How Chinese Traders Both Help and Hurt Local Merchants in Ghana

A China in Africa Podcast

It is well documented that a lot of people in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa resent the growing Chinese migrant presence, in terms of both the people who come into their countries and the Chinese way of doing business that is often culturally out of sync with local customs.

Those perceptions, however, can be misleading.

While an influx of Chinese business people in places like Accra, the capital of Ghana, have brought new, intense competition for local merchants and suppliers, they have also helped to lower prices for consumers. Other merchants, who buy wholesale, appreciate the new competition from Chinese traders because prices are also lower for them as well. And landlords in Accra’s Central Business District aren’t complaining either about the arrival of Chinese business people, given that rents have gone up.

Kwaku Dankwah, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Adelaide in Australia, studies the impact of the growing presence of Chinese merchants in Ghana and the reactions this new immigrant group provokes from consumers and business owners. Together with Marko Valenta from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, he co-wrote a paper on the subject: “Chinese Entrepreneurial Migrants in Ghana: Socioeconomic Impacts and Ghanaian Trader Attitudes.”

Kwaku joins Eric and Cobus to discuss why the Chinese merchant presence in Accra’s Central Business District is both reviled and welcomed, sometimes even by the same people.

He argues that the influx of Chinese business owners in places like Accra provides both opportunities and challenges for local competitors? Should Ghana do more to encourage Chinese investors to migrate there, or crack down and limit immigration?