The Africans making it big in China

The Africans making it big in China
Ali Diallo, a trader from Guinea, is pictured at his shop in Hong Kong's Chungking Mansions on August 31, 2013. He is part of a growing number of African entrepreneurs thriving in southern China, as trade between the world's second-largest economy and fastest-growing continent soars.

HONG KONG, Sept 19, 2013 - From a windowless room in a dilapidated Hong Kong high-rise, Ali Diallo sells Chinese electronics to retailers across Africa. The modest surroundings belie the multi-million dollar business the West African trader has built in the five years since he moved to the city.

The 39-year-old from Guinea is part of a growing number of African entrepreneurs thriving in southern China, as trade between the world's second-largest economy and fastest-growing continent soars.

Sitting in a small room cluttered with cardboard boxes destined for Nigeria, Diallo welcomes the latest delivery of Chinese-made mobile phones to his office in Chungking Mansions - a bustling labyrinth better known for budget hotels and no-frills restaurants.

The building is also the go-to place in Hong Kong for African buyers in search of cheap electronics, with phones selling from around $8 each.

"In China there are opportunities for people who can start from scratch and build up their own business. Obviously not in one day but through hard work and networking you can do it," says the trader, whose company sees an annual turnover of $11 million a year through the sale of phones and tablets alone.

Trade between China and Africa hit new highs of nearly $200 billion last year, according to official Chinese data, driven by Chinese industry's appetite for African raw materials.

The African traders in southern China are the flipside of this deepening relationship. Entrepreneurs like Diallo have made Chungking Mansions one of the most important passageways for Chinese gadgets air-freighted to Africa.

According to Gordon Mathews, professor of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, up to a fifth of all mobiles in Africa have passed through the building's corridors in recent years.

But while this 17-storey hive is the storefront, the engines behind this trade lie in the industrial heartland of neighbouring Guangdong province in southern China.

This mecca for low-cost manufacturing has drawn entrepreneurs from across Africa, creating one of the largest black communities in Asia.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.