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Chinese National Oil Companies and the Economic Development of African Oil Producers

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Giles Mohan, The Open University (Principal Investigator)
Ana Bastida, CEPMLP, University of Dundee
Eric Ariel Bergmann, CEPMLP, University of Dundee
Raphael Kaplinsky, The Open University 
Ben Lampert, The Open University
Janet Xuanli Liao, CEPMLP, University of Dundee
Rafael Emmanuel Macatangay, CEPMLP, University of Dundee
Xiaoyi Mu, CEPMLP, University of Dundee


Funding is gratefully acknowledged from the Economic and Social Research Council, UK and the Department for International Development, UK, under the DFID-ESRC Growth Programme project ES/M004066/1. All content on this page is the sole responsibility of the project investigators.

Grant period: 1 June 2015 - 31 May 2018.


Much of the growth rate of African economies – currently among the fastest in the world –  is based on the export of commodities such as oil to China and other emerging economies.

Chinese National Oil Companies and the Economic Development of African Oil Producers, a collaboration between the OU and the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) at the University of Dundee, explores the interaction between China’s oil interests and African state and non-state actors in three African countries: Ghana, Nigeria and Sudan. Its main aim is to assess whether policies can help to maximise the benefits to Africa’s development.

While the research is interested in the methods of operation of Chinese National Oil Companies (NOCs), it wants to move away from a crude ‘impact of China on Africa’ focus to a more holistic analysis which takes account of African impact. This includes both the drivers of China’s presence in the African oil and gas sector and the economic and political determinants of Africa’s response. There are four themes of research:

  • China’s energy strategy, outward foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, and global competition
  • the distinctiveness of Chinese NOCs in Africa
  • African agency and the developmental impact of Chinese oil and gas firms
  • leveraging African development.

Data sets on Chinese FDI and African social indicators will be collated along with interviews from key Chinese and African actors. This will offer a detailed understanding of the different motivations, roles, and impacts of Chinese NOCs and the role played by Africa in shaping this engagement. It will also provide an understanding of changing oil sector dynamics in Africa and their impacts on African economies.


African Centre for Energy Policy

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Party School of the Central Committee of CPC

CNPC Economic and Technology Research Institute



Mohan, G (2015): Chinese National Oil Companies and the Cconomic Development of African Oil Producers (policy briefing)


Knowledge Exchange

VideosChinese National Oil Companies (NOCs) in Africa (YouTube playlist)

Joint Workshop at the China University of Petroleum, Beijing (CUPB): 28 November 2016
In addition to representatives from the host institutions – Professor Giles Mohan (OU), Dr Janet Xuanli Liao (CEPMLP), and Professor Xiucheng Dong (CUPB) – a dozen specialists spoke at the workshop including officials and scholars from the National Development and Reform Commission, China National Petroleum Corporation, Chinachem, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, State Development Bank, China Central Party’s School and the University of International Business and Economics. Faculty members from CPID, and a number of students from CUPB also attended.

The workshop allowed the exchange of knowledge with industry practitioners from China's oil industry as well as with researchers closely allied to these oil companies such as academic geologists.

Workshop on Chinese National Oil Companies: 21 - 22 April 2016
Hosted by CEPMLP at the University of Dundee, the event brought together experts on the internationalisation of China's national oil companies and its energy strategies towards different regions. Speakers included Dr Erica Downs (Eurasia Group, New York), Professor Mikkal Herberg (The National Bureau of Asian Research, USA), Dr Alex Vines (Chatham House), Dr Susana Moreira (World Bank), Dr Monique Taylor (National University of Singapore), Mr Stephen Macey (Adam Smith International), Dr Tim Steinecke (independent researcher), Dr Bob Wekesa (University of the Witwatersrand, S Africa).

Dr Erica Downs' keynote speech, 'China’s Overseas Oil Investments: What Comes Next?' was open to Masters and PhD students from across the university and invites also went out to the wider Scottish oil network. A Special Issue of the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Affairs is planned as a result of the workshop.

Media: CNBC Africa
To coincide with the 2015 FOCAC meeting in Johannesburg, Professor Giles Mohan was invited to appear on CNBC Africa's TV programme 'Beyond Markets'.


Conference Presentations

Atta-Ankomah, R (2016). Dynamism in China-Africa Business Partnerships: Insight from Africa's Oil Sector. Paper presented at Africa-China Relations: Balance, Growth and a Sustainable Future, convened by Yale University and held at the Lagos Business School, 16-17 March 2016.

Mohan, G (2016). Chaired The China Effect, a panel discussion around how NGOs might engage with China as an international development actor at the BOND conference held in Westminster 29 February - 1 March 2016.

Mohan, G (2015). Discussant & presentation at a policy workshop held in December in Johannesburg, ahead of the 2015 FOCAC meeting.

Mohan, G (2015). The Political Economy of China’s African Oil Investments. A talk presented at Riding the Dragon: Africa engages with China, a workshop organised by SOAS, 12-13 November 2015.



Professor Giles Mohan

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