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  • on 11.02.2016
  • at 12:32 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

Chinese traders in Windhoek 0

As in many African countries, Chinese traders have established businesses in Namibia. The early Chinese traders in Namibia were originally from Taiwan and were involved in the textile industry around Southern Africa.

Due to the low purchasing power of many Namibians in general and the non-availability of consumer products, linked to a lack of industrialisation and lack of local manufacturing industries, the Chinese traders explored the trade opportunities Namibia could offer.

Following the early presence of Taiwanese migrants in Namibia, there is a growing population of mainland Chinese from Fujian in Namibia (as is the case in many Southern African countries, where they are involved in trade and other business activities). Based on the author’s interviews, conducted in Mandarin and English, with Chinese shop owners and shopkeepers as well as Namibians in Windhoek in April 2013, this piece explores the presence of Chinese traders in Windhoek, their activities and the location of Chinese businesses near Katutura, a township in the suburbs of Windhoek city.

‘CHINATOWN’ IN WINDHOEK

Located nearly ten kilometers from Windhoek’s city centre, ‘Chinatown’ is nestled close to Katutura. The close location of ‘Chinatown’ to Katutura is strategic for the owners of complexes where Chinese traders have rented shops to sell ‘Made in China’ products. Mr. Wu from Fujian and Mr. Li from Taiwan own each of the two complexes facing each other, separated by the main road going through the township. The average price to rent a shop in Windhoek’s ‘Chinatown’ is 10,000 Namibian dollars a month (about $700). Services and local security guards to keep the premises of the complexes clean and safe are provided.

Katutura is home to the largest population of Windhoek, with a population with low purchasing power. As in most townships in Southern Africa, poverty and economic disparities exist. With people’s low purchasing power in Katutura which restricts them to buy expensive, quality brand products, the Chinese traders see the location of ‘Chinatown’ as strategic for securing a potential clientele or niche market for their businesses, as they offer cheap consumer goods, marketable even though the quality is relatively low compared to genuine brand products.

Among other products, the shops sell the usual clothing and footwear, bedding items and electronics, but there are also hardware stores, grocery stores and even showrooms which display construction material, office supplies and equipment, furniture and so on. These showrooms target companies and big businesses interested in placing important orders from China. Chinese representatives in the showrooms facilitate the orders and the shipment of the products from wholesalers in China. Some Chinese traders have also invested in selling solar geysers, the prices of which are relatively cheap and their usage not requiring power consumption, which is expensive for many people in Katutura. The sales of solar geysers by Chinese traders can also be linked to irregular power distribution, power shortages and the lack of power connection in some places around Windhoek, mainly in townships.

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by Daouda Cissé

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