Chinese Traders in Ghana: The Liminality Trap, and Challenges for Ethnic Formation and Integration

  • Karsten Giese


When discussing the new presence on the African continent of Chinese nationals who have arrived since the early 2000s, the many clusters of Chinese entrepreneurs across Africa present a paradox. In most cases, the Chinese in Africa today do not fit the characteristics typically ascribed to ethnic Chinese groups outside China. Their lack of ethnic or national solidarity and social cohesion, culminating in the widespread absence of community (cf. China Q 199:707–727, 2009; Haugen and Carling, Ethn Racial Stud 28(4):639–662, 2005; Lam 2015a), defies conventional wisdom about overseas Chinese. The Chinese in Ghana, who have arrived as individual entrepreneurs and in substantial numbers since the turn of the millennium, are no exception in this general picture found across the African continent. They form a highly concentrated trading cluster in Accra, the country’s capital and economic center. Chinese economic activities in trade have concentrated at the periphery of Makola Market, which has served as the main site of commerce. Though this pattern of spatial clustering has made the Chinese and Chinese commercial activities highly visible, most Chinese are dispersed across middle-class residential areas of Accra and neighboring Tema, and their isolation both from each other and from the local population presents challenges for ethnic formation and integration.


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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karsten Giese
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.GIGA German Institute of Global and Area StudiesHamburgGermany
  2. 2.GIGA Institute of Asian StudiesHamburgGermany

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