China's expansion in Africa has generated a huge amount of research. Questions about the sustainability of the relationship are becoming acute, particularly focused on the approaching debt trap in many African countries. The problematic nature of the data however continues to pose challenges.
China's expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa is arguably one of the most critical issues in contemporary African Studies. It has been studied passionately by many scholars representing political sciences, international relations, economics, anthropology and sociology. Yet, Sino-African relations are far from static and academics have to be constantly on the move to capture its essence and the changing dynamics. For instance, the economic engagements which initially had been spearheaded by the big state-owned companies, has now been to a large extent "privatised" as more and more private Chinese firms, big and small, make inroads in Africa. In fact, during the last FOCAC (Forum on China Africa Cooperation) in 2018, 10 out of 60 billion USD pledged by Beijing was to encourage private companies to enter Africa. Correspondingly, as China pushes ahead, new problems are beginning to develop, particularly a looming debt trap in many African countries which many explicitly associate with Chinese loans extended to the region. At the same time, some challenges for scholars have remained constant. Many dealings related to China in Africa have been obscure, murky and difficult to probe and credible data is hard to access. This continues to render empirical studies quite a daunting task. The proposed panel will focus on some of these new developments and trends in China-Africa studies and address the challenges that scholars continue to face while researching the topic.