Many new graduates in China are choosing Africa as their career destination because more opportunities are available. Although there are no official statistics on graduates moving to Africa to work, this topic is attracting high interest among young Chinese amid the current record-high unemployment rate.

China’s youth unemployment rate has risen to nearly 20% this summer.

This fall, many Chinese employers announced plans to cut back on recruiting new graduates amid a severe economic downturn.

Against this backdrop, trade between China and Africa has remained robust throughout the pandemic. In 2021, total trade between the two sides had grown to a record $254 billion, up 35% year-on-year. Chinese investment in the continent also continues to grow steadily.

Therefore, Africa is a hopeful door for current Chinese university graduates.

An investment and recruitment manager at a Chinese state-owned company in Algeria said, “Since the end of 2021, recruitment became easier, and this year it became extremely popular. The number of interviewees increased by 80%.”

The online magazine Sixth Tone interviewed some young Chinese living in Africa.

24-year-old finance student Zhu Yuying started looking for a job after graduating in the fall of 2022. But he quickly struggled with the frozen labor market in the country.

Zhu submitted about 70 job applications and attended several rounds of interviews. But the job offers he received all had a low starting salary compared to the common ground, nearly $13,000 a year.

One day, a video of a vlogger caught Zhu’s attention. This person suggested moving to Africa to find a high-paying job.

Zhu then applied for a Chinese company and became a financial assistant for a construction corporation operating in Africa with a starting salary of about $35,300.

Zhu said, “I plan to work in Africa for a few years and then come back when the economy is better (…) It’s easier to find a job in Africa right now.”

Li Yao, 26, working for a Chinese company in Guinea, has witnessed the development of this trend.

Li said that since doing a vlog about her life in Guinea in 2020, she’s noticed many people in China have started making similar content.

According to Li, her posts on life experiences or preparations for life in Africa often receive great interest from viewers.

Li told Sixth Tone, “Even if I don’t post those kinds of things, there’ll be one or two people every day asking questions like, ‘How’s this African country?’ or ‘How’s this company?'”

More and more top university graduates began questioning her about working in Africa. She was surprised when some people told her they were worried they might not find work there.

Li said, “I was confused. Since when did African jobs become so attractive?”

What attracts these young Chinese?

When asked about the advantages of living in Africa, most young Chinese said that finance is the top advantage. They are well-paid, have free accommodation, and have a low cost of living.

Others talk about long vacations working in Africa. Many Chinese companies give employees a month of paid leave after about 3-5 months of completion of work. The pace of work in Africa is also less stressful than in China.

Ida, a Chinese working in the Congo, told Sixth Tone: “The accommodation is even better than expected, with a personal dorm. I’m very satisfied.”

All is not gold

Many young Chinese are concerned about security when living in Africa.

Li Yao shares from two years of experience living in Africa that the northern countries are generally safer than the southern and eastern African countries.

Li advised workers to avoid crowded places, public transport, and going out at night.

Secondly, healthcare is a problem. Health services are few and expensive because there are not enough doctors in Africa.

Another cons is the lack of freedom of movement. Chinese companies in Africa often tighten security and only let employees leave campus with management approval.

Many are trapped in cottages lacking recreation. That leaves them physically and socially isolated.

Li Yao became a vlogger also because she was bored and wanted to do something to fill her free time. Li said she cries almost every month because she sometimes has a mental breakdown. She thinks many other Chinese in Africa also do vlogs because they feel bored, just like her.

Li said, “I’m far away from my family and far away from the interesting life in China. Sometimes, I ask myself why I spent all my youth in Africa.”

Many are not very optimistic about their plans to return to China. Because the experience they have accumulated in Africa may not be appreciated by employers back home. Once attached to Africa, their way home becomes further away.

Ida said, “You have planted your roots in Africa. If you go back, it’s like uprooting yourself.”

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