[Loving Africa 7] Je suis chinoise!

I am a Chinese-Australian or an “Australian with Chinese origin”. To be even more precise, I am an Australian from Hong Kong – such statement infers an even greater cultural implications. Yet Togo is one of the very few countries in the world where I have never before felt so well-respected for my Chinese face.

Being in a developing country, following the clever instruction of my local colleague, I bought a cheap “Nokia” phone made in China off from one of the local street vendors. This phone only allows the simple function of making calls and sending SMS. Below is a surprising conversation I once had with a local Togolese demonstrating the great African admiration of Chinese goods:

“This is a nice phone you have there.”
“Oh, is it? This is just a cheap local phone which I bought to use in Africa. It was only 10,000 CFA (approx. $20 USD).”
“Wow, that’s so cheap. Because this is a REAL Chinese phone!”

Indeed, China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging more than $160 billion-worth of goods a year. Furthermore, the Chinese government has made improving country-to-country relations with various African countries a top economic and political priority. More than 1 million Chinese people, most of them labourers and traders, have moved to the African continent in the past decade. The mutual adoration between governments continues, with ever more African roads and mines built by Chinese firms and infrastructure projects sponsored through loans of the Chinese government.

Although Chinese involvement in financing infrastructure projects, debt forgiveness, and scholarships for African students to Chinese universities had given China a net positive image among various African countries, there remains room for improvement. It is often criticized that Chinese is embracing Africa but not Africans. Local people often feel that there is a need for the Chinese community to immerse in the local society through greater people-to-people relations, understanding, and mutual respect in each other’s culture.

On the other hand, just last week I had the valuable opportunity of meeting the Chinese community who are demonstrating just the very authentic friendship between the local Togolese and Chinese. Such event should no doubt be appreciated in the relationship building between diverse ethnic groups. Through the invitation of one of our most eminent work partners Mr Locoh, I had the chance of participating in the first ever table tennis tournament co-organised by the local Chinese Association and Togolese Federation of Table-Tennis. Mr Théo Kodjo Locoh is the President of the Togolese Federation of Table-Tennis, just retired managing director of a leading insurer but not of any less importance for the insurance profession, is also a true supporter of the actuarial profession in Togo. Furthermore, my Belgian actuarial colleague was pleasantly surprised to see the tremendous level of respect which the Chinese has for the actuary as a profession. One may be interested to know that Togolese Federation of Table-Tennis, since its formation in 1967, has achieved many medals in African national competitions. After the competition, the Chinese Embassy of Togo also donated ping-pong tables and other sports equipment whilst the Chinese association sponsored scholarships to two Togolese students. No doubt the mutual enthusiasm for sports can foster greater friendship and building stronger bonds between any cultural groups.

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