writers Liu Baiyun and Wang Pan GUANGZHOU (Xinhua) --
It was 5 p.m., and Saada Masood Ally Seif, a Tanzanian passenger
in her 20s, was waiting in the departure hall of Guangzhou
Baiyun International Airport, though her flight would not take
off for seven hours.
“There will be a huge amount of
baggage to be checked in, and I want to be the first in the
queue,” Saada said, eyeing three pieces of baggage beside her,
dwarfed by piles of large baggage from other passengers.
Saada would take a midnight flight
from the southern Chinese of Guangzhou to Tanzania’s biggest
city Dar es Salaam, an air route she has taken many times over
the past five years.
In Dar es Salaam, she runs a baby
clothes shop in Kariakoo Market, the largest distribution center
of Chinese goods in East Africa, and Guangzhou is her source of
“Every time we come to Guangzhou, we
take home as many goods as our check-in luggage can take,” she
In recent years, the fast-growing
Sino-African trade has become a vigorous part of the global
trade, with China being the largest trading partner of Africa
for years. According to Chinese customs figures, the bilateral
trade in the first half of 2018 reached 99.8 billion U.S.
dollars, a year-on-year increase of 17.3 percent.
In this huge trade system, ordinary
people like Saada play an important role.
When night falls, three check-in
counters at Guangzhou airport brace for the peak check-in of
passengers flying to Africa. Many are carrying baggage filled
with Chinese goods.
For many African business people,
Guangzhou is the most attractive place for buying goods. And for
countries without ports, shipping back Chinese goods by air is
still profitable, according to Vincent Ongas, a manager at Kenya
“A lot of African people like the
trade environment in Guangzhou. Some travel between Guangzhou
and Africa every week,” Ongas said. “Kenya Airways uses Boeing
787s to fly the Guangzhou-Nairobi route. Usually among the more
than 400 passengers on board, there are 60 to 100 business
“At the Guangzhou airport alone, there
are more than 150 such traveling African traders shipping a
large number of Made-in-China goods back home daily,” said Ma
Jiangnan, a customs officer at Baiyun Airport.
“With Africa’s increasing demand for
Chinese goods, more African buyers in China have abandoned
random small procurement and turned to bulk purchases,” said Liu
Jisen, executive vice president of the Institute for African
Studies of Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. “Yet for new
traders, the channel of passenger-carried cargo still has a
For this trip, Saada ordered five
large boxes of baby clothes, a majority of which had been
shipped to Tanzania by sea before her departure. She took the
rest home by air.
The Guangzhou airport now has six air
routes to Africa, including three direct routes and three
transit routes. Every week, there are 34 flights between China
and Africa, with an annual passenger throughput of 650,000.
Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines
offer excess baggage coupons for frequent passengers, which are
priced between 80 and 200 U.S. dollars for each piece. With both
free and paid baggage, a passenger can carry up to 300 kg of
“We are using wide-body passenger
aircraft. Our passengers who have made round trips for a certain
times can get free air tickets,” Ongas said. “Since 2013, we
have increased the number of flights from four round trips to
seven round trips a week. But in the peak period, passengers
still need to buy tickets at least one week in advance.”
Easier customs clearance also
African traders can send information
on carried cargo to a declaring agent through a mobile phone app
and some clearance work can be done beforehand.
The customs use X-ray machines at
baggage sorting lines to inspect goods. “The cargo can complete
non-intrusive inspections before a passenger reaches the
boarding gate,” said Chen Xinyi, an airport customs officer.
According to Guangzhou Customs, more
than 30,000 tonnes of goods have been exported this way since
2014. At the peak, more than 30 tonnes of goods are cleared
“It’s good to do business in
Guangzhou. You have a lot of choices and can buy at a
satisfactory price,” said Saada, who lined up for boarding near
midnight. “If business is good, I will be back six times like
last year, maybe even more.” Enditem
and Tian Jianchuan contributed to the story).