Relocating African Agency: Assessing the Role of ‘Local Patrons’ and Chinese Enterprises in the Construction Sector in Ghana

Authors

  • Chris Alden London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  • Nathaniel Ocquaye London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.47697/lds.35350000

Keywords:

China-Africa, African agency, Chinese construction firms, local patrons, middlemen

Abstract

Contrary to the conventional notion that African agency outside of the state is marginal if not irrelevant, this paper argues that it is ‘local patrons’ in Africa who are actually the most powerful determinants of the success of Chinese enterprises in Africa. These ‘local patrons’ exact financial resources from the Chinese in exchange for their services as brokers between state officials. Specifically, their ‘informal connections’ to local state authorities enables them to insure the Chinese firms against official state prosecution/demands as well as facilitate related bureaucratic procedures. Using the case of the Chinese construction firms operating in Ghana, we will investigate the challenges experienced by Chinese firms entering into new markets and the strategies utilised by them to address and mitigate risk in their search for profit, chief amongst them the employment of ‘local patrons’ to serve as brokers with state officials. This relocation of agency, drawing from scholarship by Mohan, Lampert and Soule-Kohndou as well as the empirical materials based on substantive fieldwork, provides new insights into terms of engagement with local actors that form a bonded relationship facilitating integration of Chinese enterprises into the African political economy.

Author Biographies

Chris Alden, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Prof. Chris Alden teaches International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and is Director of LSE IDEAS. He is a Research Associate with South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

Nathaniel Ocquaye, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Nathaniel Ocquaye is currently a project support assistant to Professor Chris Alden, Director of LSE IDEAS. 

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Published

2021-12-14

How to Cite

Alden, C., & Ocquaye, N. (2021). Relocating African Agency: Assessing the Role of ‘Local Patrons’ and Chinese Enterprises in the Construction Sector in Ghana. Leadership and Developing Societies, 6(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.47697/lds.35350000

Issue

Section

RESEARCH ARTICLES