• China’s Train to African Development

    Unraveling Western and Chinese models of aid in Africa

This project compares the Chinese and Western approach to development in Africa. It does so by examining the new development corridor China is building between Mombasa, Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali and Juba – a $13.5 billion project linking these cities with a railway capable of transporting freight at 80 km/h and passengers at 120 km/h, which should be effective in 2018. As China builds infrastructures and grabs land and mineral resources, its rising dominance in development issues seems not to be attached to values such as human rights and democracy, unlike Western aid. This is affecting African people as China deals with any country—and corrupt leaders—as long as it gets access to the resources it wants.

At the same time China relies heavily on Chinese workers to complete the projects it finances. It is a capitalist grab, with some development aid and the philanthropic aspects less discernible. China's model can be seen as purely colonialist: extractive, exploitative and conducive to corruption. At the same time, however, it builds infrastructures that are the basis for economic development and its demand for minerals and energy rises the prices of those commodities, positively affecting the producing countries.

The project crew travels along a future development corridor. The journey begins in the port of Mombasa, gateway to East Africa and then moves along the future line all the way to Nairobi and Kampala, before jumping to Goma and reaching Kigali.

The project is divided in chapters presented like train stops, with each place linked to an essential aspect of development in the area. It is believed that the combination of "old Western aid", attached to values such education, human rights and democracy, contrasts vividly with the "new Chinese aid" attached to natural resources and economic development. A comparison of both models highlights the impact they have had on the people.

Project links

Photo gallery

&nbsp;Marking the new railway north of Mombasa<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;A Chinese crane operator in Mombasa<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;The old railway in Simba (Kenya)<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Samburu (Kenya). Women employed in the construction of the new line without contract and earning just 400 shillings (3,7 euros)  for twelve hours shifts <br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;The old Uganda railway north of Voi (Kenya)<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Machacos bus stop (Kenya)<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Kibera slum (Nairobi. New housing units. No windows facing the new line, which will run right were the old one is<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Kibera slum. Commuter train from Nairobi Central, along the old Uganda railway line<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Gil Gil crossing<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Kampala Station<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Kireka market, Kampala (Uganda). The train still uses this old British rails<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;Nubian driver stuck between Juba and Kampala<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;North Kivu. Road between Goma and Kiwanja<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés &nbsp;DRC, Road N-2, outside Goma<br />&copy;La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés

Project information

  • Locations
    Kigali - Rwanda, Kampala - Uganda, Mombasa - Kenya, Nairobi - Kenya, Goma - Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Duration
    10 months
  • Release date
    February 2015
  • Budget
    € 15740
  • Round