China wants African money but wants nothing to do with its people

Economic relations between Africa and China has strengthened over the years as African countries have increasingly shunned the United states and have looked to China for cheaper trade deals, infrastructure and investment. The seemingly symbiotic relations is only cash deep as Guangzhou,  the main manufacturing hub of one of mainland China’s leading commercial and manufacturing regions, placed a ban that would hinder all Africans from checking into the city’s affordable hotels.

In the 1990’s, China’s third richest city witnessed an economic boom that drove the influx of  African traders, creating an African community in the middle of the southern Chinese metropolis. By the 2000s, the Guangzhou’s African population had rapidly increased by 30-40 percent annually, making Guangzhou the largest African community in Asia.

This growing black community angered the Chinese authorities who began enforcing strict immigration policies and as a result, the African population has significantly declined since 2014. This month, Guangzhou placed a hotel ban on all Africans. By order of the police force, all Africans in Guangzhou were banned from staying in hotels within a 50 kilometre radius of the city.

The ban restriction extended to Africans who booked for hotels weeks in Advance before their arrival noting that Africans are no longer wanted and welcome because of a crime an African committed. BBC reported that, Africans were directed to 5 star hotels outside the city, and those who could not afford such luxurious hotels were forced to sleep on the streets. African restaurants were also shut down and Chinese restaurants ordered not to serve African patrons.

However, a statement by the Chinese embassy in Uganda said that “The refusal to allow Africans into budget hotels in Guangzhou is as a result of self made decisions of isolated hotels,” adding that, “No hotels in Guangzhou refuses to take African guests.”

Heated tensions between the African community and Guangzhou led to riots in 2009 and 2012, following series of ill treatment meted on the African community, especially one that resulted in the death of two men fleeing immigration authorities.

In a 2014 Al Jazeera report on African migrants in Guangzhou, Journalist Jennifer Marsh highlighted the plight of African migrants trying to achieve their own Chinese dream in one of China’s most populated southern cities. Marsh writes “While the central government publicly welcomes the migrants, recent draconian visa legislation has sent a clear signal: Africans in China – even highly prosperous, educated economic contributors – are not welcome.” Yet Chinese goods can be seen all over Africa. China’s exports to Africa more than doubled between 2009 and 2014 from $47 billion to $106 billion.

Official figures show that 10,344 Africans were resident in Guangzhou in February 2017. In the same year 50,000 Chinese were recorded to be residing in Angola alone.

Will the Guangzhou mistreatment affect African-China economic relations? Very unlikely.

Economic relations between China and Africa goes way back. While China seeks resources for its growing consumption, African countries seek funds to develop their infrastructure.

With China, Africa finds collaboration, economic assistance, cultural relations and diplomatic support and most importantly cheap loans. China, on the other hand, exploits massive investment opportunities in engineering and construction projects that former U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said “does not bring significant job creation locally” and would cause African economies to “lose control of its own infrastructure or its own resources through default.”

Bilateral trade agreements have been signed between China and 40 countries of the continent. One of such is the currency-swap deal in Nigeria, which is aimed at facilitating enhanced trade between both countries.

In 2000, China-Africa Trade amounted to $10 billion. As at 2011, trade between China and Africa increased more than six-fold during the past decade to $120 billion and by 2014, it had grown to $220 billion. Meanwhile, the first quarter of 2017 alone witnessed a 16.8 percent increase to $38.8 billion in China’s total trade with Africa.

The mistreatment of Africans by the continent’s Chinese friends might be met with no immediate actions, but it surely will affect business in Guangzhou, one of the most prosperous cities in China.