Even though China is one of Africa’s largest investors, ranked seventh overall according to Ernst & Young, there are surprisingly few rules that govern private-sector investments between these two regions. These rules are established through bilateral investment treaties, or BITs, where two countries agree upon a set of standards for corporate investment.
While these BITs are popular in Europe and the U.S., the situation is quite different in Africa according to researchers. It’s not that African governments don’t have these kinds of investment treaties with the Chinese and other countries, rather, it’s that no one seems to really care very much to either use or enforce them.
Lorenzo Cotula is a principal researcher at the London-based Institute of International Environment and Development and recently co-authored a detailed report on China-Africa investment treaties to explore whether they actually work. Lorenzo joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the importance of these investment agreements even as similar international treaties are facing unprecedented challenges in this new era when Donald Trump is re-shaping global geopolitics.
- United Nations Economic Commission for Africa: New types of bilateral investment agreements offer Africa a chance for meaningful investments by the UNECA
- International Institute for Environment and Development: China-Africa Bilateral Investment Treaties: Do They Work? by Lorenzo Cotula, Xiaoxue Weng, Qianru Ma and Peng Ren.
Lorenzo Cotula is an expert in law and development. He works on international investment law, human rights, land rights and legal issues related to “land grabbing”, as well as the political economy of natural resource investments. He leads IIED’s work on Legal Tools for Citizen Empowerment – a collaborative initiative to strengthen local rights and voices in natural resource investments. He has extensive experience in low-income countries in Africa and Asia.