Article: The Chinese infrastructural fix in Africa: Lessons from the Sino-Zambian ‘road bonanza’

Oxford Development Studies, Online First

This article scrutinises the surge in Chinese-funded road development in Zambia with the help of David Harvey’s theory of spatio-temporal fixes. The ‘moving out’ of Chinese surplus capital and material to Africa has been facilitated by an extensive disbursement of loans and export credits for infrastructure projects. Transcending Harvey’s analytical ‘imperio-centrism’, the article shows that the actualisation of the Chinese infrastructural fix has been contingent upon Zambia’s ambitious, debt-financed infrastructure development agenda. Particularities of Chinese loan financing have thereby fostered ‘not so public’ procurement processes and accelerated Zambia’s rapid debt accumulation. As rising debt has imposed structural constraints, the recent shift in the financial governance of road development towards private project finance is analysed with reference to the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway. The renaissance of public-private partnerships and the gradual privatisation of Zambian roads signify new rounds of accumulation by dispossession, as the Chinese infrastructural fix enters its next stage.

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In a fix: Africa’s place in the Belt and Road Initiative and the reproduction of dependency

Co-authored with Ian Taylor

South African Journal of International Affairs 27(3): 277-295

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to integrate Africa into an ambitious Chinese-constructed infrastructure network. The terms of this integration however deepen Africa’s dependent position and perpetuate its terms of (mal)integration into the global political economy. These terms, which are characterised by external domination and socially-injurious and extraverted modes of accumulation, are likely to be exacerbated by the BRI’s focus on facilitating extraction from the African continent while importing huge amounts from China. While the BRI aims to resolve contradictions within China’s own economy, the latent dynamics within the BRI vision may result in an entrenched African dependency.

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Regionalism Revised: A Critical-reflectivist Framework for Engaging the Changing Nature of Developing Regionalisms in Africa

Authors

Tim Zajontz, Anthony Leysens

Journal

Politikon: South African Journal of Political Studies 42(3): 299-323

Abstract

The purpose of this article is a theoretical one, namely to make the case for a critical-reflectivist approach to the study of regionalism in Africa and beyond. We argue that contemporary changes in the global political economy require political economists to reconsider how we study regional processes and actors. The article provides insights into the sociology of the field of study by recounting its evolution, reviewing key debates and tracing the dominance of rationalist theories on regional integration and regionalism. Subsequently, the article questions the ontological premises of state-centrism and market logics in conventional regional theorization that does not take account of the complexities and multidimensionality of regions and regional processes. Traditional approaches to regionalism fail to do justice to regional manifestations and the repercussions of Africa’s changing transnational relations as well as to crucial dynamics within regional civil societies. In this respect, the analytical value of both Robert W. Cox’s World Order Approach (WOA) and the New Regionalism(s) Approach (NRA) for challenging the theoretical hegemony in the field of study is elaborated on. The theoretical framework proposed in this article points to neglected dimensions of regionalization and stresses both structural factors as well as the myriad of regional actors and their respective regional strategies as drivers of the changing nature of developing regionalisms in Africa. The authors’ claim that regionalism is everything but a ‘states only’ domain is substantiated by the proposed conceptualization of regional civil society, a persistent analytical ‘blind spot’ in the study of regionalism. Drawing eclectically on the WOA and the NRA, the article provides a theoretical ‘entry-point’ for the analytical incorporation of regional civil societies into the political economy of African regionalisms. The article concludes by arguing that analytical and theoretical sensitivity to potentially transformative societal actors and processes at the regional level becomes increasingly relevant in the context of shared experiences of neoliberal globalization/regionalization as well as of Africa’s new ‘partnerships’ with emerging powers.

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