Africans in China sharing 'Chinese Dream'
Updated: 2013-03-23 10:50
GUANGZHOU - Felly Mwamba from the Republic of Congo traveled to countries like the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam and Thailand to seek his fortune, before he arrived in Guangzhou, where he has lived for 10 years.
Mwamba sensed he was near to a "gold mine" as soon as he arrived in the capital of south China's Guangdong province in 2003. He was immediately attracted to the city's abundant resources of manufactured goods and free market environment.
Working as an agent for a multinational freight trading company, Mwamba has an office in Tianxiu Tower in downtown Guangzhou.
"I find that people from all over the world focus their eyes on China. The market is so big," he said.
The Tianxiu building surrounded by bustling shops is the center of "Africa Town," popularly known by locals as "Chocolate City" or "Little Africa." It is the largest African community in Asia. Authorities estimate there are some 100,000 inhabitants here.
Like many Africans in the country, Mwamba is living his "Chinese Dream."
The 34-year-old said his work is to monitor commodity prices and help his boss in Dubai to decide on import orders of Chinese goods.
Since moving to Guangzhou, Mwamba has gained experience in selling electrical gadgets, accessories, furniture and motorbikes, and now has knowledge of international freight shipping.
"I always tell my friends from Africa that we are lucky to settle here. We need to learn how to do things and how to plan for our future," he said.
No longer a wanderer, Mwamba said his dream is to be able to raise enough money to buy an apartment and marry his Chinese girlfriend.
With the Chinese economy expanding fast over the past decades, African immigrants, previously unseen in China, have streamed into prosperous cities of Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and even to second-tier cities like Yiwu, known as one of the world's wholesale centers of small commodities and accessories.
Guangzhou, one of the pioneering cities of the country's economic reform and opening up, has been a primary destination for Africans.
Dream of arts
Chukwuonye Pat Chike spends most of his time working in a recording studio in Guangzhou.
When the Nigerian arrived in the city in 2006, he earned a living by running a shop selling wigs and ornaments.
However, the music lover has never ceased pursuing his dream.
"I've created nearly 100 songs, and about 40 of them were written in China," said Chike, who is overwhelmed when talking about his first album "It's Real" featuring rap and blues, which hit markets in both China and Nigeria in 2011.
He has introduced the sounds of Chinese musical instruments, such as reed, to his music.
"Chinese audiences are getting more familiar with black superstars like Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba and Nigerian Yakubu Aiyegbeni. Let me make an impact and be the first African to break into the Chinese entertainment market," Chike said optimistically.
In "Little Africa," African people like to stay near people from their own countries.
John Vedasto Rwehumbiza is an elected leader representing the Tanzanian community.
Graduated from a Shanghai university of science and engineering in 1987, Rwehumbiza has experience of working both in China and Tanzania.
His business title is chief representative of Macrospot International Ltd..
"When I studied in China in the 1980s, the infrastructure in Guangzhou was very poor. When I came back in 2007, I found the changes were marvelous, both in hardware and software," he said.
Rwehumbiza said he would like to share his experiences with people back home about what he has learnt in China and helping the African continent develop in "the same footsteps."
James Asare Tano, president of Ghana Community in China, is interested in introducing China's speciality in construction and producing building materials to Africa through his company Prime Products International Ltd..
"When I first came to China, I was 26. Now I am 35. I believe I can realize my dream of building my firm into a multinational corporation by the age of 40," he said.
Tano wrote in his inaugural address, after being elected as the community leader in 2011, that he entreated Ghanians living in China "to be law abiding, respect each other and live responsibly to enhance the China-Ghana relationship."
The community leader said differences in living habits, work styles and religions between Chinese and African communities have led to inevitable misunderstandings and disputes.
Rwehumbiza said, for example, taxi drivers in Guangzhou are worried about African passengers who fare bargain and are reluctant to pick up black people.
There are a large number of Africans living in China on overstayed tourist visas, or even false passports, which lead to higher frequency of police inspections on streets.
In July 2009, a Nigerian man accidentally fell several floors from a building in an attempt to flee a Chinese immigration authorities' inspection. The incident triggered a demonstration of hundreds of Africans, causing road closures for hours.
Rwehumbiza said only interpersonal communication can help reduce prejudice that has resulted from ignorance of each other's culture.
"China should improve its immigration management system, and work with African countries to build a cooperation mechanism in dealing with regular and emergency matters concerning immigrants," said Li Zhigang, associate professor with Zhongshan University, who is studying the African community in Guangzhou.
Such a mechanism can help authorities mediate whenever there is a dispute concerning Africans in China, Li said.