Africa's Shadow Rise

China and the Mirage of African Economic Development

Padraig Carmody, Peter Kragelund, and Ricardo Reboredo


An in-depth analysis of the ‘Africa rising’ narrative and how the continent's fragile economic growth is largely tied to China's expansion.

For years economists have spoken of ‘Africa rising’, and despite the global financial crisis, Africa continues to host some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Africa’s Shadow Rise however argues that the continent’s apparent economic ‘rise’ is essentially a mirage, driven by developments elsewhere - most particularly the expansion in China's economy. While many African countries have experienced high rates of growth, much of this growth may prove to be unsustainable, and has contributed to environmental destruction and worsening inequality across the continent. Similarly, new economic relationships have produced new forms of dependency, as African nations increasingly find themselves tied to the fortunes of China and other emerging powers.

Drawing on in-depth fieldwork in southern Africa, Africa’s Shadow Rise reveals how the shifting balance of global power is transforming Africa’s economy and politics, and what this means for the future of development efforts in the region.

Author Bio

Pádraig Carmody teaches Geography at Trinity College where he directs the Masters in Development Practice and is a Senior Research Associate at the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg. His previous books include The New Scramble for Africa (2016), The Rise of the BRICS in Africa (Zed 2013), and, with James T. Murphy, Africa’s Information Revolution (2015).

Peter Kragelund is head of the Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University. His work has been published, inter alia, in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Development and Change, Development Policy Review, European Journal of Development Research, Extractive Industries and Society, Journal of Modern African Studies, Resources Policy, and Review of African Political Economy.

Ricardo Reboredo is a PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin. His research interests include globalization, development, and Sino-African relations. His current work focuses on the effects of large-scale, Chinese-funded projects on development in southern Africa. He has published in a variety of journals including Urban Forum and African Geographical Review.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Africa Rising: Rhetoric or Reality?
  • 2. Unpacking Sino-African Power Relations: Is Agency the Appropriate Analytical Lens?
  • 3. China’s Interests and Impacts in Southern Africa
  • 4. Towards Convergence and Cooperation in the Global Development Finance Regime: The End of African Agency?
  • 5. China’s Impact on Local Economic Development: The Zambian Case
  • 6. Resource-based Development via Local Content Policies? Institutional Impediments to Resource-led Development in Zambia
  • 7. Debt Trap Diplomacy or Structural Transformation? The Belt and Road Initiative in Africa
  • Conclusion


'A provocative diagnosis of China’s linkages with Africa, raising some profound questions as to the nature and direction of Chinese engagement in Africa. It will make a powerful contribution to the wider debate on Sino-African relations.
Ian Taylor, University of St Andrews

‘A skilful exploration of the contradiction between euphoric “Africa Rising” narrative and reality of the increased number of Africans who continue to live in poverty. A critical and insightful analysis of China’s roles in Africa’s development.'
Francis Owusu, Iowa State University

'This must-read, timely book critically challenges the 'Africa rising' thesis. It charts both change in terms of the China-led commodity boom and diversification of dependency, but also troubling continuity through the lack of structural transformation.'
Rory Honer, The University of Manchester

‘The authors take a deep dive into China's economic activities in Africa using detailed case studies to make a significant contribution to the work around African development.’
Anita Plummer, Howard University


Publication Date: 17 September 2020
252 pages

Product ISBNs: Hardback: 9781786994783
eBook ePub: 9781786994813
eBook Kindle: 9781786994820

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