The number of Chinese immigrants in Africa has risen sevenfold over less than two decades, although most still plan to return home for retirement, according to a recent survey.
The Annual Report on Overseas Chinese Study said the African continent was home to more than 1.1 million Chinese immigrants in 2012, compared with less than 160,000 in 1996, adding that 90 percent of the current total arrived after 1970.
The study was conducted by researchers at Huaqiao, Peking and Xiamen universities, and released by the Social Sciences Academic Press, a publisher affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
“The first Chinese immigrants in Africa were laborers working in retail or catering. But in recent years, more Chinese intellectuals and skilled professionals have moved to Africa,” said Li Anshan, a professor at Peking University’s School of International Studies.
The annual report quoted a 2015 survey that said 71.8 percent of Chinese community leaders in Africa plan to return to China after retirement, while only 5.1 percent said they would stay in Africa.
Lyu Ting, an assistant researcher at Huaqiao University’s Overseas Chinese Institute, said most Chinese immigrants in Africa view the continent as a place full of employment opportunities where they can save significant sums of money in a short time.
“After retiring, most plan to return to China or move to other developed countries,” he said.
The report quoted Xue Xiaoming－who has been working and living in Africa for 20 years and is now executive chairman of the Nigerian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry－as saying: “We are outsiders. We are not like Chinese immigrants in Southeast Asian countries. They have already settled down and become part of the local communities.”
Zhao Jianling, who has been living in South Africa for 17 years, was quoted as saying, “When we first came to South Africa, we thought it was heaven.”
But she added that after a decade, China developed rapidly while South Africa fell behind.
“If the situation keeps deteriorating, we would consider moving back to China.”
China Daily | Updated: Jan 15