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Stories from African traders in Guangzhou

Popularity 4Viewed 2063 times 2015-5-6 07:54 |Personal category:City Life|System category:News

Since China’s opening up decades ago, coupled with its miraculous economic transformation, it has attracted a wave of foreign expats and migrants from all over the world. This influx is however dominated by Africans who have made Guangzhou, capital of the coastal Guangdong Province their home.

Most of these African migrants are traders who are looking to increase their living standards by capitalizing on China’s economic success. According to the city’s Entry and Exit department, Guangzhou has about 120,000 permanent foreign residents of which an estimated 16,000 are Africans. Most Africans are located in districts including Dengfeng, Kuangquan, Taojin, Baiyun, Xinshi and Yuexiu.

In a report published by Southern Metropolis Daily, a local newspaper in Guangzhou, 20 percent of African traders in the city earned more than the average income of locals employed in white-collar jobs.  The newspaper in Guangzhou interviewed 204 people from more than 50 African nations. Of the 165 interviewees who revealed their monthly income, 37 said they earn more than 30,000 yuan a month doing business in the southern city. The figure is higher than the average income of local white-collar workers.

Okechuku 38, a Nigerian trader describes his story as one from grass to grace. According to him, he had a hard time securing a Chinese Visa in 2009 when he decided to seek greener pastures in abroad. He said he came to China under the pretence of studying but took the opportunity to venture into trade when he realized the opportunities available. With a minimum start-up capital of $5,000 he said he has made good for himself earning not less than $7,000 every month. He has a Chinese wife who is expecting their baby.


Relating his daily activities, he said he is mainly involved in buying and selling. “I have a boutique in my country. I buy affordable clothes from wholesalers here in China and ship them home. I also buy electronic gadgets, mostly latest mobile phones and tablets computers which have seen high demand back home”, he said.

“I do all this during the day and at night a number of friends and I gather at the bar to have drinks whilst sharing business ideas. We are often invited by Chinese businesses to attend forums where we share our experience doing business with them, sometime we receive invitations for facility tours by some factories looking to export to Africa” he added.

Okechuku said he lives in a rented two bedroom apartment with his wife, whom he met in 2011. “Initially she used to help me with translation when I began my business, after a while we became close and then it just sparked” he said, noting that, through her he increased his business contact and connection with credible wholesalers who were interested in doing business with African entrepreneurs like himself. 

He said he now assists other new entrants seeking to do business in China (Guangzhou) by counseling them on regulations regarding their activities. He is a registered member of the local African community Association set up to regulate and inform African traders in Guangzhou.


Ohemaa 47, a Ghanaian trader who exports human hair popularly called Brazilian hair and other female related accessories including shoes and dresses, also recounts how doing business in China has made her a fortune irrespective of the challenges she and friends had to go through at the beginning. She said most locals were unfriendly to them when they started trading in 2010 but with time they have come to accept that Africans are of diverse culture and hence differ in attitude just like any other race.

“When we started coming to Guangzhou they did not respect us, they spoke to us rudely, though we could not understand the language, their mannerism indicated a sense of disrespect, but we never bothered with that since we did not understand what they said” she recalled, adding “there were times we used to argue with them through interpreters but now business is fine and we are all reaping the profits”.

When asked how often she visits China, she said at least four times in every quarter and when she is not able to make the trip she sends her eldest son who graduated from a University in Nanjing and currently living and working in China.

According to her she would have loved to stay in China for good but she is married and cannot leave her husband behind to settle in China. “I have a family, my youngest daughter is in High school and she also wants to study in China when she graduates. Leaving my husband behind is out of the question hence the reason I have not considered settling in China” she noted, adding that living standards in China were good compared to her country.

“Can you imagine I spend almost three times the amount I spend here in my country on daily basis? When I visit China I stay for at least a month, after doing all my shopping I realize I still have almost half of the money I budget for daily upkeep still intact, because groceries are cheap and the  rents are affordable”, she stated.

Ohemaa and a friend share a two bedroom rented apartment in Dengfeng. Her friend is also a Ghanaian. According her “when I’m here she is away back home, sometimes we both come together but due to our schedules it is often hard to be here at the same time. The apartment is well furnished and comfortable. We are not used to eating Chinese food so we cook by ourselves. We bring most of the local food stuff from home and the rest of the ingredients we need we buy from supermarkets around”.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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