Chinese Special Economic Zones in Africa

Tang Xiaoyang, July 2015


Africa is no longer satisfied with growth that is limited to traditional economic sectors, such as agriculture or mining. Policy-makers aiming to bring in more manufacturing, technology and innovations to the continent are attaching more importance to structural transformation in their vision of development.

In this context, a handful of ‘special economic zones’ (SEZs) established in Africa by Chinese firms are especially interesting. Firstly, these zones have concentrated an increasing number of manufacturing investment projects from China and other countries. Secondly, SEZs played a significant role in China’s own economic transformation during last three decades. Why did Chinese investors set up these zones in Africa? How do these zones affect the economic transformation in Africa? What can be done to maximise their positive impacts? This brief will offer a brief analysis to answer these three questions.