Africans in Guangzhou

This article is about the community in Guangzhou, China. For other uses, see Africatown (disambiguation).
Africans in Guangzhou
Total population
(16,000 residents (2014)[1]
4,000 long-term residents (2014)[2]
Unknown number of visa overstayers[3])
English, French, Igbo, Bambara and other African languages

Africans in Guangzhou (Chinese: 广州黑人) are emigrants from Africa residing in Guangzhou, China for short and long term periods. Since China's late 1990s economic boom, thousands of African traders and business people, predominantly from West Africa, migrated to the city of Guangzhou, creating an African community in the middle of the southern Chinese metropolis.[4]

This influx of Africans to Guangzhou—a new phenomenon in China—has been met with mixed reactions from the local populace and has resulted in open discussion on racism, xenophobia, and immigration—a novelty in modern China.


The southern end of Baohan Straight Street, the heart of the African area, Dengfeng Subdistrict, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
Africans in Guangzhou, 2014.

In the 2000s, the city's African population rapidly increased with a 2008 news report stating the number of African residents had increased by 30% to 40% annually, making Guangzhou the largest African community in Asia.[5]

Since then the African population has declined. A 2014 article in the magazine This Is Africa noted the decrease in population, citing lower demand for Chinese imports in Africa and increased immigration enforcement by local police as reasons.[6]

Prompted by popular fears of an Ebola outbreak in 2014, Guangzhou authorities in October released official data on the size of the African community. According to the city, there are 16,000 Africans including North Africans residing in Guangzhou.[1] Of these residents, 4,000 were long term residents, which is defined by city officials as living for longer than 6 months in the city.[2]

Among African nationalities, the two countries with by far the most people in Guangzhou are the West African nations of Nigeria and Mali.[3] Nigerian Igbo people[7][8] are most represented among those residing while Malians according to city records are most numerous among long term residents.[2][3] Migrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, and Senegal are the remaining African communities in Guangzhou with at least a few hundred registered members at country-based civic organizations.[3]

In addition 430,000 arrivals and exits by nationals from African countries were recorded at the city's checkpoints in the first nine months of 2014. Most of these hundreds of thousands of arrivals are short term visitors making a purchasing run.[1]


Since China's economic boom in the 1990s, thousands mostly from West Africa went to China.[4] Most chose to reside in Guangzhou because of its wholesale trading markets supplied by nearby factories.

Professor Ma Qiang noted that many African immigrants congregated around one area of town primarily because large numbers of Muslims, which are said to make up around half of Guangzhou's African population, settled around areas where halal food is served.[9] Thus areas Baohan Straight Street, an alley street in the Yuexiu District, which were originally inhabited by Chinese Muslims from places such as Ningxia and Xinjiang, is the central point of the African community.

Clashes with police

Conflict between the African community and police in Guangzhou resulted in incidents. In July 2009, a Nigerian man died after jumping several floors from a building in an attempt to flee Chinese immigration authorities.[10] On July 15, 2009, hundreds of Africans, mostly Nigerian, demonstrated at the local Public Security Bureau station, shutting down eight lanes of traffic on a major thoroughfare for several hours.[10][11] In June 2012, an African held in police custody after a taxi fare dispute died after "suddenly losing consciousness", according to police.[12] Hundreds of Africans gathered at the police station in question and clashed with the police.[12]

Immigration issues

Some Africans have applied for permanent residency or work permits, but they are the minority. Many are traders on tourist visas engaged in import-export between China and Africa.[4]

Many Africans in Guangzhou have overstayed their visas or are using false passports, causing local police to conduct frequent visa inspections. Some Africans say that overstaying in China is inevitable because it is impossible to finish off the business they had come for within a 30-day time frame and they cannot afford a plane ticket home.[4]


Guangdong anti-drug officials assert that most drug dealers in the province are from Africa or the Middle East.[13][14] Anti-drug officials quoted by US diplomats in a 2007 diplomatic cable described linguistic difficulties faced by the police in countering African drug dealers, noting some dealers used languages like Igbo, a Nigerian language that police had no capability for understanding.[13]

A Guangzhou police raid on a drug ring located in the city's Yuexiu District in 2013 led to the arrest of 168 suspects, most of whom were described by police as citizens of Nigeria and Mali.[15]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dengfeng Subdistrict.


Further reading

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