Soft powering the China Water Machine: the Bui Dam and China–Ghana relations

Kwame Adovor Tsikudo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although Ghana’s Bui Dam had been planned since 1915, it was only completed in 2013, with China’s financial and technical support. The Ghanaian government touted this breakthrough as crucial in addressing its enduring energy challenges and achieving its developmental goals. Critics, however, protested the project on the grounds of imminent displacement of local populations and the irreversible alteration of the environment. Since coming on stream, the dam has transformed China–Ghana relations from sporadic to sustained engagements. Using soft power as a framework, this paper examines the dam’s significance for relations between the two countries. The article asserts that China’s assistance with the dam was intended to cultivate soft power to bolster the market expansion of Chinese companies. It concludes that soft power seems productive at the macro level but is limited at lower levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-339
Number of pages21
JournalCanadian Journal of African Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Bui Dam
  • China Water Machine
  • China–Africa
  • Ghana
  • soft power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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