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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Across China: Sub-Saharan Africans gaining 'Chinese experience'

By Xinhua writers Shen Anni and Zhang Jianhua GUANGZHOU China (Xinhua) -- Felly Mwamba has traveled so frequently since he first came to China in 2003 that he is on his sixth passport.

The businessman, who is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa has been the representative of the African Business Freight Guangzhou Office for 13 years.

“There are still many opportunities in China. It is a very large market. I am currently thinking about what new opportunities there are for me here,” he said, adding that he wanted to stay “as long as possible”.

With the Chinese economy expanding steadily over the past decades,Guangzhou, which is close to China’s manufacturing heartland,  has emerged as a trade hub for foreign business people. The provincial capital has one of the largest African communities in Asia. There are around 30,000 Africans in Guangzhou, according to police records, but researchers believe their population far exceeds this.

Mwamba said he was inspired by the dynamic environment.

“When I came to China I found there was a world of opportunities to do business so I decided to stay here,” he said.

Mwamba has visited many factories in China and has a wealth of experience in selling and shipping electronics, furniture and construction materials to Congo, Angola and other parts of Africa.

“When business was good, I could ship five to 10 containers each month,” he said.

In recent years, however, the business has changed, and two of his four employees have quit.

“I have been mainly doing international trade to Africa, but the economy in some African countries is not so stable,” he said. “Living expenses and labor costs here in Guangzhou are also rising.”

Despite increasing pressure, Mwamba said he never thought about leaving China. “I believe things will get better and I still have hope, so I am not afraid.”

His company is mulling the possibility of extending business to Canada and the United States.

“When I was in North America, I went to a lot of shopping malls and many products there were ‘Made in China’.”

Mwamba was the chairman of the Congolese Community in China, an organization with over 1,200 members.

The organization, he said, aimed to maintain good relationships among the Congolese and between their community and other people in China.

It also helped its members understand Chinese laws, and share business experience.

“There are people with visa problems, money problems, translation problems. Some just need advice about business,” Mwamba said.

Things were quite different when Mwamba first arrived in China. He did not know a single word of Chinese, but managed to learn the language within a year by socializing.

“When you live here, you just have to love this place, work hard and make friends. Like the saying, ‘with more friends, life is flexible’ ,”  he explained.

Isidore Lunde-Okulungu, the secretary of the Congolese Community in China, said he has learned a lot from living and doing business in China.

Lunde-Okulungu, 34, lives with his wife and two children in Guangzhou. He came to China in 2007 and has set up a printing business in Guangzhou that produces books, magazines and T-shirts for the African market.

He said he was impressed that many Chinese, even those who were very wealthy, tended to live frugal lives.

“Chinese know how to save money. They can get rich because they know how to use money,” he said.

Unlike Mwamba, Lunde-Okulungu did not intend to live abroad forever. With improving infrastructure, cheaper land and labor back in Africa, he always keeps an eye out for opportunities in his own country.

He said his experience in China is valuable for his future business.

“When I go back to my country, I know I will have more choices,” he said.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi made Africa his first overseas destination in 2017, following a diplomatic tradition going back nearly three decades.

From December 2015 to July 2016, agreements worth over 50 billion dollars were signed in various fields between China and Africa, Wang said.

At the 2015 Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China committed to a 60-billion-dollar fund that would deepen its relationship with Africa over the next three years.

             

 

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