Africa can be both rewarding and risky
Workers discover that Africa can be both rewarding and risky, reports Hu Yongqi in Dingzhou, Hebei province.
For large parts of the day, Lujiazhuang, in Dingzhou city, looks like a ghost town. Few of the 3,000 registered residents walk along the streets, bordered by two-story houses. The only faces visible belong to the young or the elderly. People of working age seem few and far between.
The only time the village shows signs of life are during the noon break or at dusk, when the kids come out of kindergarten and elementary school, playing the old game of throwing schoolbags at each other to see who can be knocked off their bike, amid much giggling and shouting. However, at nightfall a hush descends on the streets and everything is quiet once again.
In common with many villages in China, much of the workforce has moved away in search of well-paid jobs. Visitors may be surprised to see a shop selling air tickets, right in the center of the village, but Lujiazhuang has more than 500 men who regularly work overseas.
Every year, about 300 locals buy tickets at the shop. The owner, Sun Fengtao, 40, said that about 70 percent of the village’s labor force works abroad. About 10 years ago, 90 percent of those workers headed for Africa.
However, things don’t always go smoothly. Last month, Nigerian immigration officials arrested 100 Chinese for living and trading in the country illegally. Although 70 were soon released, the incident highlighted the precarious nature of the lives of these Chinese nationals looking to find their fortune in Africa, where opportunities and risks coexist. However, as wages rise in China, many of the emigres are considering returning home for good.