The Chinese Presence in Burkina Faso: A Sino-African Cooperation from Below

Guive Khan Mohammad


Burkina Faso currently has no diplomatic relationship whatsoever with the People’s Republic of China. Engaged in cooperation with Taiwan since 1994, it is one of only three African countries not a part of the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation. This unusual situation has produced a unique manifestation of the Chinese presence in Burkina Faso, where the estimated 600 Chinese migrants are primarily private entrepreneurs. This phenomenon of “globalization from below” – or, this migration of entrepreneurs that transcends the absence of diplomatic relations – creates new intimate social relations between the Burkinabe and Chinese people who come into contact with each other. Far from simply turning Chinese and Burkinabe into economic competitors, these relations have also led to the emergence of many forms of interpersonal and business cooperation. In this paper, I therefore demonstrate how Sino-African cooperation from below has developed in Burkina Faso, which stands in radical contrast to the latter’s cooperation with Taiwan, which takes place almost exclusively on a broader state-to-state level. The empirical evidence of this study is drawn from field survey interviews and observations of both Chinese and Burkinabe entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso between 2010 and 2011.

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