At the Margins of the Economy? Chinese Migrants in Lesotho’s Wholesale and Retail Sector

Sarah Hanisch


This article examines the relationship between the economic activities of Chinese migrants in the wholesale and retail sector in Lesotho, and the larger structural framework. More specifically, it investigates this relationship with reference to the general debate on Chinese migrants in Africa. These themes locate Chinese migrants at the margins of the economy, assume some Chinese exceptionalism, and imply a kind of neocolonialism. The article demonstrates that Chinese migrants are, in fact, not operating at the margins of the economy, but have become a vital element of Lesotho’s wholesale and retail sector. The analysis of the structural framework indicates that the economic activities of Chinese migrants are a reflection of existing structural constraints and opportunities rather than Chinese exceptionalism or neocolonialism. This in turn implies that future research would benefit from placing the interplay of Chinese migrants and the larger structural framework in respective African countries at the centre of analysis.

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