Business

Angola’s ‘Suitcase traders’ – by Vumani Mkhize

Judette Thomas, an Angola’s suitcase trader

SOUTHERN AFRICA – Goods from the West countries are very expensive for the African market,” said Adams Bodomo, author of a study about China’s emerging African community. “[Traders] were all attracted to cheaply manufactured Chinese goods,” he said.

The first wave of Africans arrived in the late 1990s, shuttling shipments between Guangzhou and African hubs like Lagos, Abidjan and Accra, forming the backbone of the kind of informal trade that has helped make China Africa’s biggest trading partner.

Chinese manufacturers and traders looking to make greater profit are now taking their wares straight to Africa and some Africans in China are rapidly turning away from buying and selling the small batches of cheap, low-margin products like clothes and plastic household goods that have made up much of their business. Instead, traders have begun manufacturing and shipping everything from heavy machinery to toothpicks for African companies.

But not African nation is tuned to China or the West. In Angola, women and other petit traders are turning to other parts of the world: Brazil. The links between Angola and Brazil – both former Portuguese colonies – go back hundreds of years and culturally, Brazil still has a lot of influence on Angolan life.  The video below shows Angola’s suitcase traders.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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