Africa Asia Economy

The Story of Chinese Businessman in Senegal

Cao Qihan was a young man who has just graduated from college. He was as ambitious as other Chinese who ventured the world generations ago.

After rolling a dice, Cao decided his destination, Senegal.

photo by New York Times

Cao was luckier than others. He had relatives in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. He expected it to be an uncivilized and dangerous place. But in fact, it was not that bad.

Cao worked in his relative’s restaurant. Beside it, more than 200 Chinese-owned shops were lining around. Most of those shops sell products for less than 5 dollars.

photo by New York Times

Unlike other attractive Chinatowns all over the world, the one located in Dakar is a charmless place. Most shopkeepers there are from Henan, a central province from China with an uncompetitive economy and dense population.

In China, migrant workers from China were not reputable and regarded with distrust of them worked on low-level jobs.

Zhuhaoming was 58, and he said that it’s the ordinary life for them – venture around the world, settle down at a right place, and gather friends and families.

The pioneer among them came to Dakar 17 years and never left since then. He mentioned the relationship between China and Senegal as producers and consumers.

photo by New York Times

Mr. Zhu owned an artificial flower shop. But he became the dominant power in Dakar’s wholesale market for low-cost consumer goods.

For Senegal, they don’t post attractive policies for potential foreign businessmen. But the ease of getting vias still attracts many Chinese although they have their concern about Africa.

Newly arrived Chinese usually work for the wholesaler they knew back in China. Then, after gathering enough money, they started to operate their own business.

photo by New York Times

Life was also not easy in Dakar. People worked all day making limited profits. After returning home, they still have to suffer from loneliness. Men often come Dakar by themselves. Even for those bring their wife with them, they still left their children in China for their grandparents.

It was a normal afternoon in Dakar. With the hot wind blowing on the street, bored shopkeepers are watching Chinese movies on their phone and Senegalese workers are chatting.

Bosses are complaining about their business in Senegal. Too many competitors and too few consumers are making the business hard to survive. In addition, the cost of buying those products are also rising, making the business’s life even tougher.

photo by New York Times

Mr Wang said that Senegalese are having less money to spend which makes the problem even worse. Pilfering is also not rare there but the local police is indifferent about it.

But what those Chinese in Senegal most worried about is the family they left behind back in China. Mr. Wang said that his concern was mostly his son who couldn’t receive enough accompany from his father during his grow up.

For Senegalese, the coming of Chinese are not that pleasing for them. Local businesses, especially those low-end ones, faced severe problems.

Jean was a local holding another opinion. He said that pointed out that the Senegal market has a strong dependency on Chinese made products.

But for ordinary Senegalese, they do have legitimate concerns about Chines, from low payment to the exploitation of resources.

Some Senegalese claimed that they had nothing similar to Chinese and the only reason for Chinese coming to Senegal is for money.

However, most Senegalese had a positive feeling about Chinese coming to Senegal. It’s undeniable that Chinese people brought valid development to local. New roads, theaters, equipment, those things improved life there.

There is also another fact that Chinese and Senegalese seemed to be living in two separate worlds. There is a minimal marriage between Chinese and Senegalese.

Mr. Wu mentioned that to settle in Africa, Chinese people need to choose the location wisely. He talked about his reason for moving to Dakar – having unpleasant experiences in other countries.

The content was summarized from an article written by Sergey Ponomarev published in The New York Times.

The link to the original article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/world/africa/chinese-merchants-thrive-in-senegal-where-people-needed-stuff.html

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