Ulrikke Wethal: Passive Hosts or Demanding Stakeholders? Understanding Mozambique’s Negotiating Power in the Face of China

In Forum for Development Studies, 2017


Ulrikke Wethal


Abstract Recent debates on African agency in China–Africa relations highlight how China provides African governments with an alternative to traditional donors that should allow African policy-makers to experiment with policy approaches and play a more assertive role in negotiations. However, how this is translated into negotiations between China and individual African countries remains unclear. 

This article uses the negotiation of a Chinese-funded construction project in Mozambique as the basis to discuss the extent to which the Mozambican public administration involved in project negotiation manages to align such projects with broader development goals in the construction sector.

The case illustrates a clear tension between macro-economic development goals and project-level practices, and the findings suggest that explanations can be summarised as follows: first, the structural conditions that have shaped Mozambique’s  negotiating strategies in development cooperation are not really altered when cooperating with China. Second, the liberal policies promoted in Mozambique have not focused on specific industries, leaving the public administration with a weak policy backdrop for negotiating local content in the construction sector. Third, the China Export-Import Bank has clear requirements for how their funding should be used in project implementation, and fourth, small and medium construction companies in Mozambique are relatively insignificant to the political elite, giving the public administration few incentives to promote longterm capacity building in the construction sector.

Published May 2, 2017 1:15 PM - Last modified June 7, 2017 11:07 AM