China-Africa Working Group

The China-Africa Working Group is an interdisciplinary research group focusing on the relationship and growing importance of China in Africa. The rationale for the group’s formation is to explore aspects of the China-Africa dynamic, and how African countries are being affected by China. The Working Group invites scholars and students to present their research at workshops and lectures, and in small group discussions to garner additional insights that may lead to the publications of their research. Thus far, the group’s focus has been on the socioeconomic, cultural, political, and media aspects of the China-Africa relationship. The Working Group includes the founding members Agnes Ngoma Leslie, Anita Spring, Michael Leslie, and Lina Benabdallah.

Past Research Workshops and Events

Since its inception in 2015, the group has held two research workshops, with a third to be held in April; 2019, assembling scholars working on the topic from Africa, China, Europe, North America and the United Kingdom. The Working Group’s themes have tackled the major issues in the relationship between African countries and China. The first Workshop in 2015 brought together 15 participants from Africa, China, Europe and the United States. The theme was China-Africa Relations: Political and Economic Engagement and Media Strategies. Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa was the keynote speaker. The conference deliberations resulted in a peer-reviewed special edition of African Studies Quarterly Journal, with Agnes Ngoma Leslie as guest editor.

In 2017, the China-Africa working group held a second workshop focused on African migration to China. The theme was China-Africa Relations: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on African Migrants’ in China. The main presenters included Adams Bodomo and Heidi Østbø Haugen. It also included Chinese scholars: Li Anshan and Dong Niu. All the four have conducted extensive studies on African migrants in China. Their research was published in a special issue of African Studies Quarterly (Volume 17, Issue 4 February 2018),China-Africa Relations: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on African “Migrants” in China. Guest Editor: Agnes Ngoma Leslie.

In spring 2018, the China-Africa group took on the challenge of examining China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Dr. Haifang Liu, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Center for African Studies, Peking University, gave the keynote address “Africa and the Belt and Road Initiative,” launching the group’s conference initiatives for 2018-2019. This was followed by a museum exhibit in the UF Grinter Gallery, portraying the impact of BRI on African countries: the main themes were Chinese-built infrastructure and transportation corridors; China’s extraction of African minerals, and economic consequences of Chinese textiles and clothing in Africa.

The museum exhibit was installed from April – August 2018, and featured a gallery talk by Professor Anita Spring entitled “China’s Belt and Road in Africa: Concepts and Depictions.”

The Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 by President Xi is an ambitious attempt by China to create a massive infrastructure, stretching from Beijing to Western Europe and through the Horn of Africa, to link China’s maritime and land trade, economic, political and cultural interactions with initially 66 and now over 100 participating countries. China’s extensive loans and investments by state-owned enterprises finance the construction of transportation corridors (roads, railways, ports and airports, housing, and storage facilities). Among the infrastructure projects, that started in 2014, the newly completed $4 billion Chinese-built rapid railway from Addis Ababa to Djibouti is noteworthy. Nine trans-Africa highways hubs (six East–West routes and three North–South routes) are also under construction with Chinese funding. Private-sector Chinese companies in manufacturing, services, and trade are expanding in most African countries, often affecting local African businesses.

The China-Africa Working Group continues to study the impact of the BRI on African communities and will hold its third conference on the topic in April 2019, again with scholars coming from China, Africa, Europe/UK, and North America. Funding for the Working Group comes from the Center for African Studies Title VI grant; the College of Journalism and Communications; Warrington College of Business; the Hugh Cunningham Fund for Excellence in Journalism; and the University of Florida International Center.

Future Courses

AFS 4935, China-Africa Relations and Globalization
AFS 5XXX/ANT 6309 China’s Belt and Road: Foreign Direct Investment, Politics, Culture, and Media

Contact Information

The China-Africa Working welcomes participation and membership by all interested faculty and students. For further information, contact:

Agnes Ngoma Leslie, Master Lecturer and Outreach Director, Center for African Studies. aleslie@ufl.edu
Anita Spring, Professor, Dept of Anthropology and Center for African Studies. aspring@ufl.edu
Michael Leslie, Associate Professor, Dept of Telecommunications, College of Journalism. mleslie@jou.ufl.edu