Change needed in China-Africa immigration relations

By Charles Okeke Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/13 22:04:42

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

The burgeoning China-Africa relations have been praised by many policymakers and technocrats. The alliance holds good prospects, which makes for a very exciting future between the two partners. One of the aspects of this is the increasing number of Chinese immigrants in Africa, and that of Africans in China as well.

The issue of immigration has never formed the basis for serious China-Africa dialogues; most academics have only paid attention to the pros and cons of China's economic penetration of Africa. People are now researching more about the experience of migrant exchange in China-Africa interconnectivity.  

The increase in the number of Chinese migrants into Africa has been attributed mainly to the friendly immigration policies, poor tracking mechanisms, and incompetence in managing immigration matters by many African countries.

From data gathered across Africa, most Chinese immigrants can be found in South Africa, followed by Nigeria, Sudan, Angola, Algeria, and Mauritius. These numbers must be viewed in the context of existing population data, internal migration in China, as well as against numbers of the Chinese diaspora in other parts of the globe. 

A survey conducted in 2015 reported that 71.8 percent of Chinese community leaders in Africa plan to return to China after retirement, while only 5.1 percent plan to stay on in Africa.

In the southern part of Africa, it is believed that the Chinese feel more at home than in other parts of the continent. They have little or no trouble being assimilated into the dynamic economic activities of the country or establishing small business activities in semi-rural and rural areas. South Africa is one of the African countries with a small community of ethnic Chinese - 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Chinese South Africans - certainly contributes to the greater general acceptance of Chinese migrants in the country.  

Three types of Chinese migrants to Africa have been identified by scholars of Africa-China relations. These are temporary labor migrants linked to public building works and large infrastructure development projects undertaken by large Chinese enterprises, small entrepreneurs and transit migrants. 

There is a Migration Policy Institute that identifies a fourth category of agricultural workers. Of all these categories, the largest is temporary labor migration. Of the over 10,000 Chinese companies operating in Africa, only a few rely on locals; most of the others recruit minimal local labor. They instead rely tremendously on Chinese migrant labor in their infrastructure and public construction jobs.  

The African population in China is mostly made up of students, traders, and some English language teachers. The majority of Africans can be found in large numbers in cities like Guangzhou, Yiwu, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Estimates from Chinese researchers have put the actual number of Africans living in Guangzhou at over 150 000, making the city home to the largest African community in Asia. But the real number, including illegal immigrants and over-stayers, might be higher, a report explained.

There are views that some Chinese people believe their businesses and space are being compromised by foreigners and that this should not be tolerated, therefore prompting disagreements. 

It is well known that China is one of the countries with the sternest and most restrictive immigration policies. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest that these policies particularly target nationals from African countries, prompting supporters of Beijing to say that there is no immigration rift between China and her African partners.

The author is a PhD International Law student, a published author and a commentator on Sino-Africa relations. He currently studies at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

blog comments powered by Disqus