Ghanaian merchant Ben Owusu-Achiaw said many of the African companies he works with have moved away from simple import-export operations because of competition from Chinese merchants. “Go to Makola Market,” he said, referring to the biggest trading center in Accra. “Chinese traders have all the best stores.” His concerns are echoed in Ghana, where politicians have been pushing for the World Trade Organization to stop Chinese merchants importing and selling Chinese-made versions of products also manufactured in west Africa.
Owusu-Achiaw moved to China 10 years ago, and started exporting clothes. Because he picked up the language quickly, he often found himself acting as a middleman between Chinese manufacturers and African traders. He started off with a few thousand dollars, and now handles $200,000 and $300,000 of orders at a time.
Established African merchants in Guangzhou like Owusu-Achiaw are increasingly focusing on logistics, and finding Chinese manufacturers for Ghanaian companies. “People come to me and say ‘I want 10,000’ of this, and bring a sample,” he said. He travels the country finding the best factory for the job, a challenge, he said, because there’s no such thing as a deal: you basically get what you pay for.
Ethnographic research with African traders and migrants in China. Research appetite adequately whetted by: