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International and Rhodes scholars study China’s presence in Africa

Date Released: Tue, 12 November 2013 13:00 +0200

As a research led university Rhodes has an important role to play in increasing understandings of China’s involvement in Africa, especially with regards to trade dynamics and business partnerships.

This is according to Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Development, Dr Peter Clayton and Deputy Dean of Commerce and Director of the International Research Project in the department of Management at Rhodes University, Professor Lynette Louw. They were speaking during the International Symposium at Rhodes University recently. The Symposium aimed to discuss China in Africa: implications for management, implications for change.

This international research project sets out to develop research capacity in the Department of Management at Rhodes University within an international collaboration that seeks to:

  • Develop cross-cultural theory and methodology to study these dynamics at an organisational level and
  • Investigate the nature of Chinese organisational activity and its implications for Africa’s economic, social and community development.

The department of Management’s newly established research project, provides the opportunity for such research, Dr Clayton said, which is sorely needed in understanding the role of China in Africa.

The project is funded by Rhodes University’s Sandisa Imbewu Fund, aptly named, Dr Clayton explained, as it reflects Rhodes University’s strategy to grow its postgraduate student numbers, research and development programmes and to multiply its postgraduate and research outputs towards enhancing its standing as a  ‘scholarly University’.

According to Prof Louw, there is a need in Africa to develop not simply effective organisational management and leadership, but also that which is appropriate to Africa.

“Similarly, it is not sufficient to develop knowledge for Africa, but to develop knowledge from Africa. African knowledge and culture, pertaining to the science (theory) and practice of Management, has been largely denigrated, as has the knowledge pertaining to Chinese management in Africa,” she said, highlighting the role the Sandisa Imbewu funded research can play in this regard.

In her presentation entitled “The Sandisa Imbewu Project: what we have achieved, and where we are going” Prof Louw outlined progress made since the project’s inception and highlighted the increasing trend of Chinese involvement in Africa.

This presence is changing the geopolitical dynamics she said, and having great impact at the organisational and community levels. These related dynamics are bound to influence the ways scholars view Chinese activity, however she said research at the organisational level in Africa is practically non-existent, and theoretical and empirical developments in the study of China abroad are in their infancy.

As such the Sandisa Imbewu funded research project aims to develop relevant cross-cultural theory  that is both effective and appropriate to Africa, develop research capacity at postgraduate level, advise stakeholders on the cross-cultural appropriateness and effectiveness, and policies and practices, enable and facilitate dialogue among stakeholders, and contribute to knowledge and scholarly research, policy and practice.

The project retains a focus on Chinese involvement in sub-Saharan Africa and is supported by the Vice Chancellor’s office at Rhodes University, scholarships from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber and the Border Kei Chamber of Commerce. 

The Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the People’s Republic of China’s Embassy in South Africa, Chinese Association of South Africa (CASA) and the Confucius Institute at Rhodes University have expressed interest in the project. 

The project has four registered Masters students, four PhD students and is conducting case study research in Tanzania, Cameroon, Uganda and Kenya. To date researchers have produced four conference papers and three published journal articles. One of the outcomes emanating from this project is an edited research monograph, entitled “Chinese organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa: New Dynamics, New Synergies”.

Dr Clayton said this kind of research is becoming “more important by the day and we recognise this at Rhodes University.”

Photo: Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Development, Dr Peter Clayton.

By Sarah-Jane Bradfield

Photo by: Stephen Penney


Source:Communications and Marketing