Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chinese Invasion of Africa - Since 1960

The influx of Chinese migrants, investors and businesses to the African continent is amazing:

By the 1960s, 19 African countries had official ties to Beijing. To help cement new diplomatic relations, Mao sent a number of Chinese to the continent in the 1960s, as well as 150,000 technicians between the 1950s and 1970s, to work in agriculture, technology, and infrastructure. Most returned to China after completing their contracts."

In northern Namibia, small Taiwanese businesses emerged as early as the 1970s, and Chinese textile firms were established in the Newcastle region of South Africa and Lesotho around the same time. These businesses established networks that current entrepreneurs still tap into when arriving in Africa.

Current immigration trends are linked more directly to China's liberalized migration and economic policies in the late 1970s, which permitted Chinese to leave the country and allowed for foreign investment.

Official estimates of the number of Chinese in Africa vary dramatically. Political scientist Sasha Gong reports official numbers to be only 100,000 Chinese workers in Africa — or 15 percent of the total overseas Chinese workforce. About 35 percent of those in Africa work in manufacturing and about 30 percent in construction, with the number of manufacturing jobs decreasing and construction jobs increasing over the past five years. Gong acknowledges that the official number is likely only a fraction of the whole.

An Ohio University database estimates the total number of Chinese in Africa at 137,000, the same figure Taiwan's government provided in 2001 (Taiwan's estimate in 2004 was 154,000).

Political scientist Emmanuel Ma Mung estimates the number to be between 270,000 and 520,000, with between 70,000 and 80,000 contract migrants. However, Xinhua, China's official news agency, estimates the total population to be significantly larger — as many as 750,000 Chinese working or living "for extended periods" on the continent.

In Angola, 2,500 Chinese work for Chinese companies financed by an oil-backed loan China granted to the Angolan government. University of Nairobi economist Francis M. Mwega anticipated a total of 30,000 Chinese workers for the project.

Political scientist Barry Sautman compiled press reports that estimate 1,000 to 3,000 Chinese in Cameroon, 5,000 in Lesotho, and as many as 50,000 in Nigeria (all estimates are for 2005). According to the Southern African Migration Project at Queens University, as of 2006 there were as many as 40,000 Chinese in Namibia on work visas and residence permits.

In a 2007 New York Times article, Chad Chamber of Commerce Director Renaud Dinguemnaial estimated an "influx of at least 40,000 Chinese in coming years" to Chad.

Perhaps one of the most telling signs of increased migration between the two regions is the rising number of weekly flights between China and Africa. In 2007, Chinese airlines began launching one flight per week between Beijing and Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.

Currently, three Chinese air companies offer routes to Africa: China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines, which offers nonstop flights from Beijing to Cairo three times per week and a route from Beijing to Johannesburg via Guangzhou twice per week.

In July 2008, Emirates airline also began offering six flights per week to Guanghzhou, with connections in Dubai for those coming from Cape Town, Lagos, Cairo, Addis Ababa, and Nairobi.
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