Yesterday, Monday 29 April, Washington-based research and innovation lab AidData launched an impressive-sounding interactive database platform china.aiddata.org which tracks Chinese development finance flows to Africa from 2000-2011.
According to the pre-marketing, “the dataset relies on an innovative media-based data collection (MBDC) methodology, which has helped uncover nearly 1,700 Chinese-backed projects amounting to over $75 billion in official commitments.”
The database compiled media reports on 1,673 Chinese-backed projects across 51 African countries from 2000 to 2011 and initially seemed like an impressive tool for journalists to access reliable figures on China-Africa investment.
Reuters reported on the launch under the headline – “New database focuses on China’s secretive aid to Africa”
But barely a day later eminent China-Africa expert Deborah Brautigam’s had posted a harsh critique on her blog, criticizing the “rubbery numbers” and warning how relying on media reports and shallow investigation of China-Africa deals can lead to mega-errors.
Brautigam concluded that the $75bn figure was “way off” and went on to criticise the methodology of relying on media reports for data collection.