IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Dirk Kohnert, 2010. "Are the Chinese in Africa More Innovative than the Africans? Comparing Chinese and Nigerian Entrepreneurial Migrants’ Cultures of Innovation," GIGA Working Paper Series 140, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:140

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    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 & Calum Turvey, 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. Meagher, Kate, 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Kohnert, Dirk, 2016. "Chinese And African Migrant Entrepreneur’s Articulation Shaped By African Agency," MPRA Paper 73755, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item


    trading diasporas; international migration; entrepreneurs; culture; innovation; SMEs; Africa; China; Nigeria; Cotonou; Accra;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • M14 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Corporate Culture; Diversity; Social Responsibility
    • N85 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N87 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - Africa; Oceania
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:140. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Bert Hoffmann) or (Howard Loewen). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.