The Chinese in Africa: Let the Backlash Begin

octopus chinaI may be wrong on this but I don’t think the United States or Europe ever had to contend with restrictions on the ownership of beauty parlors in Africa.  BusinessWeek offers an interesting insight this week on the growing discomfort between the waves of Chinese immigrants and the local population in Namibia.  This is an extremely important trend to watch in Africa as the shine from China’s billions of dollars in investment begins to wear off.  First, it was Zambia, then recently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (source: Africa Asia Confidential) and now, according to BW, Namibians are beginning to mount increasingly vocal opposition to the Chinese presence in their country.

Here’s the key issue to focus on:  unlike emigres from Europe or the United States, this is the first overseas mass migration of foreigners to Africa who hail from the same economic class as indigenous Africans.  Hundreds of thousands of economically disadvantaged Chinese are moving in to neighborhoods and starting businesses in the same communities and under the same challenging circumstances as their African counterparts.  Inevitably, this can cause tensions as the Chinese often employ far more aggressive business tactics than what people are locally accustomed to in this part of the world.  So in Namibia the issue is beauty parlors and transportation, elsewhere it will be something else.  Make no mistake, the backlash against the Chinese is building momentum.

This assessment may appear to contradict my earlier post on how well the Chinese seem to be assimilating in cities like Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Chinese migration to the DR Congo and other countries is happening at such a rapid pace and on such a massive scale that obvious contradictions like this are going to appear for quite some time.  It is by no means a linear process.

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One Response to “The Chinese in Africa: Let the Backlash Begin”

  1. Wei says:

    Please read two articles from Yale Global…

    “… elites generally favor China’s presence in the region while the lower classes do not…” “Beijing built major infrastructure projects such as mega dams, badly needed roads and telecommunications in the continent that no Western nation was willing to fund.”

    “China in Africa: Soft Power, Hard Results” by Loro Horta
    http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/china%E2%80%99s-soft-power-africa-could-have-hard-results

    “Demonizing China: Pundits Get its Role in Africa Wrong”
    http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/demonizing-china-pundits-get-its-role-in-africa-wrong?goback=.anh_137047.nvr_137047_1

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