The Ghanaian community
in Hong Kong
University of Hong Kong
Methodology: The Survey
Details of Comments
Implications: Insights into the African
Community in Hong Kong
African communities comprising mostly traders,
began to form in earnest in the 1990s.
They are distributed in places such as Hong
Kong, Guangzhou, Yiwu, Macau, Beijing, and
There are already quite a number of academic
studies on African communities (e.g. Bertoncello
and Bredeloup (2007), Bodomo (2007), Li
Zhigang et al (2008), etc). These have mostly
concentrated on a broad, canopy term, "African
I argue that while "African community" may be a
useful term for understanding a broad picture of
the African condition in China, if we actually
want to get a deeper understanding of African
community organizations, including specific
cultural features and closer networkings, we
need to turn to the study of specific sub-group
African communities such as national
communities, regional organizations, clubs, and
I illustrate this theme of moving from the general
to the specific in terms of studying African
community organizations in China by describing
the Ghanaian community in Hong Kong.
This is a community made of citizens of Ghana
in West Africa and their spouses and friends.
A focus on the Ghanaian community and similar
national communities in China leads to a better
understanding of the general African presence in
China and what role this presence means for
developing Africa-China relations.
Conducted at the Ground floor and the 2nd floor
of ChungKing Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, and nearby areas during June
No. of Questionnaire completed: 33
Focuses on a particular national community in
Hong Kong, the Ghanaian community. Many of
them come to Hong Kong to do business as
many other people from other African countries
do. And some of them are actually Hong Kong
residents living in Hong Kong for a long time.
An international place with people of different cultural
A building featuring low-rent guest houses offered by
independent hotels, shops and restaurants
The ground floor and the 2nd floor are used for all kinds
of commercial activity
There are shops for clothing, mobile phones and other
electronic devices, and currency exchange, among
Visitors include people from Africa, the Middle East and
Among 33 respondents, 25 are between 25 and 34 years old with 16 of
them between 25 and 30 years old.
Levels of schooling
Among 33 respondents, 20 have received
secondary education and 12 have received
Quite expectedly most of the respondents
identify themselves as businessmen or
traders. Among 33 respondents, nine
identify themselves as businessmen and
eight as traders.
Twi is the most popular language among the community. Twi, a variety of the Akan
language, is the most widely spoken language in Ghana. Some of them have more than
one native language.
English is spoken in their country as official language, so most respondents can speak
English. Chinese and Cantonese are treated as different items according to the subjects’
Duration of stay
It is found that most of them – 20 out of
33 – come to Hong Kong mainly for
business. Some of them – 11 out 33 –
also live in Hong Kong.
Many of them – 13 out of 33 – only stay
here for a very short time – one month
or less. Some stay longer for more than
one year up to three years.
Besides, most of the respondents – 15
out of 33 – have only visited Hong Kong
for one or two times.
Proficiency in Chinese and English
15 out of 33 respondents think that their is poor in Chinese and
only two think that they can speak Chinese very well.
However, nearly all of the respondents – 28 out of 33 – either
think that their proficiency in English is excellent or is good.
31 out of 33 respondents think that English
is the most common language among the
community members and with foreigners at
the ChungKing mansions/Hong Kong
Besides English, 23 out of 33 respondents
either think that Cantonese/Chinese is the
most common language.
(Some respondents simply do not know the Chinese language spoken in Hong Kong is
Cantonese but refer to any Chinese language as Chinese so Cantonese and Chinese
are presented as two separate items in the statistics.)
Noah’s Arc situation
It is found that most of them have come across
communication problems in various degrees
It was found that many of them either would not identify themselves as local
Hong Kong persons to a large extent.
Moreover, their views on how they perceive the difference from local HK
persons are very diverse.
So the concept of a Ghanaian-Hong Konger/Chinese is not yet established…
Little of the respondents think
that he/she is connected to
the community to a large or
even very large extent.
Most of them think that the
difference of life between HK
and their countries of origin is
Signs of Acculturation?
It is found that many respondents do eat Chinese food. 17 out of 33
respondents sometimes eat Chinese food. One possible reason is that food
from their country of origin is also available in Hong Kong.
10 out of 33 always eat Ghanaian food and 19 out 33 sometimes do so.
Generally, the respondents think ChungKing Mansions
or Hong Kong is a good place, especially as a business
place. They also think that life in Hong Kong is more
secure which is also a reason why many of them think
that there is a large difference between their life in Hong
Kong and that in their home country. Most think that
Hong Kong is a very good place to do business.
Respondents are however very critical when it comes to
social interaction with Hong Kong people, beyond their
business transactions. They see a lot of differences
between how people in Hong Kong treat each other and
how they treat each other in their country. It seems to
them that Hong Kong people are more isolated in terms
of interpersonal relationship.
Details of Comments
The people living in ChungKing always obey the rules.
It is always busy in ChungKing Mansions.
Noisy here. Too many blacks. Too many people.
Life at the ChungKing Mansions is unbearable in a sense that the Police of Hong
Kong always disturb by knocking on our doors almost all the time.
The place is always congested with many different ethnic backgrounds and beliefs.
Most are not friendly.
I just love the place.
Yes, I think life at the ChungKing Mansions is normal compared to life in my country.
The situation in ChungKing Mansions is very poor and there is lack of friendliness
from the Chinese.
If you are only a businessman, then life is ok. So this is what I know in ChungKing
Yes, the security system here is bad because they don’t respect us.
My comment is about Hong Kong as a whole, it never seizes to amaze me when the
Chinese of Hong Kong are trying to differentiate themselves from the Chinese of
Things in Hong Kong are nice.
Hong Kong people don’t speak English. They should learn English and learn more
ChungKing Mansions is a place full of enjoyment, friendship, business, etc, and finally
is a place to make more research.
ChungKing Mansions is a good place for business and tourism.
I think more researchers have to come to ChungKing Mansions for some special
topics about business people coming from different countries. 19
An In-depth Interview (1)
A 45-year-old mechanical engineer from Ghana.
One of the organizers of the association for the Ghanaian
community in Hong Kong
He has lived in Hong Kong for 21 years.
He thinks he would identify himself more as a local Hong Kong
person than as a foreigner from Ghana.
He used to encounter a lot of communication problems when he first
arrived Hong Kong.
Learning Cantonese changed him a lot.
He starts to act like a Hong Kong person, both psychologically and
Mr. J thinks that one of the reasons why they can establish an
association is that some of their people, like him, are already well-
established in Hong Kong. In some sense, their community already
has a root in Hong Kong.
An In-depth Interview (2)
Ms. C from Kumasi, Ghana
A hair dresser living in Hong Kong for four years
She feels that Hong Kong people do not easily mix with
foreigners, and indeed even with their fellow Hong Kong
people. Hong Kong people tend to limit themselves to a
small circle of friends.
She observed that young people in the train would not
normally give their seat to the elderly. And she has seen
some young people aged 14 or 15 smoking without any
body stopping them from doing that. All of these would
not happen in Ghana.
She thinks that the association for the Ghanaian
community serves as a platform for Ghanaian to meet
An In-depth Interview (3)
A graphic designer, a painter, and a student studying anthropology
at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
He shares his experience in a bus with Hong Kong people. He once
went somewhere with a friend by bus. A Chinese next to his friend
put her hand over her nose, indicating that they were smelly. This
expression of disrespect led his friend to call up the police and ask
for an apology.
He adds that all these negative incidents are not the fault of Hong
Kong people alone. Africans could do more.
He thinks the Ghanaian community should do something to promote
Hong Kong people’s understanding of their culture and continent
and to raise their awareness of the presence of Ghanaian.
He also stresses that it is important that there is a sense of unity
among members of the community.
Implications: Insights into the
African community in Hong Kong
A focus on smaller sub-communities of Africans
can reveal more about the African community as
a whole: specific cultural activities, closer
networks, relations with hosts, etc
Ghanaians, like other Africans, are active
participants and agents of change - not the
image of helpless victims as is sometimes
portrayed in some Western newspaper reports
of Africans in China
Bertoncello, Brigitte and Sylvie Bredeloup, “The emergence of new
African “trading posts” in Hong Kong and Guangzhou,” China
Perspectives, No.1 (2007), pp 94 – 105.
Bodomo, A. B. forthcoming. The African trading community in
Guangzhou: An emerging bridge for Africa - China relations. China
Bodomo, A. B. in preparation. Africans in China: an investigation into
the African presence in China and its consequences for Africa -
China Relations, book manuscript, HKU
Bodomo A.B, “An emerging African-Chinese community in Hong
Kong: the case of Tsim Sha Tsui's Chungking Mansions,” in Kwesi
Kwaa Prah (ed), Afro-Chinese Relations: Past, Present and Future.
Cape Town, South Africa, The Centre for Advanced Studies in
African Societies, 2007, pp.367-389.
Li Zhigang, Xue Desheng, Michael Lyons, and Alison Brown, “Ethnic
enclave of transnational migrants in urban China : A case study of
Xiaobei, Guangzhou” (2008) (paper draft).