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Natural resources - Dragons in Africa

This lesson  will help you explore where Chinese investments are taking place in Africa and the different sectors they are investing in.

Key questions and ideas

  • Where are Chinese companies investing in Africa and what are they investing in?
  • Where are Chinese companies extracting natural resources in Africa?
  • Why are the natural resources needed by Chinese companies?
  • What impact is Chinese natural resource activity having in Africa?

Subject content areas

  • Locational knowledge: Africa as a continent that is in need of investment to aid development; case study countries included in the lesson: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and South Africa; investment of Chinese companies in Africa.
  • Place knowledge: links developed between China and Africa through investment and trade in natural resources.
  • Human and physical geography: Trade links between China and Africa; natural resources in Africa; primary resources and development.
  • Geographical skills and fieldwork: interpretation of data and maps.



In recent years China has invested heavily in a number of different African countries and a number of different sectors. This starter activity will help you explore where Chinese investments are taking place in Africa and the different sectors they are investing in.

Where are Chinese companies investing in Africa and what are they investing in?

In groups choose one of the following websites to explore:

To view Chinese investment in Africa since 2010 go to the Business Insider website.

  • Identify three African countries where investment has increased in metal.
  • How does this compare to other investments from China in that country?
  • Describe the pattern of Chinese investment in metals in Africa.

To view how some of the Chinese investments have changed over time go to Heritage website. Use the Global Investment Tracker to explore the patterns of Chinese Investment in Africa.

  • Name at least 5 countries where China has made investments related to metals.
  • Describe the patterns of Chinese investment.
  • Where are the largest investments for metals?
  • What do you notice about the pattern of investment in metals?
  • Why do you think Chinese companies are increasing investment, loans and trade relations with African countries?


The starter task provided an overview of some of the investment and trade relations that have been established between Africa and China. Next it is important to explore the situation in more detail in four case study countries.

Download the Case studies worksheet which includes a case study template for Angola, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia.

In groups you need to find out information for each country to understand:

  • Which natural resources are Chinese companies interested in?
  • How important are these resources for different African countries?
  • What evidence is there for China’s investment in African countries? 
  • Describe any impacts of China’s involvement in the natural resource sector in African countries,

Key websites you could use to find this information include:

While Chinese involvement in many African countries provides much needed investment, particularly in infrastructure not all the impacts of Chinese involvement in Africa are not all positive. The next activity requires you to think about the positive and negative impacts of Chinese companies seeking natural resources in African countries.

Download the China in Africa statements.

Read through the statements about Chinese activity in the natural resource sector in African countries. Sort the statements into those two categories: those that indicate positive impact, and those that indicate negative impact.

Once the statements are sorted into two categories arrange the statements in order of importance. Be prepared to justify why you think they should be arranged in this order.


Reflect in groups about the impact of Chinese companies in mineral extraction in African countries. Share with the class the most important positive and negative impacts of Chinese activity in the natural resource sector in Africa. Identify one piece of evidence you found in the main activity to support your choice.

Find out more:

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