Tuesday, June 17, 2008

“Chocolate City” - Africans seek their dreams in China

“巧克力城”——非洲人寻梦中国 trans. by Blogging for China:

Clem quickly cuts through the flow of car traffic, like the fish you can never catch. He hesistated when he saw the Southern Metropolis reporter, but finally crossed the road using the pedestrian bridge nearby. He embarassedly stuck out his tongue, saying: “Sorry, I still don’t have the habit of waiting for traffic lights and crossing at pedestrian bridges.” When he’s warned that “Guangzhou’s public security isn’t very good, be careful with your backpack”, his eyes open wide with shock. “Are you joking? Public security here is the best!”

25 year old Clem comes from Nigeria. Before, he saw Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, as heaven. But after he arrived in Guangzhou, he felt he truly stood at the gate to heaven; China is the true heaven.

Africans are finding Guangzhou, China to be a new land of opportunity with goods to be moved and fortunes to be gained. They gather in China-Africa commerce malls and load up on inexpensive goods, knock-offs and tails, products that don't pass inspection, sold on the cheap. And the prices are ridiculously cheap: Dolce and Gabbana jeans are 20 RMB (3 USD), Gucci high-heels and purse together for 100 RMB (15 USD)... as long as it has the proper logo, it's good to go back home, regardless of its provenance.

The Africans, predominantly Nigerians, live in village-districts in the city of Guangdong, collectively known as Chocolate City. The conditions are comparatively good and healthy profits are promised to the clever speculator.

However, along with vibrant commerce, there emerge the inevitable problems of racism, language barriers, cultural clashes and annoyances. The Africans are predictably marginalized and long-term visitors find little meaningful social interaction outside of their own social groups. But life is life and business is business, so things move along at their paces and most shrug it off and find a way to make it work. The options, for most, back home, are non-existent.

I thought this was an fascinating shoes-on-the-ground account-- a thin slice of the global economy in action. Things aren't always right or for the best but we always manage to chug along and find our way through it.

They'll get used to each other after a while, for the most part. There will always be incorrigible, subtle and unwitting racists and xenophobes among us, it's hardwired into us on many levels. We have to accept this for what it is and try to find a way to move beyond it, universally. There is too much important work to do to get bogged down in all that business of hate and disdain. Let's keep our disputes personal and amongst politicians.

It happens when each individual person treats each individual person as a fellow human being, every time, every day.

via Danwei

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