African business, politics and lifestyle
Out of Africa — and into China
At a meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh this month, China promised to double the aid it gives to Africa and even forgive the debt of some of the continent’s poorest countries.
We’ve known for some time that Chinese are migrating to Africa to exploit business opportunities. But it’s perhaps less known that growing numbers of Africans are also moving to China to live and work.
One of the most visible is Vimbayi Kajese, a 28-year-old Zimbabwean who reads the news on China Central Television – or CCTV – and is the country’s first African news presenter.
CCTV 9, also known as CCTV International, is China’s state-run English language channel. As well as China, it’s available in more than 80 countries, of which six are in Africa — an increasingly important audience.
“I’ve been in China for over 3 years now,” Kajese told Reuters Africa Journal. “I came after I graduated from the U.S., and the reason why I came to China was because China is the next upcoming emerging market and definitely is the place to be.”
Kajese is one of an increasing number of young Africans heading to China, where a booming economy and ever-closer ties with Africa are creating opportunities as tempting as any in the West.
Tebogo Lefifi left her job as the CEO of a South African mining and property development firm and came to China. Now on a Chinese-funded scholarship to study Chinese economics, the 34-year-old wants to make sure Africans make the most of China’s growth. But some of that may have to wait until she’s mastered the language.
Lefifi is setting up an organisation for China-Africa discussion and networking in Beijing. Young African Professionals and Students, or YAPS, will eventually help African professionals and companies trying to get ahead in China.
There are also less formal opportunities. Frank Baelongandi, AKA DJ Kefra, has been playing in Beijing clubs for six years. He’s even been pronounced the capital’s best DJ. The 27-year-old from Kinshasa in the DRC originally came to study business, before taking up a residency at Vic’s, one of the capital’s biggest clubs.
“I felt the energy, the opportunity, and I felt the magnitude,” he said. “So I just decided ‘OK I think that’s the place I should stay.’”
China’s African community has grown dramatically in the last decade. Experts estimate as many as 250,000 Africans are in the country at any one time, most of them traders in the thriving south. So it looks like ambitious young Africans are likely to keep heading out of Africa, and into China, in the years to come.