Africans in Guangzhou

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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] with an unknown significant number of visa overstayers[2]
English, French, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Swahili, and other African languages

Africans in Guangzhou are immigrants from Africa to Guangzhou, China, primarily in the Yuexiu and Baiyun districts. Since China's late 1990s economic boom, thousands of African traders and businesspeople, predominantly from West Africa, migrated to the city of Guangzhou, creating an African community in the middle of the southern Chinese metropolis.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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 African residents in Guangzhou.[1] 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 of Africans—mostly from Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—came to China.[3] Most chose to reside in Guangzhou due to its factories and other manufacturing facilities.

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.[6] Thus areas such as Xiaobei, which were originally inhabited by Chinese Muslims from places such as Ningxia and Xinjiang, became the natural setting for Muslims from Africa to settle.

Clashes with police[edit]

Conflict between the African community and police in Guangzhou resulted in incidents. In the July 2009, a Nigerian man died after jumping several floors from a building in an attempt to flee Chinese immigration authorities.[7] 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.[7][8] In June 2012, an African held in police custody after a taxi fare dispute died after "suddenly losing consciousness", according to police.[9] Hundreds of Africans gathered at the police station in question and clashed with the police.[9]

Immigration issues[edit]

Some Africans have applied for permanent residency or work permits, but they are the minority. Many are in China on tourist visas. Many are traders who deal Chinese goods produced locally for resale both in China and back in Africa.[3]

Because many Africans in Guangzhou have reportedly overstayed their visas or are using false passports, suspicious local police have been conducting arbitrary visa inspections more frequently. Some Africans say that overstaying in China is inevitable because it is impossible to finish off the business they had came for within a 30-day time frame and they cannot afford a plane ticket home.[3]


Guangdong anti-drug officials assert that most drug dealers in the province are from Africa or the Middle East.[10][11] 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.[10]

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.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Zhuang, Pinghui (November 1, 2014). "Guangzhou clarifies size of African community amid fears over Ebola virus". 
  2. ^ "How many Africans are there in Guangzhou". November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d Schiller, Bill (2009-08-01). "Big trouble in China's Chocolate City". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  4. ^ Pan, Xiaobo (2008-01-23). "Chocolate City - Africans searching for the Chinese Dream". Southern Weekend. 
  5. ^ "Going east: African migrants head for China". This is Africa. February 2014. 
  6. ^ Zhen Jinghui (2009-09-11). "非洲黑人在广州 Black People in Guangzhou". Nanfengchuang. Retrieved 2011-09-06. 
  7. ^ a b "Africans protest in Guangzhou after passport checks". China Daily. July 16, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Africans Protest in Guangzhou (Video)". Toronto Star. 2009-07-30. 
  9. ^ a b "Protest in China over Guangzhou death in custody". BBC News. 20 June 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "07GUANGZHOU946_a". Wikileaks. 
  11. ^ Wang, Huazhong (2010-06-26). "More foreigners involved in drug trafficking cases". China Daily. 
  12. ^ "Guangzhou police smash West African-led drugs ring". Dongguan Today. 2013-08-15.