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Chinese-backed renewable energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa


Since the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in September 2013, energy infrastructure has become one the central elements of this ambitious multilateral development initiative. Yet, the majority of the Chinese finance went to large hydropower and fossil fuel sector, which sparked off widespread controversy over its impact on climate change, local environments, social inequalities, and debt sustainability of the borrowing countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In recent years, Chinese investors gradually shifted focus to renewable energy sources, particularly on-shore wind and solar PV sectors. This Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) commissioned project investigates the potentials and challenges of both large scale and grid-connected wind and solar farms in SSA where only 45% of the population has access to electricity compared to the global average of 88%. We investigate the policy, financial, industrial and social factors that drive or deter investment in wind and solar projects from both ends (i.e. China and SSA).  As these factors may vary significantly among different SSA countries, we adopt a comparative case study approach in Ethiopia and South Africa to understand the complexity associated with the different phases of project development and finance and their impacts on host countries.

Principal Investigator

Dr Frangton Chiyemura

Contact us

To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:

International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)1908 858502