The China Overseas Finance Inventory (COFI) is a comprehensive database of China's investment in power generation abroad. Built with existing public and commercial sources, its purpose is to enable Chinese policymakers, financial institutions and other stakeholders to support decision-making and identify how they can make China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), through which it channels overseas investment, green and sustainable.

We recently updated the part of the COFI database that tracks China's equity and debt investments in the power-generation sector in BRI countries. There were three major updates in the updated COFI database (COFI_v2.0) compared to the COFI database published in February 2022 (COFI_v1.0):

  • We added a new source database, IJ global infrastructure finance data.
  • We updated investment data to include those made in 2021.
  • We added investments made in new BRI countries that have signed BRI memorandums of understanding with China since January 2021.

The update expands coverage of Chinese investments in the power generation sector in Belt and Road countries, from 149.5 gigawatts to 179.3 gigawatts (GW), a 20% increase. The largest increase, 18.8 GW, comes from a new source database IJ global, followed by 8.2 GW of new projects in 2021. There are 2.7 GW of projects from four newly added BRI countries. The chart below gives a summary of capacity added by each element of our update.

A graphic depicting the capacity added by each element of the update
Note: *IJ Global Additions Pre-2021: When comparing IJ Global and COFI_v1.0, we only considered investments made between 2000-2020 for consistency in the timeline and ease of comparison. New projects added by IJ Global in 2021 were included in the “2021 New Projects” category.  

The addition of IJ Global improved the coverage of COFI by adding new power plant projects and by supplementing information for existing projects. Most of the expanded coverage by capacity comes from the addition of IJ global  18.8 GW. When comparing COFI_v1.0 and IJ Global's addition from the same period of 2000-2020, IJ Global added 54 new power plants. Installed capacity in most fuel types increased after adding IJ Global to COFI_v1.0. IJ Global also supplemented specific investment and project information, including equity investment amount and installed capacity, for some existing projects in COFI_v1.0.

We updated COFI_v2.0 with 2021 investment data from source databases that maintain yearly updates. It shows the renewable energy trend was very strong. Only commercial databases had new power plant investments that reached financial closure in 2021. There were 13 new power plants in 2021 from IJ Global, and four of them also included in Refinitiv Loan Database. Figure 3 updates the renewable investment trend with 2021 data. Compared to COFI_v1.0, COFI_v2.0 presents an overall increase in the capacity of renewable projects, with a significant increase since 2019. (A dip in the 2009 data is caused by the exclusion of a hydro project that was later canceled; there were also slight capacity decreases in 2012 and 2018 because of the updated capacity from the latest world electric power plant database as part of the COFI_v2.0 update.)

We added investments from new BRI countries that signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China since April 2021. COFI_v2.0 added 12 new power plants from four new BRI countries: Argentina, Central Africa Republic, Eritrea and Malawi. Figure 4 shows the top 10 Chinese debt investment destinations among BRI countries in cCOFI_v2.0. The top five most-invested countries remained the same as COFI_v1.0, but with larger investment totals. Argentina and Bangladesh replaced Ethiopia and Zambia in the top 10 when compared to COFI_v1.0. This is because of the additional projects included in COFI_v2.0 and Argentina as a newly added country.

This project is a collaboration among the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University, the Inter-American Dialogue, the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University and World Resources Institute (WRI).

For more details on the update process and methodology, please refer to our change log. Feel free to download COFI_v2.0 to explore the database yourself and track any new progress made by Chinese investors.