20 African Countries With The Most Chinese Migrants, And Why These Statistics Are Problematic

By Dana Sanchez AFKI Original Published: January 19, 2017, 6:42 pm
African countries with the most Chinese migrantsTourists pose at Pyramids of Giza. Photo: Khaled Elfiqi/Egyptian Streets

Large numbers of Chinese migrants have accompanied the growing flow of Chinese goods and money to Africa, but exactly how many people, no one knows for sure, according to Hannah Postel.

A migration researcher at the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC., Postel spent a year in Zambia studying Chinese migration trends on a Fulbright research grant. She wrote about it in a Dec. 19 report for African Arguments.

“We may have been massively overestimating the number of Chinese migrants in Africa,” the report began.

Estimates range from 250,000 to 2 million Chinese migrants in Africa, “but experts agree that these approximations are anything from ‘speculative’ to ‘very problematic,'” Postel said. “While it is clear that the number of Chinese migrants in Africa has increased, especially over the last decade, all estimates are at best informed guesses.”

In many countries, even general statistics on migration are incomplete, out of date or nonexistent, according to the U.N. Many African countries lack the infrastructure to produce high quality data and Chinese consular data is also poor.

Postel compiled a database of unpublished immigration permit data, manually transcribing and analyzing details from more than 25,000 permits to better understand the make-up and number of Chinese nationals in the country.

Before her study, the number of Chinese in Zambia had been commonly accepted as 80,000. That’s what it had been pegged by late Zambian President Michael Sata during his first presidential bid in 2006. Postel said her count of the Chinese population based on her data does not even come close.

Her evidence suggests that there were likely 13,000 Chinese nationals in Zambia at the end of 2014 (with an upper bound of 23,000). “My empirical approximation is strengthened by Zambia Deputy Minister of Home Affairs’ March 2015 estimate that there were approximately 20,000 Chinese nationals resident in Zambia,” she said.

The huge discrepancy between 80,000 and 13,000, is important, Postel said. “Statistics are political. Inaccurate claims about the Chinese migrant population in Zambia have contributed to xenophobic election rhetoric and occasional outbreaks of violence.”

Inflated population estimates fuel fears, for example, that Chinese migrants are “building a new empire in Africa,” she said.

Postel is calling for other countries to strengthen their immigration data.

Some of the data below on Chinese migration dates from as far back as 1999 to 2016: 20 African Countries With The Most Chinese Migrants.

A Chinese artist teaches a ceramics student in Maseru, Lesotho. Photo: Pan Zhenhui/China Daily

20. Lesotho

Chinese people in Lesotho: 5,000

Year of data: 2011

Source: Chinese Engagement In Lesotho And Potential Areas For Cooperation/Wikileaks

A teacher from Confucius Institute at the University of Botswana performes Chinese martial arts at Kudumatse, Eastern Botswana. Photo: Lyu Tianran/Xinhua

19. Botswana

Chinese people in Botswana: 5,000-6,000

Year of data: 2009

Source: France24

Wei Kun, center, sell shoes made in China at a shop in Kampala, Uganda. Photo:Stephen Wandera/AP

18. Uganda

Chinese people in Uganda: 7,000

Year of data: 2010

Source: New Vision

Kenyan women wear cheongsam, traditional Chinese dress. Photo: Zhang Chen/Xinhua

17. Kenya

Chinese people in Kenya: 7,000

Year of data: 2013

Source: Business Daily

A Chinese doctor works on a patient in Khartoum. Photo: Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

16. Sudan

Chinese people in the Sudan: 5,000-10,000

Year of data: 2005-2007

Source: African Studies Review

Tourists pose at Pyramids of Giza. Photo: Khaled Elfiqi/Egyptian Streets

15. Egypt

Chinese people in Egypt: 6,000–10,000

Year of data: 2007

Source: African Studies Review

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan pat an elephant at a private game park in Harare, Dec. 2, 2015. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/channelnewsasia

14. Zimbabwe

Chinese people in Zimbabwe: 10,000

Year of data: 2016

Source: Chronicle

Tian Zeqin, director of the China-Mozambique Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center with staff. Photo: Li Xiaopeng/Xinhua

13. Mozambique

Ethnic Chinese in Mozambique: 12,000

Year of data: 2007

Source: International Relations and Security Network.

Two Chinese and one Zambian worker at the Ndola National Stadium construction site, Zambia. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/photoblog.nbcnews.com

12. Zambia

Chinese people in Zambia: 19,845

Year of data: 2014

Source: Zambia Daily Mail

Photo: Wits Journalism/china-africa-reporting.co.za

11. Ghana

Chinese people in Ghana: 6,000–20,000

Year of data: 2010

Source: “Drivers of change or cut-throat competitors? Challenging Cultures of Innovation of Chinese and Nigerian migrant entrepreneurs in West Africa,” p. 10/wikipedia

Chinese biscuit factory in Nigeria. Photo: Paolo Woods/chinaafricarealstory.com

10. Nigeria

Chinese people in Nigeria: 20,000

Year of data: 2012

Source: China Daily

9. Republic of Congo

Chinese people in the Republic of Congo: 15,000-25,000

Year of data: 2013

Source: American Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Chinese-owned French bakery in Réunion. Photo: Sarah Dajani/Huffington Post

8. Réunion

Chinese people in Réunion: 25,000

Year of data: 1999

Source: Chinese Language Educational Foundation 1999

Chinese-built $135M bridge opens in Tanzania, April 19, 2016. Photo: Pan Siwei/Xinhua

7. Tanzania

Chinese people in Tanzania: 30,000

Year of data: 2013

Source: Daily News

Chinese language class in Algeria. Photo: CGTN Africa/Youtube

6. Algeria

Chinese people in Algeria: 35,000

Year of data: 2009

Source: Reuters

Chinese New Year in Mauritius. Photo: mauritius-tourist-guide.mu

5. Mauritius

Chinese people in Mauritius: 38,500

Year of data: 2010

Source: US State Deaprtment

Ethiopian workers at China’s ZTE Corp in Addis Ababa make Chinese dumplings to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Photo: Yu Yang/Xinhua

4. Ethiopia

Chinese people in Ethiopia: 20,000-60,000

Year of data: 2014-2016[98][99]

Source: Science Direct, ENCA

Chinese volunteers from the Confucius Institute at the University of Antananarivo perform a tea ceremony in Antananarivo. Photo: Xinhua

3. Madagascar

Chinese people in Madagascar: 70,000-100,000

Year of data: 2011

Source: African Review

Foreman at a Chinese project in Angola. Photo: Luis de las Alas/thesundaytimes.co.uk

2. Angola

Chinese people in Angola: 259,000

Year of data: 2012

Source: Visao

Chinese shop owner in South Africa. Photo: Bianca Bothma/eNCA

1. South Africa

Chinese South African: 350,000

Year of data: 2009

Source: Representation, Expression and Identity



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