Chinese Adaptations: African Agency, Fragmented Community and Social Capital Creation in Ghana

Katy N. Lam


Chinese migrant entrepreneurs in Ghana perceive themselves as vulnerable, as regularly they encounter problems and their businesses fail. The adaption experiences of Chinese entrepreneurs in Africa, especially non-traders, remain largely unstudied. By looking at the interactions of newly arrived and established Chinese migrants with institutional actors, partners, local employees and other Chinese in Ghana, this paper shows the multiple dimensions of how Chinese entrepreneurs’ migration adaptation evolves, and how they create social capital to develop their businesses in Ghana. From the Chinese perspective, established entrepreneurs condemn the recent numerous “new” Chinese in Ghana as part of the root cause of problems, on account of their “poor quality and bad behaviour”; by comparison, the newly arrived Chinese attribute their challenges to deficiencies in the local people and institutions of the host country. The negative experiences of Chinese entrepreneurs in Ghana provide further evidence for, not only African, but also local Chinese agency from below, and suggest that the rising Chinese presence does not necessarily improve the social status of Chinese entrepreneurs or create a stronger, more unified Chinese community on the continent.

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