China Was Once a Hot Destination for African Migrants, Not Any More

A China in Africa Podcast

It was not that long ago that entire neighborhoods in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou were overflowing with African migrants. Although there are no precise figures, scholars estimated that between 20,000-100,000 African immigrants used to live in Guangzhou, or as it is glibly known, “chocolate city.”

Today, those same neighborhoods, once filled with halal food shops and other stores that catered to China’s African migrants, have been completely transformed, or as the Chinese government prefers to characterize it, “beautified.” Across Guangzhou, there are ever-mounting pressures on African migrants that are prompting more and more to just pack up and leave.

Although Guangzhou’s urban planning agenda and tighter immigration controls may be partially responsible for the displacement of the African migrant community, experts believe that the P.R.C.’s changing economy is more likely the main reason as to why the African population is rapidly disappearing. The harsh reality is that it is a lot more expensive to do business in China today than it was just a couple of years ago. With the standard of living in many of China’s major cities comparable to those of many parts of Europe, it is much more expensive to live and do business in places like Guangzhou today than it was even just a couple of years ago.

Hong Kong-based journalist Jenni Marsh has been covering the African communities in China for several years, first for the South China Morning Post and now as a producer for CNN International. She recently published a multi-media report on the growing number of African migrants who have given up on the Chinese dream. Jenni joins Eric and Cobus to discuss what’s behind the new phenomenon known as “U-Turning,” where thousands of African migrants are leaving China to return home.