China-driven Hydropower: Lessons from Ghana and Cambodia

Chinese funders and contractors have attracted much criticism for the environmental and social impact of their infrastructure projects in the Global South. However, the process of setting environmental, socioeconomic and governance standards in the Global South is complex and thus requires further investigation. The South African Institute of International Affairs and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s ‘Future-Proofing Africa’s Development’ series compares the implementation of environmental, socioeconomic and governance standards in respect of five categories of Chinese infrastructure provision in Africa and South-East Asia. This policy brief looks at two Chinese-funded and -built hydropower projects in Ghana and Cambodia respectively. It outlines the Chinese domestic regulatory environment for hydropower and compares how the contractors fared abroad. It highlights that while the projects were Chinese led, the standards implementation process was dominated by local actors. The comparison revealed shortcomings in both cases. However, while low levels of government transparency in Cambodia eroded public trust in the project, the opposite was true in Ghana.