Research database

SURGE - Sinofinancialization and urban change in Addis Ababa and Nairobi: an ethnography of private Chinese capital in African cities.

36 months (2020 - 2023)
Principal investigator(s):
Project type:
UE-funded research - H2020 - Excellent Science - Marie Curie
Funding body:
Project identification number:


SURGE is a qualitative, ethnographic study of urban transformation driven by private Chinese capitals in Africa. Current research on Africa-China relationships focuses on major government-driven investments, such as the Belt and Road initiative, which is the most recent example of Chinas increasing presence in Africa. Scholarly attention is thus directed toward the state and the continental scale, overlooking private and provincial Chinese investments in Africa and their consequences on cities. Very little is known about non-state-driven financial operations of Chinese entrepreneurs, or about the responses of African cities to the influx of Chinese capitals. SURGE addresses these knowledge gaps with an urban ethnography of the sinofinancialization of two African cities that offer two different models of Chinas involvement in Africa: Addis Ababa, for manufacturing, and Nairobi, for high-value services. The research will explore the key urban sites of these financial operations: special economic zones, new towns, technology hubs and master-planned estates, charting the spatial and economic consequences of private Chinese capitals in the making of 21st-century African urban worlds. Methodologically, SURGE will be a multi-sited ethnography of financialization and will combine two disciplines: economic geography and social studies of finance. The overall aim of SURGE is to contribute to postcolonial urban studies, by foregrounding the diversity of Chinese capital in Africa, and the agency of African cities in attracting and harnessing these investments for purposes of social justice and sustainability that are at the forefront of urban restructuring in the continent.

People involved



Total cost: € 194,433.60
Total contribution: € 194,433.60
PoliTo total cost: € 194,433.60
PoliTo contribution: € 194,433.60