Chinese people in Kenya

Chinese people in Kenya

Chinese people in Kenya
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Nairobi · Mombasa[1][2]
Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese

There may have been minor settlement of Chinese people in Kenya as early as the 15th century; however, modern migration from the People's Republic of China to Kenya only dates to the late 1990s and early 2000s.[3] There are estimated to be anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 Chinese people in the country.[1]

Migration history

Zheng He's fleet

Early Chinese mariners had a variety of contacts with Kenya. Archaeologists have found Chinese porcelains made during the Tang dynasty (618–907) in Kenyan villages; however, these were believed to have been brought over by Zheng He during his 15th century ocean voyages.[4] On Lamu Island off the Kenyan coast, local oral tradition maintains that 20 shipwrecked Chinese sailors, possibly part of Zheng's fleet, washed up on shore there hundreds of years ago. Given permission to settle by local tribes after having killed a dangerous python, they converted to Islam and married local women. Now, they are believed to have just six descendants left there; in 2002, DNA tests conducted on one of the women confirmed that she was of Chinese descent. Her daughter, Mwamaka Sharifu, later received a PRC government scholarship to study traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in China.[5][6][7]

On Pate Island, Frank Viviano described in a July 2005 National Geographic article how ceramic fragments had been found around Lamu which the administrative officer of the local Swahili history museum claimed were of Chinese origin, specifically from Zheng He's voyage to east Africa. The eyes of the Pate people resembled Chinese and Famao and Wei were some of the names among them which were speculated to be of Chinese origin. Their ancestors were said to be from indigenous women who intermarried with Chinese Ming sailors when they were shipwrecked. Two places on Pate were called "Old Shanga", and "New Shanga", which the Chinese sailors had named. A local guide who claimed descent from the Chinese showed Frank a graveyard made out of coral on the island, indicating that they were the graves of the Chinese sailors, which the author described as "virtually identical", to Chinese Ming dynasty tombs, complete with "half-moon domes" and "terraced entries".[8]

Modern migration

The modern wave of Chinese migration to Kenya dates back to the late 20th century. As recently as 1996, there were few Chinese in Kenya, and the capital Nairobi had only one Chinese restaurant, but by 2007, the city boasted an estimated forty Chinese restaurants, largely opened by expatriates from mainland China.[1] Most have settled in the area around the Chinese embassy, which is located near the State House and the Defence Headquarters, in a relatively high-security part of the city.[3] There are also some Chinese in the coastal city of Mombasa. Restaurants and TCM clinics are two popular lines of business for Chinese in the city.[2] Chinese in various parts of the country also run import/export businesses, with products as varied as computers, glassware, and automobile parts for import, and shark fins for export.[2][3][9]

Recent Chinese migrants cite Kenya's relative stability and high rate of growth as factors in choosing it as their destination. However, many of them consisted of middle-aged people, as younger migrants preferred destinations in Europe or the United States.[10] In total, estimates published in popular media from 2006 through 2008 place the number of Chinese in Kenya at anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 people.[1][10][11]

Education and media

Kenya has one Chinese community school, the Kenya-China School (肯尼亚中国学校), founded in March 2006. It has 20 teachers, among whom five teach Chinese, and 200 students, including 20 at the kindergarten level, 50 in the primary school division, and 130 technical students. The student body is just 25% Chinese.[12] The Confucius Institute has also opened a branch at the University of Nairobi, its first on the African continent.[1] A second Institute now exists at Kenyatta University on the outskirts of Nairobi.

China Radio International and China Central Television are rebroadcast for a few hours a day by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.[1]

Integration and community

Some local Kenyan merchants complain that Chinese expatriates selling imported goods are stealing jobs from them.[1] They accuse Chinese traders of taking photographs of their goods in order to copy the designs, and claim they have unfair advantages such as cheap labour in China local government support.[13] Chinese people have also opened apparel factories in Kenya's export processing zones, but there have been protests against poor working conditions there. Many Chinese businesspeople, especially those in the textiles industry, try to avoid directly dealing with locals as a result of this opprobrium, instead employing Kenyan human resources managers and accountants.[3] The Kenyan government are taking a variety of steps to attempt to address the trade imbalance between the two countries, including encouraging Chinese traders to invest in local production facilities.[14]

Chinese people are respected by locals for the infrastructure that Chinese companies have built in Kenya, such as the Thika Road.[2] However, engineers working in remote parts of the country on such infrastructure projects stand out significantly from locals, and often face the danger of violence as a result.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Fackler, Ted (4 July 2007), "Chinese Expatriates in Kenya", China Daily, retrieved 2009-03-29 
  2. ^ a b c d Beech, Hannah (August 2001), "The Ends of the Admiral's Universe: Zheng He's fleet went to Africa seeking exotic treasures. The Chinese still do.", Time 158 (7/8), retrieved 2009-03-29 
  3. ^ a b c d Onjala, Joseph (March 2008), A Scoping Study on China–Africa Economic Relations: The Case of Kenya, Nairobi: African Economic Research Consortium, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  4. ^ "Children of the master voyager?", People's Daily, 3 November 2006, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  5. ^ "Is this young Kenyan Chinese descendant?", China Daily, 11 July 2005, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  6. ^ York, Geoffrey (18 July 2005), "Revisiting the history of the high seas", The Globe and Mail, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  7. ^ THE WORLD (27 May 2010). "Digging for Chinese culture in Kenya". PRI's The World. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Frank Viviano (July 2005). "China's Great Armada, Admiral Zheng He". NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. p. 6. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "肯尼亚知名华商徐晖:翱翔非洲大地的九头鸟/Xu Hui, a famous Chinese businessman in Kenya: A "Nine-Headed Bird" soaring over Africa", Sina News, 11 February 2009, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  10. ^ a b "华商淘金肯尼亚:不光是生意,还有中国人的脸面/Chinese merchants "panning for gold" in Kenya: Not just business, but also "face" for Chinese people", Xinhua News, 7 November 2006, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  11. ^ a b Song, Xianxia (23 April 2008), "中国工程师肯尼亚遭劫杀 参赞已奔赴事发地/Chinese engineer killed in attack in Kenya", Shandong News, retrieved 2009-03-30 
  12. ^ "非洲肯尼亚中国学校/Africa: Kenya-China School", Overseas Chinese Language and Culture Education Online, Beijing: Chinese Language Educational Fund, 2008, retrieved 2009-03-29 
  13. ^ Omungo, Rosalia (18 July 2007), "Creating Designs for Chinese Traders to Copy", Inter-Press Service, retrieved 2009-03-29 
  14. ^ Omondi, George (3 July 2008), "Kenya steps up bid to woo Chinese investors", Business Daily Africa, retrieved 2009-03-30 

Further reading

  • Weinberg, Paul (August 2001), "Photoessay: Mombasa, Kenya", Time 158 (7/8), archived from the original on 2010-08-02, retrieved 2009-03-29 . Includes pictures of various Chinese-owned businesses in the city.
  • Yu, Xi (19 February 2007), """肯尼亚华人华侨的欢腾中国年/Kenya's Overseas Chinese Celebrate the "China Year, China Radio International, retrieved 2009-03-30 . Includes pictures of Chinese New Year celebrations in Nairobi.
  • Cai, Guoxi; Moji, Kazuhiko; Wu, Xiaonan; Zhang, Konglai (2007), "Knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and practices of Chinese migrants in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania toward HIV/AIDS", Tropical Medicine and Health 35 (1): 11–18,