IDS Bulletin: China and Brazil in African Agriculture

New research published by the Institute of Development Studies, and jointly edited by STEPS co-director Ian Scoones, reveals the realities of how the BRICS and Africa are engaging in agricultural development cooperation.

Cover photo Abidjan, 2011. Chinese rice expert Liu Lanjin introduces the characteristics of rice<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
varieties from China at the rice plots in Divo, Cote d'Ivoire.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Photographer Ding Haitao/Xinhua Press/Corbis

The questions of how Africa can feed itself, and how the agricultural sector can be a more effective engine for growth and development, have long been a target of international development efforts from western donors. But the emergence of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries as major players has raised hopes that agricultural models and experiments from Brazil or China can be transferred or adapted to African countries.

In the first-ever study on this subject, research supported by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and convened by the Future Agricultures Consortium (a STEPS-affiliated project), reveals some of the realities that lie behind these agricultural ‘models’ and highlights how Brazil and China are engaging with Africa in very different ways.

The research, published in the IDS Bulletin, ‘China and Brazil in African Agriculture’, examines Brazilian and Chinese agricultural development cooperation in Africa focusing on different financial modalities, practices and politics of engagement, and the ‘encounters’ that occur during negotiations.

“This is the first collection of empirical and review articles on this subject, and brings novel perspectives drawn from political economy, policy processes and ‘social imaginaries’. The unique nature of the authorship – UK, Chinese, Brazilian and African adds to the interest, bringing very different perspectives to the issue”, said Ian Scoones, co-editor of the Bulletin.

Looking at different country experiences – in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – the Bulletin gives an insight into the country-level dynamics at play. By concentrating on the agricultural sector; and considering Brazil and China’s own domestic experiences of agricultural development it gives an understanding of the ‘models’ on offer, assessing the potential for their adaptation to African contexts.

“To understand the new encounters in development cooperation brought by the BRICS and others, we have to get to grips with the details of the encounters, and the cultural, social and political relations at play, as well as the wider political economy that structures such engagements”, said Scoones.