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Are the Chinese in Africa More Innovative than the Africans? Comparing Chinese and Nigerian Entrepreneurial Migrants’ Cultures of Innovation

Listed author(s):
  • Dirk Kohnert


The remarkable influx of Chinese migrant entrepreneurs in West Africa has been met with growing resistance from established African entrepreneurs. Whether the former have a competitive edge over the latter because of distinctive sociocultural traits or whether the Chinese's supposed effectiveness is just a characteristic feature of any trading diaspora is open to question. This comparative exploratory study of Chinese and Nigerian entrepreneurial migrants in Ghana and Benin provides initial answers to these questions. Apparently, the cultural stimuli for migrant drivers of change are not restricted to inherited value systems or religions, such as a Protestant ethic or Confucianism; rather, they are continually adapted and invented anew by transnational migration networks in a globalized world. There is no evidence of the supposed superiority of the innovative culture of Chinese entrepreneurial migrants versus that of African entrepreneurial migrants. Rather, there exist trading diasporas which have a generally enhanced innovative capacity vis-àvis local entrepreneurs, regardless of the national culture in which they are embedded. In addition, the rivalry of Chinese and Nigerian migrant entrepreneurs in African markets does not necessarily lead to the often suspected cut-throat competition. Often the actions of each group are complementary to those of the other. Under certain conditions they even contribute to poverty alleviation in the host country.

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Paper provided by GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in its series GIGA Working Paper Series with number 140.

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Length: 32
Date of creation: Jul 2010
Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:140
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  1. Olukoya Ogen, 2008. "Contemporary China-Nigeria Economic Relations: Chinese Imperialism or South-South Mutual Partnership?," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 37(3), pages 78-102.
  2. Lin He, 2009. "Financial repression in China's agricultural economy," China Agricultural Economic Review, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 1(3), pages 260-274, May.
  3. Kohnert, Dirk, 2011. "Cultures of Innovation of the African Poor – Common roots, shared traits, joint prospects? On the articulation of multiple modernities in African societies and Black Diasporas in Latin America," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 241-262.
  4. Kate Meagher, 2009. "Trading on faith: religious movements and informal economic governance in Nigeria," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 27366, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Giles Mohan & May Tan-Mullins, 2009. "Chinese Migrants in Africa as New Agents of Development? An Analytical Framework," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 21(4), pages 588-605, September.
  6. Thierry Pairault, 2007. "China's Response to Globalization: Manufacturing Confucian Values," Post-Print halshs-00191986, HAL.
  7. Kohnert, Dirk, 2009. "New Nationalism and Development in Africa: Review Article," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 111-123.
  8. Nnamdi O. Madichie & Ahmed Tijani Saeed, 2010. "The innovation dilemma of the Ghanaian textile industry," International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 11(2), pages 228-238.
  9. Dirk Kohnert, 2009. "New Nationalism and Development in Africa," Africa Spectrum, Institute of African Affairs, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 44(1), pages 111-123.
  10. Aleksandra W. Gadzala, 2010. "From formal- to informal-sector employment: examining the Chinese presence in Zambia," Review of African Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(123), pages 41-59, March.
  11. Stephen Marglin, 2009. "The Culture of Economics," Development, Palgrave Macmillan;Society for International Deveopment, vol. 52(3), pages 292-297, September.
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