Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance and Human Security

First Advisor

Maria H. Ivanova

Second Advisor

Tim Shaw

Third Advisor

Craig Murphy


What explains the nature of environmental cooperation and the environmental behavior of Chinese companies in Africa? Have African actors been oblivious and agnostic whilst Chinese actors are driving and dominating the space? The research endeavored to address these questions by conducting three studies. The first study explored negative impacts of Chinese engagements in Africa, and how African and Chinese actors have responded to it. The second study examined the nature of environmental cooperation under the FOCAC framework and whether FOCAC has been used to shape environmental behavior of Chinese companies. The final case study examined the role and nature of Ethiopian agency in shaping the behavior of a Chinese company that constructed the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, and factors that enabled or constrained the agency. The research combined desk research, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. The African agency theory championed by Brown & Harman (2013), Shaw (2013) is used as an analytical framework, and the author proposed a new analytical framework to analyze the China-Africa environmental cooperation. Environmental cooperation has expanded overtime albeit dominated by Capacity Building and Multilateral Cooperation. While reports about negative impacts have been growing through time, Mitigation of negative social and environmental impacts have remained a low priority, nevertheless. African agents have usually been silent during FOCAC platforms regarding negative externalities mainly because environmental issues have always been subordinated to economic partnerships. The Addis LRT case study has shown that Ethiopian actors undoubtedly exercised agency during project initiation and implementation, which ebbed at a later stage, though. Moreover, local agency was disjointed, poorly coordinated, and predominantly politically driven. This led to poor decisions which constrained the LRT system from meeting expectations and objectives. Overall, while expression of agency by African agents is largely hamstrung by local structural and political factors, the involvement of international actors has sometimes enabled local agents. The research signifies that improving the environmental behavior of Chinese companies in Africa requires urgent changes at the levels of African countries, regional/continental frameworks, and FOCAC Secretariat through augmenting institutionalization of environmental cooperation in the China-Africa cooperation framework.

Available for download on Sunday, June 01, 2025