Beyond Passivity and Naivety? Locating agency in Ethiopia-China financing and development of Adama wind energy infrastructure

Prevailing narratives on Africa-China relations are polarised between those who see China as a new coloniser, especially in the wake of ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ and those who believe China to be Africa’s development saviour. However, missing in these debates is the role of Africans in influencing the modalities of engagement and negotiation processes with the Chinese. Located within the theoretical framework of African agency, I use Ethiopia-China interactions in the financing and development of Adama 1 and Adama 2 wind energy infrastructure as case studies to empirically locate and contextualise African agency in Africa-China engagement. I found that the Ethiopian government was able to successfully broker the deals, structure the financing terms and shape the implementation and management processes of the wind farms along the project-life-cycles. Such an outcome is by and large tied to the Ethiopian developmental state regulatory and governance structure, and a lesser extent, the conditioning effects of Chinese transnational capital. This finding is important because it disproves existing assumptions which perceive that the Chinese trumps Africans in the engagement.