The ‘China in Africa’ story brims with ambivalence and ambiguity. Nowhere is this more evident than on the African street. The influx of Chinese products and the proliferation of small Chinese enterprises are affecting ways of life in African towns and cities, but exactly how and to what extent is hotly contested. Their presence has sparked outbreaks of xenophobic violence, led to increased competition with local businesses and prompted calls for tougher regulation and government intervention. They have become the whipping boy for Africa’s politicians, merchants and labour unions upset by Beijing’s growing ties to the continent. However, Chinese traders have also afforded millions of African consumers the opportunity to purchase a range of goods for the first time.
This study is perhaps the first to investigate and compare the perceptions of Chinese traders in a systematic way, across several African countries.