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South Africa sees record number of Chinese shop owners

A record number of Chinese immigrants are establishing businesses in South Africa, to sell affordable goods to local consumers. It began as an unlikely destination, but now, a record number of Chinese immigrants are making their way to South Africa.

They are setting up shop and importing billions of dollars’ worth of goods, but many of the locals aren’t too happy about it. As Daniella Chanda, a market analyst, found in Johannesburg. “It sounds like something from the heart of China, but this is South Africa. A decade ago, there were very few Chinese immigrants in Johannesburg, but now Chinese are big business. South African shoppers are crowding Chinese malls, markets and warehouses,” she observes.

According to the African Development Bank (ADB) statistics, South Africa has the largest Chinese population in Africa. More than 60% of temporary residents from China are on work permits in South Africa. Twenty-eight-year-old businessman Kevin Dee is one of them. He says: “I feel that South Africa is a very beautiful country. You can’t see tall buildings but you can see nature. The environment is better than China, but it’s not very safe here.” Security guards armed with shotguns and semi-automatic rifles patrol the car park at the China Mall in Johannesburg, but, mostly, they are just there to control the crowds of shoppers, pronounces Chanda.

Dee says South Africans are desperate for low cost Chinese goods. “Most people don’t have a lot of disposable income, the people. As a result most of South Africans flock to China Malls for goods that they can use or resale for profit. In many cases they say that they can’t get better deals anywhere else in the city except in China Malls. I think South Africans are also attracted to Chinese establishments because they know that they can negotiate a good deal from the Chinese,” he notes. Joyce Matsila, a shopper, concurs with Dee. “At the China shops, you get what you pay for even though sometimes the quality of goods is questionable. But then, in these tough times, where can one get such good deals in South Africa?” she asks.

Emma Chen is a Chinese South African who has experienced both sides of the cultural divide. She came to Johannesburg as a student in 1981. Chen now runs an upmarket Chinese restaurant. She urges the new Chinese South Africans to treat the country with respect. “This is a great country where you can come and make a fortune, but you must pay back. China is a homogenous country, so for them to suddenly arrive in a country where there are so many different races, they need a few years before this grows on them. Then I think they will be more interested in what is happening around them,” she points out. But after more than 30 years in South Africa, Chen says she now regards herself as part Chinese and part African. She states that: “I love this place from the bottom of my heart. I would urge any Chinese investors seeking to do business in Africa to make South Africa as their first port of call. There are many prospects for success in South Africa and it is not a bad place to settle [permanently] at all! At the moment we are in the thousands but it would be great if the current numbers can increase.”


Source: CRI News  |  Updated Feb 20

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