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[vlogs] Being Black in China: ‘We Are Africa… in China’

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[blogs] South Africa Week Beijing: Media Appreciation and Launch

By Wadeisor Rukato for From Africa to China

On the afternoon of Friday 9 September 2016, Ms Tebogo Lefifi addressed a room full of journalists and media practitioners as she opened the official launch of South Africa Week at the South African Embassy in Beijing. Hosted collaboratively by the South African Embassy, Brand South Africa and South African Tourism, the inaugural South Africa Week event series ran over four days from the 9th to the 13th of September. It brought together South African companies in China, importers and distributors of South African products in China and other friends of South Africa together to showcase the country. The event series was dedicated to unpacking South Africa’s complex relationship with China, and showcasing South African culture through food, wine, teas and dance. From Africa to China was fortunate enough to receive a media invite to South Africa Week and to cover some of its events. In a three-post series, we will share what we heard, learned and saw, with the purpose of explaining what South Africa Week 2016 was and why it is important!

South Africa Week Beijing: Day 1

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I arrived at the South African Embassy in Beijing on the afternoon of Friday the 9th of September to cover the Media Appreciation and official launch of South Africa Week 2016. Organised by the South African Embassy,Brand South Africa, South African Tourism and South African Airways, the event was specifically dedicated to honouring the media and the positive role it has played in facilitating and showcasing South Africa-China relations.

Once everyone was seated, Ms Tebogo Lefifi took to the podium. “Until the lion tells his own story, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” she began. The invocation of this well-known African proverb was incredibly fitting. It reflected the importance of honest and balanced reporting by journalists who cover South Africa-China relations, as well as the need for South Africans and Africans to be at the forefront of reporting on how South Africa interacts with China. The guests in attendance spanned a wide range of different publications, most of them from China. The Beijing Review and China Business News were among the many media publications that had reporters and staff at the Media Appreciation that afternoon.

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Ms Tebogo Lefifi opens the inaugural South Africa Week Media Appreciation event. Image by Uchenna Onyishi.
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From right to left: HE Dr D. Msimang, (South African Ambassador to China); Ms R. Mashaba (Minister Plenipotentiary); Ms Tebogo Lefifi (Brand South Africa China Country Manager). Image by Uchenna Onyishi.

In her address, Her Excellency Ambassador Dolana Msimang began by emphasising how the relationship between South Africa and the Chinese media is a “two-way street”. She was specifically referring to the mutual reliance between the two parties, with the South African Embassy and Brand South Africa providing access to content for the purpose of balanced and accurate reporting, and media practitioners  using this content to write stories and disseminate information. HE Ambassador Msimang made it clear that the South African Embassy in Beijing remained open to cultivating a strong relationship with the media and that its doors were “always open”.

 

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Representatives from the media in Beijing take notes as HE Dr D. Msimang delivers her briefing. Image by Uchenna Onyishi.

In order to bolster the ability of the reporters in attendance to write thoroughly on the event, HE Ambassador Msimang provided a concise overview of both the state of affairs in South Africa and the state of South Africa’s relations with China. She also made sure to mention why, for many reasons, 2016 is an auspicious year for South Africa. For example, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing into law of the South African constitution. It is also the 20th anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the 40th anniversary of the June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising in 1976. 2016 also marks the 60-year commemoration of the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria during Apartheid. The Ambassador’s highlighting of these historical landmarks for South Africa underpinned the spirit in which South Africa week was launched that afternoon. [KEEP READING HERE]

[Entertainment] West Africans & their budding ‘China-made’ entertainment industry

“Rolling with NAK is a new tv talk show hosted by China-based Sierra Leone’s Neneh Ada Yang. Ada is an artiste, fashion designer, host, painter, collector and mum. Ada also has a foundation in China, Sierra leone, US and some other countries which supports the less privileged. The talk show is produced by her and hopes to have top dignitaries and celebrities based in China and those that are on tour in the country.”

[Reporting Grants] Women and Africa-China Relations: Themed Reporting Grants 2016

The existing discourse on Africa-China relations lacks substantial coverage of the role of women both as the subjects and actors/decision-makers/agents. So the China-Africa Reporting Project (the Project) and From Africa to China are jointly commissioning a series of Themed Grants aimed at reviewing how women are effecting and affected by China-Africa relations. The grants are open to female journalists from Africa and China. 

The Project will publish the resulting articles in a series of briefings and may also invite contributors to participate in discussion activities. From Africa to China will publish each article and document the process of producing the articles in collaboration with the journalists. All selected journalists will be free to submit their work for publishing independently.

To apply see the section below “How to apply”.

Reporting themes

The Action Plan for 2016-2018 released after the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Johannesburg in 2015 highlights three commitments directly related to women and women & children: Gender equality; employment and self-development; and poverty reduction.

For each of these commitments outlined in the Action Plan, China has committed to work together with African states for the empowerment of women. Yet there is insignificant reporting on Africa-China relations in the context of women, and a lack of female voices telling stories about Africa-China relations.

Via these Themed Grants, the Project and From Africa to China seeks to commission female journalists to produce investigative features and articles exploring one of the following themes:

  • Employment and self-development for women:
    • Vocational and technical training facilities
    • Training of 200,000 local African vocational and technical personnel and providing Africa with 40,000 training opportunities in China
  • Resource mobilisation and poverty reduction:
    • To what extent have African states and China mobilized resources (including non-governmental organizations) to implement 200 “Happy Life” projects in Africa?
    • How successfully have poverty reduction programmes focusing on women and children been implemented by African states and China?
  • Exchanges on gender equality and practical cooperation on women and gender affairs:
    • Dialogues between female leaders, seminars, skills training, human capacity development and cultural exchanges
  • Other broader thematic areas:
    • The role of women as actors who are influencing Africa-China relations at both state/leadership and grassroots levels
    • The effects of Africa-China relations on women at both state/leadership and grassroots levels
    • The roles of female practitioners (academics, scholars, politicians, business leaders, journalists) in reporting Africa-China relations

How to apply

Female Chinese and African journalists interested in applying for this Themed Grants series should send a proposal containing all the items listed below to fromafricatochina@gmail.com by no later than September 25.

Applications must contain:

  • Draft title of the feature to be produced, including clear indication of which theme listed above to be pursued and relevance to the role of women in Africa-China relations
  • Brief proposal of the topic and methodology and further supporting information
  • Budget in US dollars (or rands if in South Africa) with clear itemized expenditure, within the total falling within the range US$350 to US$1,500
  • Indication of where applicant intends to publish the article
  • Applicant CV and list of previous China-Africa publications (if any)

Applicants are also encouraged to review the Project’s reporting grant guidelines and adhere to them as much as possible. 

About From Africa to China

Screen Shot 2016-09-23 at 2.18.53 pm.pngFrom Africa to China is an online platform run by four women from Africa who experienced Beijing while pursuing MA degrees in China studies at Peking University. The purpose of the platform is to unpack Africa-China relations through a mixture of research-based content and reflections on daily life in China from the perspective of a young African woman. Beyond advancing storytelling on Africa-China relations from the perspective of young Africans, From Africa to China specifically aims to contribute a considerably lacking female voice to the discourse on Africa-China relations.

 

[Media report] A Canton, «même les Chinois se sont mis à parler lingala et bambara»

Par Alix Norman, envoyée spéciale à Canton – Liberation.fr

L’eldorado chinois a laissé place à la désillusion pour les Africains expatriés, confrontés au racisme et à un climat économique difficile.

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A Canton, «même les Chinois se sont mis à parler lingala et bambara»

Torse nu, les muscles saillants, deux jeunes Chinois lancent de lourds ballots de chaussettes et de tee-shirts, comprimés à la presse. Sous le plafond de cet immense entrepôt de Canton, un semi-remorque attend, conteneur ouvert. Dehors, sous un soleil de plomb, une vendeuse de fruits fait résonner la sonnette de son triporteur, en vain. «Avant, la cour était remplie de conteneurs prêts à partir», soupire Moustapha Dieng, le patron. Sous-officier dans l’armée de l’air sénégalaise, il a tout lâché au début des années 2000 pour tenter l’aventure en Asie. Il fait de l’export de vêtements à Bangkok quand, en 2003, il entend parler de la Chine.«Au début, je prenais le bus au hasard, j’allais voir des usines de jeans, de chaussures. Les prix étaient tellement bas ! La qualité était très mauvaise, j’ai fait venir des échantillons de Thaïlande pour l’améliorer. J’ai fermé Bangkok, mes clients m’ont suivi. C’était l’eldorado.» Un business porté par la multiplication par vingt des échanges commerciaux bilatéraux entre l’Afrique et la Chine depuis 2000, atteignant 220 milliards de dollars en 2015.

Dieng apprend le chinois, fait venir sa famille, embauche, étend ses activités aux matériaux de construction et aux meubles. «Jusqu’en 2014, j’envoyais environ 180 conteneurs par mois en Afrique. Maintenant, c’est 120, 100, parfois moins. Le loyer de l’entrepôt a doublé en dix ans, les taxes augmentent. Quand je suis arrivé, les ouvriers chinois étaient payés 100 ou 150 euros, aujourd’hui c’est 400 minimum.» Un acquis social qui n’arrange pas ses affaires. Il se réoriente peu à peu dans le transport maritime, sa famille rentre à Dakar : «Ça devenait difficile de payer l’école française pour les quatre enfants, plus de 10 000 euros par an chacun.» Son employée chinoise, qui avait appris le wolof, est partie avec le fichier clients pour monter sa propre affaire. «Le Sénégal construit des zones industrielles pour attirer les Chinois et privilégier les circuits courts. Si on ne s’adapte pas, c’est fini pour nous ici», analyse l’entrepreneur de 54 ans.

«Chocolate City»

Il aurait pu louer des bureaux plus chics, mais il a préféré rester dans le quartier de Xiaobei. «Chocolate City», comme l’appellent sans vergogne les Cantonais, est un monde à part, quelques rues quadrillées de passerelles pour piétons et de ponts autoroutiers. Des fillettes métisses, yeux bridés et tresses multicolores, tiennent la main à leur mère en talons aiguilles, des gamins maliens s’apostrophent en cantonais. L’enseigne d’un restaurant clignote en français : «Notre restaurant musulman se félicite de votre venue.» Le patron est pakistanais, les clients arabes, africains. Un Kurde irakien commande en turc les pains ronds odorants qui sortent du four à bois d’un boulanger ouïghour, minorité musulmane de l’ouest de la Chine. Sur les étals, le manioc côtoie les fruits du dragon.

Au McDo, deux Allemandes chargées de paquets mangent une glace. D’origine congolaise, elles importent des accessoires pour les coiffeurs afro de Cologne. «Tout le commerce vers l’Afrique part du Guangdong [la province de Canton, ndlr]. Même les Chinois se sont mis à parler lingala et bambara. Mais tout est devenu plus cher, on nous fait des problèmes pour les visas alors qu’on vient avec du cash, beaucoup de cash. Ce matin, une Angolaise se plaignait de n’avoir amené “que” 24 000 dollars, au lieu de 100 000 habituellement, à cause de la crise là-bas, causée par la chute du prix du pétrole.» Comme beaucoup d’autres, elles pensent prospecter au Bangladesh, où les salaires sont réputés quatre fois moins élevés, au Vietnam, voire en Turquie : «C’est plus cher mais on est mieux traités.» D’autres s’installent dans des provinces chinoises plus reculées, où les salaires n’ont pas encore augmenté. «Ici, quand tu fais fabriquer une ligne de vêtements d’après un modèle commandé à un créateur africain, renchérit une femme d’affaires à la table voisine, tu as à peine tourné le dos que le patron de l’usine en fabrique 5 000 pour son propre compte et inonde le marché.» A Xiaobei, les magasins de boubous sont désormais tenus par des Chinois.

«La police fait des descentes»

Immigration visible, le nombre d’Africains à Canton est sujet à toutes les élucubrations, la presse locale n’hésitant pas à les estimer à 300 000, additionnant allégrement toutes les entrées et sorties du territoire annuelles. Au moment de l’épidémie d’Ebola de 2014, la municipalité avait recensé 16 000 Africains, dont 4 000 résidents longue durée. Mais le racisme a la vie dure, alimenté par les préjugés et les activités d’une petite minorité vivotant de trafic de drogue et de prostitution, une fois le visa d’étudiant ou de tourisme épuisé. «Quand un Africain entre dans un ascenseur, les gens se bouchent le nez. Une fois, on n’a pas voulu me louer un appartement», raconte Moustapha Dieng.

Au premier étage d’une galerie marchande, des Africains discutent politique internationale autour d’un mafé poisson. Les plats, «préparés à la maison», sont servis par l’employée chinoise d’un beauty parlour,aidée par un jeune Guinéen rigolard. Les uns vivent là, les autres font des allers-retours. Tous sautent d’une langue à l’autre, chinois, français, anglais, langues africaines, et se retrouvent le samedi soir dans les «maquis», ces restaurants typiquement africains, où il y a toujours une fête nationale à arroser jusqu’à l’aube. Et tous déplorent «le business devenu difficile».

Dans les trois étages du Elephant Mall, la plupart des boutiques sont abandonnées. Une coiffeuse se désole : «Je fais des allers-retours depuis cinq ans. Mais c’est la dernière fois. On est trop maltraités, surveillés par la police, et méprisés.» Chacun semble avoir une mésaventure à raconter : corruption, conteneur bloqué au port, ordinateurs saisis, livreurs noirs harcelés… «C’est devenu compliqué d’obtenir les visas,explique Isidore, jeune secrétaire de l’association des Congolais et exportateur de matériel informatique. Les loyers montent, les tracasseries aussi. Je n’ai plus le droit d’héberger mes clients, ils doivent aller à l’hôtel, et la police fait des descentes pour vérifier. Avant, on était 2 000 Congolais, on n’est plus que 452.» De l’autre côté du boulevard trône la tour Tianxiu, gratte-ciel rose et décrépit. Showrooms, appartements, restaurants clandestins – parfois tout à la fois – s’y superposent. Un pasteur salue ses ouailles dans l’ascenseur. L’un d’eux, Felly Mwamba, a installé ses bureaux au 26e étage. Solide gaillard, une croix en bois sur son tee-shirt noir, il parle à toute vitesse en cantonais sur ses deux téléphones entre ses rendez-vous. «L’intégration est un combat. Ce n’est pas dirigé contre nous, c’est dans l’idéologie de la Chine de défendre ses intérêts. Les gouvernements africains devraient faire pareil. Je suis là depuis douze ans, je paye un loyer, des impôts, un comptable. Et on ne me propose rien, ni crédit à la banque, ni nationalité, ni permis de travail permanent. Même me marier avec une Chinoise est un problème.» Seuls 400 couples mixtes se seraient mariés depuis vingt ans.

«Concurrence déloyale»

Le Malien Thiam Younous, logisticien arrivé en 2002, ne décolère pas.«Au début, on était les bienvenus. Rien n’existait, on a été à la base du développement des échanges commerciaux avec l’Afrique. J’ai organisé la structure d’exportation, travaillé dur, créé des emplois. Depuis la réforme du travail en 2008, on affronte une concurrence déloyale. Quand j’achète en France, mon fournisseur me soutient. Ici, il me double.» Adams Bodomo, chercheur à l’université de Vienne sur la diaspora africaine, relativise : «Qu’ils se plaignent de la manière dont les traite la police de Canton, je comprends, j’ai été moi-même maltraité une fois. Mais ceux qui pleurent sur la compétition chinoise devraient plutôt réorienter leur stratégie.»

De nouveaux Africains arrivent, alléchés par les promesses d’intermédiaires véreux, mais faute de petits boulots, seuls les plus débrouillards réussissent. Roberto Castillo, professeur au département des études africaines de l’Université de Hongkong, confirme : «On est dans une phase de transformation. La stricte politique d’immigration affecte tous les étrangers, pas seulement les Africains. Les meilleures années semblent passées, mais il y a encore beaucoup d’opportunités. La plus ancienne génération de Nigérians est encore en ville, et au taquet sur les affaires. L’histoire est loin d’être finie.» En témoigne le sac à dos d’un changeur chinois clandestin, plein à craquer de grosses coupures en euros et en dollars, comme aux plus beaux jours.

[Film] Nollywood’s dream of Asia: ‘Malaysian Money’

A great representation of what happens in the stories of many West Africans before they make it to Asia. Although this film is about travelling to Malaysia, the family situation is very similar before coming to China. Enjoy!

Au revoir Canton: Are Africans pursuing their ‘China Dream’ in other Chinese cities?

As the global media apparatus is full on building a narrative of ‘Africans leaving China’, it’s important to keep in mind that besides Guangzhou there are other cities like Yiwu and Wuhan with significant African populations. 

Global Times: As Guangzhou African community shrinks, other Chinese cities see growing numbers

Yiwu, home to the world’s biggest wholesale market, is also becoming a hub for China-Africa trade as its African community thrives. Many African traders regard Yiwu as their second home, as they are given opportunities to participate in the city’s affairs, enjoy a high level of religious freedom, and are treated with respect by law enforcement officers.

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Senegalese businessman Sourakhata Tirera sits in his office in Yiwu. Photo: Zhang Yu/GT

 

Sitting in his office in Yiwu, East China’s Zhejiang Province, Sourakhata Tirera, a Senegalese businessman, shifts easily between Chinese, French and his mother tongue Soninke to answer phone calls from his suppliers, partners and employees.

A successful businessman who has lived in the city since 2007, Tirera, known by locals as his Chinese name “Sula,” is now a proud representative of the thriving African community in Yiwu.

The local government put up a poster with his face on it in the train station and on billboards alongside the city’s main road, as a way to laud his entrepreneurial spirit but also to showcase the city’s embrace of foreign traders.

While Guangzhou was the first Chinese city to receive large numbers of African traders and still boasts the country’s biggest African community, experts say it is increasingly losing its leading position to Yiwu, which is becoming China’s model international and multicultural trade city.

While recent reports show that the number of Africans in Guangzhou is gradually shrinking, Yiwu’s African population is on the rise. “When [Africans] leave Guangzhou, some leave China but some go to other places in China, like Yiwu. Those that leave Guangzhou leave because, among other things, they want to find better opportunities in other parts of China and elsewhere,” Adams Bodomo, Professor of African Studies at the University of Vienna and author of 2012 book Africans in China, told the Global Times.

The exact number of Africans living in Yiwu, which sits in the manufacturing hub of East China’s Zhejiang Province, is hard to come by. Local authorities estimate that about 80,000 African traders visit Yiwu each year, in addition to about 3,000 traders from over 50 African countries who have settled in the city of some 1.2 million. But experts say the number of Africans living in the city may be as high as 30,000.

Yiwu is also playing a growing role in China-Africa trade. In 2015, Yiwu exported 48.21 billion yuan ($7.24 billion) of commodities to Africa, a 50.9 percent year-on-year increase.

Walking on Yiwu’s streets, it’s impossible to miss the African presence. In Yiwu International Trade City, Moroccan women wearing headscarves and robes bargain with local shop owners through the medium of calculators and broken English. Nigerian traders gather outside logistics companies as they pack bags of underwear into cartons which are about to be shipped. At night, businessmen from North Africa relax in the city’s many halal restaurants, as they smoke hookah pipes after a day’s work. And on Friday, the area near the mosque by the Yiwu river, one of the largest mosques in China, buzzes with Chinese Muslims and traders from North Africa and the Middle East, who flock to the mosque to pray. [KEEP READING HERE]