Natural resources, rural poverty and China-Africa trade

Equity and sustainability in informal commodities value chains

Dr William Vorley and Xiaoxue Weng, International Institute for Environment and Development

Start Date:  Jan 2015   |   End Date: Jan 2018

Research Councils UK project page

This project address two key development challenges and opportunities concerning Africa’s natural resource governance today; the growing informal commodity trade, and engagement with China. It focuses on the impact of Chinese actors in informal agriculture, mining and timber trade along two fast developing trade corridors connected to the Indian Ocean.

Using Kenya, Uganda and Zambia as case studies, this project will provide insights on natural resource governance, global trade patterns, as well as the positive and harmful effects of informal resource exploitation on local poverty and the natural environment.

The project will cover four main areas;

  • Value chain analysis of selected commodity chains with a particular focus on power dynamics and benefit distribution.
  • Political-economic analysis of regulatory and customary regimes governing the selected commodity trade.
  • Environmental impacts analysis through land-use/land cover change.
  • Cross-sector synthesis of the three sectors’ findings and key policy lessons.

Envisioned as one of the first systematic examinations of micro-level Chinese activities in Africa's natural resource governance, this research will provide rigorous evidence and dispel misconceptions about Chinese trade and investment in Africa's informal economy.