In Guangzhou, there are about 200,000 Africans, increasing 30-40% every year. The locals believe their language skills are very poor, but they have very nimble business minds; Locals believe they are undisciplined and unorganized, but their religion and groups are extremely cohesive; They, in Guangzhou, have built the largest African community in Asia.
As Chinese companies have entered Africa to find resources, African businessmen have also come to China, “the world’s factory”. Businessmen ship cheap goods to Africa, where 50 far-away African countries quickly consume these daily consumables that can’t be produced in their own countries. At the end of the 90s in the 20th century, the first batch of Africans came to Guangzhou, their first stop being Canaan clothing market [Clothes Trading Center]. Now, however, with Canaan clothing market as the center, many goods for export markets have sprung up in the surrounding one kilometer area. The people of Guangzhou have gradually come to call this area “Chocolate City”.
Most Africans don’t actually live long-term in China, only often traveling between Africa and China, as little as once or twice a year, or as much as once a month. The majority of people operate a shop in their country, but personally come to Guangzhou to select goods to ship back. Photo is of several African businessmen and a Chinese businessman negotiating prices.
Scant funds, don’t care about brands, loves to bargain, likes low-end products are characteristics of the large groups of African businessmen. Over time, these characteristics have led to Chinese businessmen to discriminate and become impatient with them. “[They're] the most practical in doing business the most practical, whereas you can see those European and Americans and Arabs are just different,” a Chinese seller said. Nevertheless, the trade market’s business is very flourishing every day, and the African demand for cheap goods have allowed the processing factories around the outskirts of Guangzhou to prosper. Photo is of a Chinese seller wiping the nose of an African buyer’s infant; using “friendliness” to get business.
In Xiaobei, not far from the trading market, is Guangzhou’s largest African neighborhood. Many Africans coming to China for the first time will stay here, living with several or even over a dozen people in a room, beginning their “gold rush” here. Why have they collectively chosen Xiaobei? One long-term researcher of Africans in Guangzhou says: “This place has Guangzhou’s first proper Muslim restaurant.” And in Africa, those who believe in Islam are the majority. Photo is of an African youth eating at a food stall.
As it is understood, there are 20,000 Africans who have stayed over 6 months. However, if those who illegally overstay and those who frequently come and go are added together, “the real number” should be around 200,000. This is equivalent to 2% of Guangzhou’s registered population. The expansion of the African’s export business has also spawned African restaurants, African logistics, African intermediaries and other supporting businesses. African businessmen have also brought African laborers and African service staff. Photo is of locals who are no longer unused to seeing Africans.