Since China's economic boom in the late 1990s, thousands of African traders and business-people have migrated to the southern city of Guangzhou. The Chinese metropolis is now home to a vibrant African community, with "African streets" emerging in its center.
SanYuanli and Xiaobei are commonly known as "Little Africa" or "Africa Town". Thousands of Africans do business here every day. A large number of them are from West African countries like Nigeria, Mali and Guinea. Most have been staying in Guangzhou for several years.
On Xiaobei Road, most shops and restaurants have their names spelled in at least two languages. The existing African community helps new immigrants settle in and adapt to doing business in this new environment.
"Many will purchase goods like clothes or electronics in bulk, put them in containers and ship them to Africa." A local vendor said.
African merchants are drawn to Guangzhou due to its close proximity to factories and other manufacturing facilities. Professor Li Zhigang, who has been studying African immigration since 2006, estimates that Guangzhou now has over 150,000 African residents, making it the largest African community in Asia. And that number is set to swell in the coming years.
"Africans contribute to the local economic development, and make Guangzhou a more international metropolis. But they also put pressure on urban management and social resources. Some illegal immigrants even commit crimes. Local authorities are taking measures to handle these problems." Professor Li said.
For these African merchants, Guangzhou is a land full of hopeful business prospects.
As ties between China and Africa grow closer, more Africans are coming to China in search of opportunities. Integrating the growing number of people from different cultures remains a challenging process. It will take more communication and understanding to work out a inclusive social system.