writers Liu Baiyun, Wang Pan and Jin Zheng GUANGZHOU/NAIROBI
(Xinhua) -- Walking on Baohanzhi Street in Guangzhou,
capital city of south China’s Guangdong Province, Felly Mwamba
greeted a patrolling security guard in Chinese, spoke French as
he introduced local businesses to a fellow countryman, and was
randomly stopped by an acquaintance for a quick chat.
Mwamba, a businessman from the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, is known as a “civil diplomat”
of the Africans living in the Dengfeng community, where over 800
African residents live among more than 1200 registered
But the flow of people is two way, and
a growing number of Chinese are calling Africa home. Alongside
rapidly developing bilateral ties, China-Africa people-to-people
exchanges are booming.
Baohanzhi Street, where Mwamba lives,
is nicknamed “African Street.” After living in Guangzhou for 15
years, Mwamba has earned himself a reputation for building
bridges between Chinese and Africans in the city and beyond.
Guangzhou is home to the densest
population of Africans in the country and is China’s main port
for entry and exit. In 2017, roughly 320,000 Africans entered or
left China through Guangzhou, according to local customs.
“I’m lucky to be here at the best time
of China-Africa trade,” Mwamba said in fluent Chinese. “I often
tell my friends that no matter where my business extends to,
China will always be my base.”
Every day tons of made-in-China
products, such as clothes, household appliances, mobile phones
and motorcycles, are shipped to Africa. Meanwhile, African
products such as crops, sea food and coffee are exported to
“The Xiaobei business district where
Baohanzhi Street is located fully reflects the pragmatic,
win-win and inclusive features of China-Africa economic and
trade cooperation,” said Liu Jisen, executive vice president of
the Institute for African Studies at Guangdong University of
“Many African people regard Guangzhou,
especially Xiaobei, as the starting point of their dreams,” Liu
As similar African communities in
other Chinese cities such as Yiwu in Zhejiang Province are
likewise embracing opportunities, a growing number of Chinese
neighborhoods are emerging in Africa.
For many Chinese living in Nairobi, a
typical Saturday morning in the Kenya-China Supermarket is spent
eating steamed rice rolls and chatting in a traditional tea
Chinese businesses are ubiquitous,
including restaurants, a farmers’ market, hair salon, hardware
store, clinic and souvenir shop. Today, there are at least four
Chinese “business districts” in the country.
When Song Ai, founder of Chinya Tea
Development Co., LTD in Kenya, first arrived here, common
Chinese snacks and premium tea from China were scarce. Not
anymore. Song attributed the drastic change over the past decade
to the closer relationship between China and Africa. “I think
with the Belt and Road Initiative, more and more Chinese people
like me will get the chance to pursue their dreams in Africa,”
BRIDGING THE GAP
In Kenya’s Maasai Mara National
Reserve, a Chinese man dubbed “Simba” has many titles, such as
“friend of Mara” and “hero of wildlife conservation.”
Simba, whose real name is Zhuo Qiang,
is the first Chinese to work full-time on wildlife conservation
in Africa, and the first Chinese to register a non-profit
organization on the continent.
Years of hard work in jointly building
a wildlife theme park with local Masais have paid off. For the
past five years, the size of Kiniyei Conservancy, where he now
works, has doubled, and the number of poaching cases have
dropped. The number of lions roaming the park has increased from
12 to 30, and the numbers of cheetahs, spotted hyenas, zebras,
wildebeests, giraffes and antelope have all doubled.
Zhuo, who hails from the southwestern
city of Chongqing, said his dream is to introduce this model of
wildlife conservation to other African countries and bring his
valuable experience back to China.
Over the years, hundreds of young
Chinese volunteers have set foot on the African continent. Their
hard work, be it in education, health care or agriculture, is
widely recognized and appreciated by local residents.
“With more and more well-educated
young people going to Africa, non-governmental exchanges between
China and Africa run deeper,” said Huo Jiangtao, an assistant at
the Institute for African Studies at Guangdong University of
Likewise, more and more African
volunteers have been actively involved in social work in China.
Michel Tshimbombo Musampa is one of them.
The 20-year-old is from the Republic
of the Congo and lives with his family in the Dengfeng community
of Guangzhou. Besides doing his part in running a family
business, Musampa volunteers to lend a hand to newcomers from
his motherland and visits local seniors who live alone.
Musampa said that he wants to serve
the community because he was helped by the community and wants
to return the favor.
In Dengfeng, more than 30 foreigners
have become registered volunteers. “Foreign volunteers have
played an important part in bridging our service to foreign
residents,” said Wang Haige, who offers services to foreigners
at the Comprehensive Service Center for Dengfeng Community.
According to the Exit and Entry of
Guangzhou, among the nearly 7,500 African students who live in
the city, a quarter take part in cultural and voluntary
“China-Africa cultural exchange is on
the rise, especially among young people,” said Liu Hongwu,
director of the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal
University. “And this will provide a solid foundation for the
further development of bilateral relations.”
Mouhamadou Moustapha Dieng, a
Senegalese businessman who has been living in Guangzhou for 16
years, plans to set up a packaging factory in Senegal.
Dieng’s idea is to set up a processing
factory in Senegal by importing a production line from China.
The reason is simple: to ensure that the seafood and
agricultural products that cannot be exported now due to a lack
of processing capability reach the Chinese market in time.
Research by the Guangdong government
has found that smaller retail businesses dominated Guangzhou’s
markets involving African buyers 10 years ago. Today, the
percentage has dropped to 15 percent, while more than 60 percent
of procurement by African businesspersons is done in bulk
“That is to say, China-Africa trade is
becoming more standardized,” said Liu Jisen from Guangdong
University of Foreign Studies.
According to Chinese customs
statistics, the volume of trade between China and Africa reached
nearly 100 billion U.S. dollars in the first half of the year,
an increase of 17.3 percent.
Dieng said he is very interested in
measures proposed by the Chinese government to bolster
China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. He hopes the
upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing will bring
the two partners closer together.
Dieng added that he plans to send his
17-year-old son, who is learning Chinese in a Confucius
Institute in Senegal, to study at a Chinese university.
Like Dieng, Zhu Layi, the founding
president of the Africa-Guangdong Business Association, also has
high expectation for the upcoming summit.
These days, Zhu is involved in the
construction of the Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone, a park
located in Ogun State of Nigeria in West Africa, and Kenya’s
Pearl River Special Economic Zone in East Africa. He also plans
to set up an African business school.
“In the future, more ordinary people
will be involved in and benefit from China-Africa cooperation,”
said Liu Jisen. “The Chinese dream and the African dream will be
more deeply integrated.”