1st Edition

Africa’s Railway Renaissance The Role and Impact of China

    292 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book investigates the history, political economy and spatiality of Chinese railway projects in Africa. It examines the financial governance of Sino-African railway projects, their socio-cultural, political and economic effects as well as the regional dimension of Africa’s new railway architecture and its function within China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Leading and emerging scholars from Africa, China, Europe and the Americas offer interpretations through politicoeconomic, historical, geographical and post-colonial conceptual lenses. Case studies on projects in Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia offer an empirically rich and cross-disciplinary picture of Sino-African railway developments at the micro-, meso- and macro-levels. Regional analyses on West and East Africa expose persistent obstacles to the regional integration of Africa’s railways. The volume outlines opportunities and challenges related to Africa’s railway renaissance in the post-COVID-19 global political economy and will be of great interest to academics, students and practitioners interested in Africa-China relations and their developmental effects or in the politics of infrastructure, spatial governance and the political economy of transport.

    1.Introduction: China’s Role in Africa’s Railway Renaissance  Tim Zajontz, Pádraig Carmody, Mandira Bagwandeen and Anthony Leysens

    2.The Political Economy of China’s Globalising Railways – and their Arrival in Africa  Tim Zajontz

    3.Powering African Transport or Transporting Chinese Power? The Spatial Political Economy of Chinese Railways in Africa  Kefa M. Otiso and Pádraig Carmody

    4.The Freedom Railway Now and Then: The Enduring Relevance of the ‘TAZARA Spirit’ for South-South Cooperation  Liu Haifang

    5.Chinese Railways and African Development: Developing Railways or Railing Development? Mandira Bagwandeen

    6.Chinese Globalism, African Regionalisms and State Spatial Strategies: The Intricacies of Regionalising Africa’s Railway Renaissance  Tim Zajontz

    7.West Africa’s ‘Railway Patchwork’ and the Challenges of its Integration  Mouhamed Bayane Bouraima and Qiu Yanjun

    8.China’s Infrastructure Projects in Africa: Nigeria’s Unfinished Lagos-Kano Railway  Gladys Lechini, María Noel Dussort and Agustina Marchetti

    9.Kenya’s New Lunatic Express: The Standard Gauge Railway  Ian Taylor

    10.The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway and the National Question in Ethiopia: A Bottom-up View  Sharon Bar-David and Lynn Schler

    11.The Rehabilitation of the Benguela Railway and the Reactivation of the Lobito Corridor  Ana Duarte and Regina Santos

    12.Inside Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway: Passenger Narratives on Large-scale Transport Infrastructure, Connectivity, and Political Controversy  Hugh Lamarque


    Tim Zajontz is a Lecturer in International Relations at the Technische Universität Dresden, a Research Fellow in the Centre for International and Comparative Politics at Stellenbosch University and a Research Associate in the Second Cold War Observatory. His research is concerned with Africa’s international relations and political economy, with a current focus on Africa-China and Africa-EU relations as well as on contemporary regionalisms.

    Pádraig Carmody is Professor in Geography at Trinity College Dublin and a Senior Research Associate at the School of Tourism and Hospitality at the University of Johannesburg. He has published several books including, with Peter Kragelund and Ricardo Reboredo, Africa’s Shadow Rise.  

    Mandira Bagwandeen is a Senior Research Fellow at The Nelson Mandela School, University of Cape Town. She focuses on Africa’s regional integration and industrialisation and China-Africa relations. Mandira has provided commentary for news outlets and written several opinion and academic articles on China-Africa issues.

    Anthony Leysens is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Stellenbosch University and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. His work has focused on the political economy of South and Southern Africa, and on critical theory in global political economy. He is the author of The Critical Theory of Robert W Cox: Fugitive or Guru?.

    "This is an insightful and well-researched book that delves into the complex dynamics of China's involvement in Africa's railway development. The contributors offer nuanced analysis of various railway projects and explore the political economy, spatial implications, and impact on African development. The book provides a valuable perspective on the controversies and challenges involved, making it an essential read for anyone interested in China-Africa relations, infrastructure development, and the global economy."

    Professor Carlos Lopes, The Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town.


    "As one of the embodiments of big infrastructure projects in Africa, railways are back in vogue. This volume could not be more timely because it captures the most recent trends in Africa's railway renaissance and critically addresses the role of Chinese financing and construction. A particular strength is that it balances coverage of some of the weightier questions – such as the reasons for the Chinese big push into rail and the receptivity of African governments to projects that are often highly speculative – with fine-grained analyses of particular projects across the continent. Some authors address the deeper history behind many ostensibly new visions, while others offer ethnographic insights to the social effects of railways from the perspective of those who use them or watch the rolling stock as it rumbles by. All in all, it is a nicely weighted collection, with contributions from scholars drawn from different regions and academic disciplines."

    Professor Paul Nugent, Centre of African Studies & School of History, Classics & Archaeology, University of Edinburgh.


    "Taking the reader well beyond (disproven) Chinese debt trap narratives and superficial descriptions of China’s BRI in Africa, the scholars featured in the book examine the conjuncture (and sometimes confluence) of Africa’s infrastructure needs and development goals with China’s global ambitions. Case studies demonstrate how China flexes its infrastructural and financial muscle, but also how Chinese railway firms and other infrastructure contractors are dependent on the goodwill of African governments and societies. Filled with context-specific and critical analyses, collectively, these chapters show us the weight of unique histories, the influence of African countries’ national and sub-national actors and contexts, and the power of China’s interests in attracting other global infrastructure players to Africa as exemplified by the US Build Back Better and the EU Global Gateway initiatives. The inclusion of Ian Taylor’s piece serves as a touching tribute to his valuable work in the field. While the jury is still out in terms of the lasting development impacts of China’s railway projects on the continent, this book will undoubtedly become required reading for anyone interested in how China-Africa engagement actually plays out."

    Dr Yoon Jung Park, Adjunct Professor in African Studies, Georgetown University and Executive Director, Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network.


    "This book presents the development of Africa’s railway infrastructure and China’s role and impacts. Since 2000, China has emerged as the leading financier and contractor of railway infrastructure development, Africa’s largest trading partner, and a key source of productive investment. It is indisputable that China-Africa economic cooperation has positively contributed to Africa’s economic transformation. Railway connectivity remains a key driver of African development, carbon-neutral pathways, and promoting a continental common market. Africa has the prospect of tapping China’s world-class railway expertise and resources to fill its massive infrastructure deficit. Supported by multiple case studies, the book will contribute to exploring the opportunities, challenges and lessons in Africa’s railway sector. A highly recommended book for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers."

    Dr Arkebe Oqubay, Senior African Policymaker and British Academy Global Professor


    "The editors have assembled a fascinating set of contributions. The chapters offer innovative, unique, and in-depth case studies that help contextualize historically as well as politically the role played by a variety of Chinese actors in African railway projects. The volume is a must-read for any scholars or students looking at understanding the politics of railway infrastructure in a multidimensional way."

    Dr Lina Benabdallah, Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University