Guangzhou’s hospitality contradicts allegations of racism against Africans

By Joyce Chimbi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/17 13:48:40


Recent allegations of discrimination against Africans living in China hyped by some Western media outlets provide a lesson on the dangers of misinformation and inaccuracies during efforts to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Contrasting sharply with the smooth and close relations China has had with Africa, China has come under criticisms fueled by allegations of discrimination against Africans in Guangzhou, the third largest city of China.

Even before China had the chance to officially set the record straight surrounding this misunderstanding, rumors that Africans in China were facing discrimination spread fast and wide.

The allegations began to emerge around Friday but several days later, after more accurate information emerged, various African leaders including Kenyan government officials released statements urging its citizens abroad to comply with specific guidelines of host countries on combating the coronavirus.

This is after official reports revealed that 119 cases of COVID-19 had been imported into Guangzhou. Of these cases, 25 were foreign patients, 19 of whom are Africans accounting for 76 percent of the imported case of foreign nationals. Nine of the 19 cases were Nigerians, and five of them broke mandatory quarantine.

It was further reported that at least eight Africans infected with COVID-19 had visited eight restaurants and other public spaces, coming into contact with at least 2,000 people. This led local authorities to focus on Africans who have contravened quarantine rules.

When the misunderstanding began to unfold, the African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat invited Chinese Ambassador Liu Yuxi to discuss alleged mistreatment of Africans in Guangzhou on Saturday.

On Tuesday, Macharia Kamau, a principal secretary in Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, admitted that there is "quite a big population of Kenyans" without proper documentation living in China.

That Chinese officials sought to scrutinize documents held by foreigners during a pandemic doesn't in any way infringe on their rights.

As more details continue to emerge and the narrative shifts, African leaders and officials have clearly begun to take a different approach.

Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto posted two telling tweets on Tuesday. The first tweet stated that: "In line with my statement earlier on affirming to Kenyans in the Diaspora of the government's support in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the foreign office asks Kenyans in foreign countries to be disciplined."

The second tweet urged Kenyans to "adhere to country specific guidelines on coronavirus testing and to follow the rules on the management of the outbreak. The government will continue ensuring that Kenyans abroad are accorded the protection that they deserve during this tough time."

Allegations of xenophobia directed at Africans by Chinese, especially in Guangzhou, could not be further from the truth. Guangzhou itself is well known for the large number of Africans living and doing business there.

Thousands of traders from sub-Saharan African search for good value merchandise in Guangzhou's Overseas Trading Mall. 

Chinese official data shows that in the first nine months of 2014 for instance, a whopping 430,000 people from sub-Saharan Africa entered or left Guangzhou. 

Three years ago a quick survey of residents living in Xiaobei district of Guangzhou revealed that two out of 10 Africans earned at least 30,000 yuan, or approximately $4,800 at that time, a month.

This is more than the average monthly income of a local Chinese worker, which further contradicts allegations of racism toward Africans.

As of April 2020, 15 percent of all foreigners living in Guangzhou are African, according to media reports. 

Today, there are more African students in China than ever before. In 2018, affordable tuition and generous scholarships, saw the number of African students pursuing higher education in China rise to 81,562 from few than 2,000 in 2003.  

The Chinese government has pledged to offer 50,000 scholarships to African students between 2018 and 2021. 

It is therefore no wonder that today, China has the largest number of African international students in the world. These are trends that completely contradict allegations that Africans in China are facing discrimination and racist attacks. 

The author is a Kenya-based journalist.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus