‘Soft Power’ and the Impact of the Bui Hydropower dam on China – Ghana Relationship

Authors: Kwame Adovor*, University of Minnesota
Topics: Africa, Development, China
Keywords: Bui Ghana, Hydropower dam, China, Africa, soft power
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


After several failures, Ghana signed a contract with China to implement the Bui hydropower dam. This announcement received mixed reactions in Ghana. Critics opposed the project by invoking images that featured the construction of the Akosombo dam in the 1960s. They asserted that socio-economic and environmental havocs that replete the Akosombo experience would be unleashed on powerless communities, if the Bui project proceeded. They also argue that the involvement of China could potentially undercut attempts to avert any risks associated with the project. In contrast, proponents celebrated China’s decision to finance the behemoth and help Ghana overcome its energy crisis. Since its completion, the Bui dam has successfully catalyzed increased interactions involving the two countries. How can we interpret China’s decision to finance the dam? In what ways has the construction of the behemoth shaped relationships between China and Ghana? Using ‘soft power’, this paper seeks to evaluate these questions. I argue that China’s assistance with the Bui hydropower dam was to deliberately cultivate ‘soft power’ with Ghana and bolster interactions with other African countries. Key words: Africa, Bui, Hydropower dam, Soft power, win-win partnerships.

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