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African community needs more attention
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-02 10:51

Patrick started writing stories on his mobile phone about life. When we met at a bar around Sanlitun several weeks ago, he let me read a few. The stories were about what life is like in China for Africans - and often it is not easy.

Since I relocated to Beijing from Shanghai several months ago, I've become friends with many people in the African community here. They live in old apartment buildings around Sanlitun.

A few sleep on the streets. At night, they hang out at sidewalk cafes, smoking cigarettes and drinking Chinese beer. I join them and listen to their stories - stories that need to be told.

China is only continuing to strengthen its ties to Africa. More Chinese companies are doing business there and more Chinese are moving there to work: "In recent years, Beijing has identified the African continent as an area of significant economic and strategic interest," said a report by The Heritage Foundation.

As China moves to Africa, Africa is starting to move to China, too. Africans say they are coming to this country because they have been told back home they can make money here, find a job, have a life, be successful. For some, that happens. For many, it doesn't.

African community needs more attention

Patrick is from Cameroon, and he considers himself lucky. He is a student and has a visa. Right now he doesn't need a job. He is safe.

There are others here from countries, like Nigeria and Botswana, living in small apartments that they never leave because they say they are afraid.

These people have spent their life's savings to come here. When they arrive, they can't find jobs. Their visas expire. And they have no money to pay for a plane ticket home.

To make a living, some buy fake goods, like mobile phones and clothes, and smuggle them home to sell on the streets of their countries.

To be sure, immigrants and migrants in many countries face discrimination and other unfair treatment.

And it is also understood that foreigners should respect and obey the immigration laws set of the host country's government. The dreams that Africans had before they came to China have faded quickly for some. Life is different here.

Competition for jobs is high. Even so, some say the opportunities here are still better than back home. So they stay and continue to try to find ways to better their lives. Regardless of how tough it is, China still is their land of hope.

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