Travelling Technocratic Rationality: Historical Narratives of China’s Agricultural Development and their Implications for China- Africa Agricultural CooperationOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 127
Xu Xiuli, Li Xiaoyun and Qi Gubo
Contemporary China-Africa agricultural cooperation (CAAC) has been internally dominated by three streams of narrative: promotion of food security for state building in the post-war landscape; productivity enhancement through technocratic modernisation; and promotion of aid sustainability through business engagement in the new era of globalisation. This paper explores the domestic drivers and strategies underpinning these narratives, as well as their respective implications for CAAC, using a historical review approach. The paper summarises three elements entrenched in the narratives of CAAC – state leadership, productivity-centrism and the governmentbusiness nexus – which are examples of travelling technocratic rationality. These differentiate China’s aid, focusing on developmental state building, from the established aid consensus, with its marriage of orthodox neoliberalism and a new institutionalism.
Mixed Starts and Uncertain Futures: Case Studies of Three Chinese Agricultural Investments in ZimbabweOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 125
Tang Lixia, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
Chinese agricultural investments in Africa have grown significantly in the past two decades, but there remains very little empirical research on the nature of these investments. This paper aims to address this knowledge gap by looking at three different types of Chinese investors in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector: a National State Owned Enterprise (SOE), a Provincial SOE and a private company. Collectively, their experiences not only challenge the pervasive view that Chinese companies are progressing at unstoppable rates in African markets, but also raise deeper questions about the importance of company structures, financial stability and the environments in which they operate.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 123
Kojo Sebastian Amanor
This paper examines the nature of Chinese and Brazilian investments in agricultural development by focusing on the irrigated rice sector in Ghana. It examines this through a historic perspective that traces policy towards the rice sector in Ghana, and the influence ofvarious actors in developing this sector. Investment in the development of commercial rice originated in the 1970s when China developed smallholder demonstration rice projects and the government of Ghana pursued a policy of promoting large scale commercial rice production and smallholder contract farming on irrigation projects, tied to inputs suppliers and food marketers and processors.
The paper then traces the changing fortunes of the irrigated rice sector under structural adjustment and government support for private sector investment in irrigated rice development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in new investors entering rice production in Ghana, including Brazilian interests, and renewed interests from Chinese investors. It argues that the main trends in commercial rice production have been towards contractual relations in which accumulation occurs through control over supplies of inputs and marketing and that these are defined by the policies of the Ghanaian government.
Although Brazilian companies have contributed towards innovation in this sector, they lack support from Brazilian agribusiness and agricultural development institutions. As a result of this their access to technology is constrained by the nature of Ghanaian markets and research establishments, and the lack of institutional embedding of Brazilian technologies within these. However, there are attempt by the Brazilian state to build up markets for machinery and develop joint research, although this occurs outside of rice.
Although Chinese companies are absent from the development of rice, they have expressed interests in its future developments and are attemptingto build up interactions between inputs supply, seed development and production, which will effectively embed Chinese technologies within Ghanaian research institutions and markets. The future of commercial rice production by these rising powers is likely to develop through expansion of seed development, inputs and machinery markets, and food trading and processing, rather than through a dramatic expansion in large estates. In this Chinese and Brazilian interventions are not markedly different from other agribusiness models.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 120
The growing involvement of the Chinese state and business in Africa has generated significant debate about China’s Africa strategy and its benefits for Africa’s development. Chinese policymakers have become increasingly oriented toward improving African countries’ agricultural productivity. This paper focuses on how state-business interactions influence agricultural development outcomes, using Zimbabwe as a country of study. It explores the question of how far the State can control business and direct development by identifying the key relationships that influence the decision-making processes of state and business actors within China and its African engagement.
The paper challenges the conventional wisdom of homogenised, unitary relations, and argues that these relations are, in practice, heterogeneous, as a result of the Chinese state being disaggregated into a multiplicity of provincial relations and central state agencies, and because of tensions arising between commercial market and political interests. The active role of African governments in agricultural schemes is also affecting outcomes.
The findings of a brief ethnographic analysis of four state-business schemes in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector suggest that where African agriculture is concerned, a wide range of Chinese agencies are involved, with businesses being driven by either market forces or national state interests, which together make outcomes increasingly less generalisable.
Interpreting China-Africa Agricultural Encounters: Rhetoric and Reality in a Large Scale Rice Project in MozambiqueOctober 14, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 126
Zhang Chuanhong, Li Xiaoyun, Oi Gubo and Wang Yanlei
In recent years, China’s burgeoning agricultural investment in Africa has attracted tremendous attention from media, academics and policymakers worldwide. The macro-level discussions around the nature and significance of these engagements have been debated and well documented within a vast body of literature.
However, little research had been done concerning the local encounters through a particular project, which constitutes a very important angle in understanding how success or failure of a development model is produced. In this article, the authors went beyond apolitical economic approach and examined how local encounters construct and reshape the practice of a particular agricultural investment project using actor-oriented approaches. The perspectives of both Chinese actors and their African counterparts were explored and analysed based on a large-scale Chinese rice project in Mozambique.
The research found that the optimistic rhetoric of state actors and investors fell short of the reality of the many unacknowledged structures and chance events. However, despite the unintended outcomes, the rhetoric persists due to the project’s significance – not only in its potential for economic profit, but also in terms of its political prestige.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 124
Yu Lerong, Lu Jixia, Henry Tugendhat and Li Xiaoyun
This working paper explores the motivations, impacts, challenges and interactions of a successful Chinese pesticide enterprise in Ghana. In the context of much China-Africa literature focusing on state-backed Chinese business initiatives in Africa, this paper takes an ethnographic approach to explain the rise of a private sector Chinese agrochemicals company in Ghana. This is significant because of the frugal amount of literature that does cover Chinese migrant businesses in Africa, very few studies look at agricultural firms in particular. The main conclusion of this research is that the pushfactors from China’s domestic market and opportunities from Ghana’s agrochemicals market are important driving forces for Chinese pesticide enterprises to ‘go out’. Furthermore, diversified strategies are necessary to deal with local market environments based on business and social networks that intertwine formal and informal relations.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 122
China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has launched one of the largest training course programmes in the world as part of its international cooperation programme with Africa. In these training courses, China’s foremost universities, state bureaux, and private companies transfer their knowledge to 10,000 African government officials per year. The courses cover everything from the management of health epidemics to customs office administration, all drawing from China’s most recent socio-economic development experiences. In 2013, agriculture-related topics made up a significant 15 percent of total training courses, covering courses on both policy and technology.
There has been a strong narrative, from Chinese government officials and their African counterparts alike, that what is particularly appealing about China is that its agricultural sector has similarities with that of many African countries. They talk of China’s diversity of climates to match the many African environments, as well as China’s dependence on smallholder farming. The logical conclusion from such narratives would appear to be: what worked for China, must work for Africa. In this context, the MOFCOM training courses consist of one of the most direct forms of knowledge transfer from Chinese experts to African state leaders and policymakers. Many of the Chinese experts involved are not just qualified in the theory of what they teach, but have had first-hand experiences of effecting the change that brought about China’s own agricultural achievements.
As such, this paper seeks to understand how China’s agricultural training courses have affected agricultural practices in the African countries where they train. This looks at how the training courses work, how transferable this knowledge really is for African agricultural contexts, and finally, what these training courses really achieve in the broader context of China-Africa relations. Ghana and Zimbabwe are focused on as key case studies for this paper, and fieldwork was also conducted with training institutions and lecturers in China.
This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture
Jumping into the Sea: Chinese Migrants’ Engagement in Non-Traditional Agricultural Commodities in EthiopiaJuly 9, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 121
Seth Cook and Dawit Alemu
This paper explores the nature and extent of Chinese migrants’ involvement in the demand and supply of non-traditional agricultural commodities in Ethiopia, shares the perspectives of the different actors involved, and discusses the implications of this presence for Ethiopian development.
The focus here is not simply on the food and agriculture sector; the study also aims to shed light on the Chinese migrants involved in that sector. For instance, who are they and where do they come from in China? Why do they come to Ethiopia, and how do they end up in the food and agriculture sector? How do their business networks operate? What are their aspirations, and do they see Ethiopia as a permanent home?
This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.
Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique (Summary)June 30, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 119 (Summary version)
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
This paper summarises the findings of a rapid review to determine the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation performance over the last 50 years in three African countries: Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique.
The research combined a review of national (sector) level trends with short case studies of specific irrigation schemes. Evidence was drawn from the literature, supplemented by in-country key informant interviews and brief site visits. The review considers changes in policy and their drivers; linkages between policy, practice and performance; factors determining scheme performance; and key issues for future policymaking.
Full details can be found in the main working paper.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 119
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
Irrigation has played an important role in agricultural modernisation around the world. In Africa, however, agricultural production has increased very slowly over the last fifty years, barely keeping pace with population growth. After a period of relative neglect, the international community is showing renewed interest in African irrigation as a means to tackle food insecurity, increasing water scarcity and climate change. Calls for increased investment present an opportunity to learn from past experiences in order to chart plausible pathways for future development.
This working paper reviews the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation development in Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique of the last fifty years. The research combines an analysis of sector trends with case studies of specific irrigation schemes, considering linkages between policy, practice and performance, drivers of change, and key issues for future policymaking.
A summary version of this paper is also available.