oil and gas sector and the economic and political determinants of Africa’s response. There are four themes of research:

  • China’s energy strategy, global competition and Chinese outward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa.
  • The distinctiveness of Chinese NOCs in Africa.
  • African agency and the developmental impact of Chinese oil and gas firms.
  • Leveraging African development.

Data sets on Chinese foreign direct investment and African social indicators will be collated along with interviews from key Chinese and African actors. 

This will offer a detailed understanding of the different motivations, roles, and impacts of Chinese NOCs and the role played by Africa in shaping this engagement. It will provide an understanding of changing oil sector dynamics in Africa and their impacts on African economies.