In a district called “Little Africa” here in the capital of Guangdong Province, north of Hong Kong, more than 10,000 Africans reside in what is China’s largest African community. Or at least they used to.
These days the enclave appears mostly deserted. About 70% of its residents left months ago to escape what was then an epidemic that one country seemed to be battling on its own.
China ended up successfully dealing with the novel coronavirus, which is now rampaging across many other parts of the globe. But Guangzhou’s African residents have been unable to return.
As a result, many of the district’s restaurants and retailers remain closed, and there is no telling when the bustle will return.
In mid-July, more than half of the stores on both sides of one street were closed. White rent reminders and pink signs soliciting new tenants were posted at the entrance of each store.
“All stores in the neighborhood were doing business for Africans, but these Africans disappeared after February,” said an owner of a clothing shop. “Store owners are all suffering from plunging sales and high rents.”
Many restaurants in the neighborhood that sell lamb skewers, fried banana and other African dishes have remained closed since February. “Many foreign residents, including Africans, have been unable to return to China,” said a manager of a Pakistani restaurant that was open.
Little Africa generally refers to parts of the city’s old square located within a few kilometers of Guangzhou Station. The district has a lot of small shops that export clothing, smartphones and other goods to Africa; restaurants and retailers that cater to Africans were numerous.
According to the Guangzhou municipal government, there were 13,652 African residents in the city at the end of last year, many of whom were presumably living in Little Africa.
By April 10, the number of African residents in the city had dropped to 4,553, according to official data from the municipal government.