Trilateral development cooperation between the European Union, China and Africa : what prospects for South Africa?

Stahl, Anna Katharina (2012-08)

CCS discussion papers should contribute to the academic debate on China’s global rise and the consequences thereof for African development. We do therefore explicitly invite scholars from Africa, China, or elsewhere, to use this format for advanced papers that are ready for an initial publication, not least to obtain input from other colleagues in the field. Discussion papers should thus be seen as work in progress, exposed to (and ideally stimulating) policy-relevant discussion based on academic standards. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author. The original publication is available at



The fourth CCS Discussion Paper for 2012 aims at advancing the debate around trilateral development cooperation between the European Union (EU), the People’s Republic of China (China) and Africa. The discussion on trilateral development cooperation between the EU, China and Africa primarily considers the role of the EU as a traditional donor and that of China as an emerging donor, while failing to grasp the potential of African actors. This paper addresses this analytical gap by examining the role of South Africa in a potential trilateral development partnership with the EU and China. Analysing the case study of South Africa, this paper also discusses whether trilateral development cooperation could possibly emerge as an alternative policy tool to existing bilateral and multilateral collaboration efforts between the EU and China in fostering African development. It is argued that due to its particular economic and political characteristics, South Africa possess the potential for launching a trilateral development partnership with the EU and China. Yet, in the absence of existing trilateral projects, some uncertainties around the concept of trilateral cooperation both in terms of conceptualisation and actual practices persist. Only by embarking on first pilot projects, policymakers in South Africa, the EU and China can eventually find out the actual benefits and limitations of what could become a novel type of cooperation.

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