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Postgraduate PhD Students

Mandira Bagwandeen


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  • Bio

    Mandira’s research interests are China-Africa relations, wider Asia-Africa relations, African geopolitics, Africa’s infrastructure development, and Asian geopolitics. She has worked as a political and country risk analyst covering the Asia-Pacific region for a British consultancy firm. Mandira has also provided consulting services for Africa-focused research intelligence companies. She is a Research Associate at the Fondation pour la recherche stratégique (Foundation for Strategic Research, FRS), in France, and lectures part-time for UCT’s Political Studies Department. Mandira has earned prestigious scholarships and fellowships for her doctoral research and written several academic and non-peer reviewed articles. She has also provided insightful commentary on Africa-China relations for local and international media outlets. After obtaining her PhD, Mandira intends to pursue a career in academia.
  • Title and Summary of PhD Project

    Is China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) a Driver for East Africa’s Railway Development and Regional Integration?

    In recent years, China has prioritised trade-related infrastructure in East Africa. This region is envisioned to be a major trading hub along Beijing’s Maritime Silk Road, the sea-based network of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In addition to maritime infrastructure, China is also (at the request of African countries) focusing on developing cross-border railway corridors to facilitate trade. This provides a much-needed transport link connecting landlocked countries in the region to maritime trading posts and, more broadly, aligns with Africa’s shift towards developmental regionalism. By analysing China’s involvement in the development of East Africa’s railways, this thesis explores how China’s BRI can be leveraged to contribute to the continent’s regional integration efforts. It aims to demonstrate that, by drawing on the synergies of Africa’s infrastructural drive and the BRI’s focus on massive infrastructural development, China can become a significant partner in Africa’s development of regional integration infrastructure.

  • Publications

    1. ‘CSS Commentary: The African Link in China’s OBOR Initiative,’ Stellenbosch University: Centre for Chinese Studies, 15 May 2017: http://www.ccs.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/CCS_Commentary_Africa_OBOR_15MAY2017.pdf
    2. ‘CCS: Commentary: Making a play for Africa: China, India and Japan compete for the continent’s favour,’ Stellenbosch University: Centre for Chinese Studies, 15 September 2017: https://www0.sun.ac.za/ccs/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/CCS_Commentary_Japan-and-India-in-Africa_15SEP2017.pdf
    3. ‘Enduring Silk Ties,’ African East-Asian Affairs (AEAA) Journal, Issue 2, June 2015: http://aeaa.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/156/112
    4. ‘Africa Tackles COVID-19,’ Diplomatist, April 2020: http://diplomatist.com/2020/04/28/africa-tackles-covid-19/
  • What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

    Don’t wait for opportunity, create it!