[VIDEO] The Chinese in Africa: Profile of Yu Yuan

Vimeo user Yara Costa produced a very interesting short video that profiles Ghanian-based Chinese technology entrepreneur Yu Yuan.  This is an especially compelling video as it highlights a number of key themes related to the emergence of a large Chinese business class on the continent.  Specifically, it dispels the common misperception that the Chinese operating businesses across Africa are part of large multinationals when in fact there is a surge of small businesses that are having a tremendous impact on the local communities they operate within.

  • Assimilation: Yu is very up front about his intention NOT to assimilate too much into Ghanian society as he regards his time in Accra as merely an opportunity to make enough money to ultimately return to China.  While Yu certainly represents a large number of Chinese (and others) expats who long to one day return home, the Chinese diaspora in Africa is now home to thousands of other immigrants who either will not or simply cannot return and, thus, have made Africa their permanent residence.
  • Marriage: Yu explains how the cultural divide between Chinese and Ghanians is simply too large for him to marry a Ghanian.  Critics of the Chinese in Africa will no doubt point to this type of provincialism as an indication of how the Chinese resist assimilation through their own self-imposed cultural isolation.  While there is no doubt a seed of truth in their charge, it is by no means unique to the Chinese living overseas.  This is typical behavior of first-generation immigrants from almost every country who seek to preserve their native cultural identity in their adopted country.  These patterns rapidly dissolve with successive generations regardless if it is the Chinese in Africa, Latinos in the United States or Africans in Europe.
  • Local Empowerment: Yu is very open about his reluctance to empower local Ghanians to assume any management responsibility for his company.  Again, to the outsider, this blatant discrimination could be easily misconstrued as indicative that the Chinese are imposing similar injustices as what Europeans did in Africa during their colonial occupations.  There are several key differences, though, that are worth considering:

Yu and other Chinese entrepreneurs are generally driven by an overwhelming sense of pragmatism that largely over-powers all other considerations (e.g. in contrast to the moral superiority that Europeans often felt about indigenous populations).  This is not to say that Yu and other Chinese immigrants do not harbor anti-Ghanian prejudicial views, rather those biases are subservient to their desire to build a business and make money.

Consider the tremendous risks for any small business owner about empowering people who you do not know or have any cultural connection with to assume responsibility of your life’s investment?  Now, do not misunderstand my point here that I am somehow justifying discrimination in any way — I am not — instead I am suggesting that it will take time for Chinese and Ghanian cultures to become more acclimated with one another before we can expect the necessary level of trust to be established for joint management to become commonplace.

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One Response to “[VIDEO] The Chinese in Africa: Profile of Yu Yuan”

  1. [VIDEO] The Chinese in Africa: Profile of Yu Yuan…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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