Some time ago I linked to this story about the appearance of a Chinatown in Algiers. I was quite aware of Chinese communities in sub-Saharan and Eastern Africa due to China’s investment of funds, trained labour and technology into the region. But the development of these communities in North African nations was news to me.
And the Algerian government is not capitalizing on their presence as they could be. It seems that all foreigners are only allowed to stay for three months at a time meaning that these newly established entrepreneurs have to take a quick trip out of the country four times a year. I don’t know about the status of their children who are born in the country. I suspect there will be pressure to change laws like that to allow longer term visas and allow renewing from inside Algeria. But it just goes to demonstrate how many unnoticed immigration stories are playing out in the greater world.
By way of example, while Chinese communities are created in Africa, African ones can be found growing in China. Evan Osnos writes for a New Yorker slide show on a “Nigeriatown” in the Chinese city of Guangzhou (H/T Africa Unchained).
The traditional concerns about newcomers will no doubt arise about both the African Chinese and the Chinese Africans. In Canada, during the late 1980’s and the 1990’s I remember significant concerns being raised about Chinese immigrants to certain Canadian cities being too numerous. They were supposed to have such a high fertility rate and rate of immigration that there would be an unmanageably fast transition. It was said that they could not learn English fast enough because of their population density and they kept to themselves too much. Those who raised these concerns were labeled racists. Some were but for the most part this charge was grossly unfair. They were concerned about the cultural and linguistic strains that a rapid transition would put on their society. Now the Chinese population of the west coast of Canada is inter-marrying with the European and other racial and ethnic groups at an astonishing rate and Chinese parents enroll their kids in Chinese language classes to try to preserve some competency in Mandarin or Cantonese while Chinese immigration rates shrink and East Indian rates grow. Canada is not going to become China version 2.0 any more than Africa will become China or vice versa.
But with a growing global middle class, now over 50 percent of the Earth’s population, (a rising trend that has reduced in speed on occasion but never significantly reversed in the last hundred years) including the growing professional class in Nigeria’s capital and its financial center, the opportunities for trade links between China and Africa will likely increase the cultural contacts as well. If predictions being made that China could be the first major economy to emerge from the global recession (ironic given the amount of reforms its economy still needs but it has, apparently made some wise steps in regards to interest rates and such), African nations may become even more enamored with the East in the near to mid-term.