“Wo Mai Dan, Sao Wo Wei Xin (Chinese pinyin, meaning ‘it's my treat, please scan my WeChat’)”, was the fluent Chinese spoken by GZ Expat BABY Aly Sidy at a café on Taojin Road, the heart of Guangzhou’s downtown area.
Aly comes from Mali, the second largest country in west Africa. Having been living in China for 8 years, he is working in the cross-border e-commerce business in Guangzhou and has established his own company here.
The Africa Guangdong Business Association (AGBA) was established in Nairobi, Capital of Kenya on Aug.3rd [Photo provided to Newsgd.com]
Meanwhile, in Nairobi, Capital of Kenya, the Africa Guangdong Business Association (AGBA) is gearing up for establishing an investment fund, which aims at facilitating sustainable development for Chinese and Cantonese enterprises in Africa. Tracy Huo, vice-chairman of AGBA, who has visited dozens of African countries over the past ten years, is now serving as a “bridge builder” for the China-Africa partnership.
The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which is to be convened in Beijing on September 3rd and 4th, will witness the beginning of a new chapter in China-Africa relations. Driven by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Guangdong continues to foster economic and cultural cooperation with Africa. There are more and more “bridge builders” like Aly and Huo springing up.
Seeking “gold” and opportunities
Many newly-arrived African businessmen choose to settle in Taojin and Xiaobei, which is near Bao Han Zhi Street, one of the largest migrant communities in the city. This bustling street is a microcosm of the billion-dollar trade boom between African nations and China.
BABY Aly Sidy with his two kids [Photo/Steven, Newsgd.com]
During the first few days starting up his business in Guangzhou, Aly always went to Xiao Bei where many other Africans go to purchase goods. He helped them book hotels and call taxis because he spoke Chinese very well.
“They wanted to exchange contacts and make friends with me. They asked me if I could help them buy goods.” Consequently, Aly forged connections in the city.
Now, as e-commerce is booming in China, he prefers to use online channels more often as it takes much less time and it is more convenient. He showed us several cellphone apps, such as Taobao and 1688.
“These have been a great help to me,” he said with much delight, “I don’t even have to leave my office or house.”
Many Cantonese enterprises have also performed excellently by seizing the opportunities brought by BRI and drumming up business in Africa.
“On the basis of their complementary advantages, Chinese state-owned enterprises and private enterprises will promote infrastructure development and boost the economies in African countries”, said Liu Jisen, Deputy Secretary of Guangdong Institute for International Strategies.
Motivated by BRI, the cooperation between Guangdong and Africa has expanded across agriculture, tourism, education, finance and culture sectors.
According to Huo Dongming, the Head of DD Brother Group, “the deepening friendship between China and Africais attracting Cantonese enterprises to invest in more diverse areas.”
Since 2012, his corporation has invested in Tanzania, Malawi and Congo in precast concrete pipe infrastructure, networking and education charities. He thinks that Chinese enterprises should work on projects that will benefit African people so as to receive public support and lay a solid foundation for future cooperation.
Stronger cultural connections
The impressive growth of Guangdong-Africa trade and economic cooperation has acted as a catalyst for cultural integration, the both reinforcing each other.
Before coming to Guangzhou, Aly spent almost a year and a half in Wuhan, where he met a Chinese mom who treated him like a member of her own family.
“She introduced Chinese culture to me by taking me attend Chinese weddings and funerals.” It was then that Aly developed a great interest in Chinese culture and thought Mali’s culture was not so far different from that in China.
After studying Chinese in Wuhan, Aly came to Guangzhou and majored in business at Jinan University, where he got a deeper understanding of Chinese business culture and finally overcame the language barrier.
“Now, when going to the market, I want to make friends with the local suppliers. I’ve learned some phrases that make them smile.” Idioms such as ‘一分钱一分货 (you get what you pay for)’ have become his pet phrases.
The song "One for all and all for one"
Tabou, a Senegal singer is also fascinated by Chinese culture. “My mom, a businesswoman engaged in China-Africa trading, used to live here. She was the one who first invited me to come here 4 years ago.”
Now she has many Chinese friends and she has a Chinese name, Feifei. One of Tabou’s dreams is to have a chance to work with Chinese people more often, like working with Chinese producers, making an album together with Chinese artists if possible. She has tried to blend African music with Chinese and Cantonese culture and turn her experience in the city into a song.
In August this year, Tabou wrote and performed the song ‘One for all and all for one’ collaborating with Newsgd.com and Nanfang Daily to express her best wishes for China-Africa friendship.
“(Living) in Guangzhou, I have witnessed many people from my hometown come here for business and study. And I knew many people from Guangdong in Senegal as well. In future, my dreams include working in a movie that talks about Africans living in Guangzhou.”
This April, Tracy Huo initiated the first China-Africa Economic and Cultural Week in Guangzhou. By immersing themselves in a wide variety of activities including photography exhibitions, movie screenings, reading clubs and forums, Cantonese people were able to get a better understanding of Africa.
According to Huo, high priority should be given to cross-cultural talent cultivation and “based on this, AGBA has founded a commercial school in Africa and designed a core curriculum, in order to build a talent pool out there.”
Suggestions for China-Africa mutual prosperity
In accordance with figures released by Department of Commerce of Guangdong Province, in early 2017, Cantonese enterprises set up 29 branches in Africa and the number had increased to 244 by the end of last year. There are 10 African Consulates General in Guangzhou, outnumbering other Chinese cities in this regard.
Wale Oloko, Consul General of Nigeria in Guangzhou [Photo/Steven, Newsgd.com]
In terms of better investment in Africa, Wale Oloko, Consul General of Nigeria in Guangzhou, offers two pieces of advices to Guangdong investors:
1.Understand the African environment and understand the culture of people there, the investment laws, and how to enter an equal partnership, which is very very important.
2.It’s also key to understand the political system of the respective country, whether it’s democracy or governorship. It’s obviously better to not get involved in the internal political affairs of the country in question.
Please turn to the next page to read the Chinese version of the article
Author | Keane Wong, Hu Liangguang, Huang Xuhao, December Yu
Editor | Simon Haywood
Chief Editor | Wing Zhang, Wang Huiyun
Photo | Steven Yuen
采写：南方网全媒体记者 黄叙浩 胡良光 王凯 实习生 喻美晨