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Contextualizing African Agency in Ethiopia-China engagement in wind energy infrastructure financing and development

Frangton Chiyemura

October 2020

Emerging research on Africa-China relations suggests that African actors only exercise agency when brokering relations with China and not in structuring and managing the engagement modalities. This view is limited and does not capture the complex and contested ways in which African actors influence their interactions with their Chinese counterparts. Applying an analytical framework of African agency in combination with a strategic relational approach, this article focuses on how Ethiopian state and non-state actors influence the engagement patterns in Adama 1 and Adama 2 wind energy infrastructure financing and development, before and during the negotiations, as well as during the implementation of the projects. Data was collected between April 2017 and January 2018 in Ethiopia in which one hundred and sixteen Ethiopian and Chinese actors participated in the interviews. Findings from this study reveal that Ethiopian actors’ exercise of agency is highly strategic and relational. This finding is important because it helps to contextualize African agency in Africa-China relations in infrastructure financing and development and also provides novel and nuanced data to reject the presupposition that the Chinese trump Africans in their engagements.

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