In Guangzhou, a zone with Hongqiao in the center stretches a radius of around 10 kilometers, is called Chocolate Town by taxi drivers.
In this place, there are more Africans than Asians, as English, French and Spanish mixed with Mandarin and Cantonese can usually be heard, scent of perfume can be smelt everywhere, colorful African long gowns are hung on the hangers along the street, and with 20 US dollars you can get yourself a African-style haircut by a barber who’s been to Africa to learn the skill. Picture shows the Africans in the street of Guangzhou.
In 1998, the first batch of Africans settled in Guangzhou, with Hongqiao in the center along Taojin Road, Yuexiu District. Ten years have passed, people in this area count 2% of the whole population of Guangzhou city, including more than 200,000 Africans. In the picture, one African woman is pushing a baby carriage across the foot bridge.
With more and more Africans gathering in this area, view of this city has also been being changed. Many outdoor billboards, LED light boxes are filled with words in English, French, Arabic and Chinese. Service industry including African restaurants or barber shops is sprung up. In the picture there is a photo shop, where the wall is full of pictures the owner took for the customers, some of which show Africans’ life in Guangzhou.
More and more Africans flocked in Guangzhou for the pursuit of fortune, seeking opportunities and dreams. Nelson is one of them, 23, from Nigeria, who used to think Lagos, the most bustling city in Nigeria, heaven until he got to Guangzhou, where he finally thought was the entrance of heaven. In the picture, in the streets of Guangzhou, numerous gold diggers from Africa are here to make their dreams come true.
Every noon, Nelson takes on his huge backpack and drags a trash-collection-bag-like black plastic bag and appears in Jianan clothing mall, where black faces are everywhere to be seen, in an underdone Chinese bargaining with Chinese bosses, spending 10,000 Yuan on 500 pairs of fake Adidas jeans or Armani T-shirts. They take these cheap products back to Africa and sell them. “There are not much factories in Africa. People don’t care about brands. It’s ok to wear clothes as long as it’s not bad.” These are the basis of the business of the African merchants. In the picture, Nelson, the Nigerian merchant is taking escalator in Guangzhou.
There are a lot of Africans like Nelson doing clothing business in Taojin, Guangzhou, which digests the inventory of a large amount of outdated clothing. When talking about those black merchants, Chinese venders always frown as they’ve had it enough for the black people’s bargaining skill. Some reserved 200 pairs of pants but eventually took 10, but the price remained the same. Some stole one more pair from the booth when taking the goods. Many venders don’t even care to learn English, thinking it enough to talk with calculators. In the picture, some African merchants are picking products in a clothes store.
Lacking money, no request for brands, being obsessed in bargaining and adoring low-standard products are features of most African merchants. Africans’ need for cheap products booms the processing factory in suburban Guangzhou. In the picture, one Chinese seller is wiping drivel of a little African baby of an African buyer, as a way of getting close to the customer.
Besides, some African merchants who are doing bigger business would also hire some natives to assist them, creating job opportunities for the local. In the picture, businessman Akochaye from Benin is chatting with his Chinese assistant outside of his storage he rents. Akochaye is a shipping agent, who has registered companies in both China and Benin. He’s been to China for many years, and can speak fluent Chinese.
In China-Africa Trade Town, there are disputes between Chinese merchants and African buyers every day, sometimes the police have to intervene. A security guard in Jianan Trade Town said, it’s hard to understand why some people are so poor but still so aggressive. In the picture, Oct 24, 2010, outside a foreign trade mall in Guangzhou, an African merchant is arguing with police about his identity.
Nelson said he’d got deceived very often, products which were well chosen in china turned out to be of bad quality when arrived at Nigeria, which let him down a lot. Though he stayed in china for not a long time, he’d already learned to be cautious at any time. In the picture, nelson is resting in storage of a small company of Guangzhou, which offers logistics service for African merchants doing business in China. Nelson has packed 10 suits and some cheap cell phones and put them in this storage, and tomorrow will send them to Lagos, capital of Nigeria. When packing, Nelson found 1 suit missing, he’s not sure if it was really missed by accident when transferring the products like the Chinese sellers said. Language barrier and cultural difference make it a lot of misunderstandings and distrust when doing business with each other.
If he didn’t come to China, Nelson would have continued his management of Auto parts retail. He sold tires, steering wheels, and seats from China with a high price. But the sign “made in China” stimulates his yearning for China. With the help of a friend working in Consulate, Nelson took the visa and came to his new home in Guangzhou, starting his Gold Rush Tour. The picture shows that Nelson finished his daily work, and went back home. On his way home, he stopped by to give a little girl begging for change.
“Though we’ve tried hard to fit in this city, we can feel people look at us with a different eye.” Nelson said, “ it’s harder for us to get a taxi than for the locals, many of us got refused to take, or extorted. Sometimes, we have to make the driver think we are heading to the airport to get permitted to get in the cab although we are not really heading to the airport. And of course, the price is much higher. We had to.” In the picture, Reuben from Lobelia is taking a cab to the factory for business.
Many taxi drivers don’t feel like taking Africans for the reason such as too big to get in the car or not able to speak a foreign language. Drivers don’t like the smell of their perfume and their interest in bargaining. “you got to be careful, those Africans like bargaining,” one taxi driver said, “some get in the cab and start playing music, noisy and lousy. Guangzhou is like a melting stove, that’s also why so many black people are here, there won’t be this much in any other cities in China.” In the picture, Chinese and Africans sit separately in food stalls along the street in Guangzhou.
Many people like Nelson sometimes complain about Chinese people’s ruthlessness and dishonesty. But Nelson believes that China is a place of the most opportunities. Though this city doesn’t treat him well, but in here he’s made money that his father had to work hard for 10 years to earn in Africa. In the picture, Nelson is taking a bus home.