Africa’s population is young, and getting younger: 70% of the continent’s population is under the age of 30. In the next 35 years, an estimated 1.8 billion babies will be born, making Africa home to more young people than anywhere else in the world. In China, the post ’90s generation (90后), born after the political and economic tumult of previous decades, are coming of age. As they do, they adopt world views that differ radically—even unrecognizably—from those of their parents’ generation.
One of the major international sagas defining the world these young people grow up is, undoubtedly, China-Africa relations. We have heard a lot about the evolving relationship between country and continent in recent years. About stadium diplomacy and ‘win-win cooperation’, resource extraction and racial discrimination, transnational flows of money and people. Yet much of the knowledge about Chinese-African relations is produced by, well, older people—commentary articulated by political, economic and academic veterans. And, to be honest, some of the frames and narratives are getting a bit…old.
Which is not to shun the careful and hard-won wisdom of previous generations. Other spaces and sites are already doing a great job sharing their voices and highlighting their experience and insight (see here or here or here or here).
But we want a space for us. With the China-Africa Millennials Project (CAMP), we want to give voice to the currently voiceless millions of young people from China, Africa and around the world. We want to insert youth into the emerging kaleidoscope of voices telling and retelling China-Africa stories.
As such, the essays, reflections and reports collected here are authored by “millennials,” all of whom have had some unique involvement in intersections of China and Africa. The pieces range in nature, quality and content. Some are rough, unpolished—a few authors are publishing thoughts in English for the first time, based on micro-research projects conducted over just a few weeks. Others are written by emerging scholars, based on years of careful consideration. Taken together, however, we hope the disparate body of works here will add a sunburst of new and lively voices to existing conversations, chip away at the dominance of stale and aging narratives, and ultimately create new discursive frontiers.
We humbly hope that this space will serve as one in which a new generation of authors, artists, scholars, business people, and wanderers can test out their voices. Can question and explore, share and exchange.
There is a lot to learn from these young people—even our most venerable elders admit it. And who knows? Maybe, not so long from now, some of those posting here will be the ones shaping the narratives of China and Africa.
Viola Rothschild (罗兰) is a proud 中美混血 (Chinese-American mixed blood) that grew up bouncing between an organic farm in rural Maine and a military retirees’ apartment compound on the outskirts of Beijing. Following her graduation from Bowdoin College in 2014, she spent a year in China on a Fulbright research fellowship learning about the backgrounds, trajectories, and aspirations of African student-entrepreneurs in greater Zhejiang Province. She is continuing her work on Sino-African relations as a Master’s student at the University of Oxford and as a remote researcher at China House.
Zander Rounds (阮杉达), a former Fulbright Scholar, is the current research manager at China House, a Chinese-led social enterprise based in Nairobi, Kenya. He graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in 2014 (Hoya Saxa!). His research interests are transnational and disperse, his preferred methodologies jumbled. In Nairobi, he conducts projects designed to glimpse the perspectives and aspirations of Chinese nationals residing and working in Kenya, in an effort to better understand (and address) the issues overseas Chinese firms tend to be associated with.
Huang Hongxiang (黄泓翔) graduated from the Journalism school at Fudan University and from SIPA (School of International and Public Affairs) at Columbia University of New York.
Since graduating from SIPA in 2013, Huang has worked in Africa as a freelance journalist and business representative/consultant for responsible Chinese investment projects. He is dedicated to working on multi-stakeholder dialogues for China’s Going Out and to ensuring the sustainable development of Chinese overseas investment.
Huang is the founder and CEO of the Nairobi-based China House Kenya, which provides consulting services to Chinese companies in Africa on sustainable development and investment.
The China-Africa Millennials Project is honored to collaborate with a group of international experts in China-Africa relations, economics, politics, environmental studies, and law.
Jane Goodall (DBE) is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her over 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees since she first went to Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania in 1960. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.
Dr. Yoon Jung Park is an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She is one of the leading researchers in the subfield of China/Africa studies. Her work primarily focuses on Chinese migrants in Africa, African perceptions of and responses to the new Chinese migrants, and preliminary impacts of these migrant communities, particularly in South Africa. Dr. Park is also the Executive Director of the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network.
Dr. Park is currently a freelance researcher with affiliations at the Sociology Department at Rhodes University (Grahamstown, South Africa) and African Studies at Georgetown University (Washington, DC). She has also taught at the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, American University and Howard University. Born in Seoul, Park grew up in Los Angeles, and lived in Africa (Johannesburg & Nairobi) from 1995-2010. She has also lived briefly in Cuernavaca, Mexico; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Boston. In addition to English, she speaks fluent Spanish, kitchen Korean, and smatterings of KiSwahili and IsiZulu.
Professor Jenik Radon, Esq. is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Public and International Affairs, Columbia University, where he teaches in the area of sustainable natural resource development with a focus on risk and strategic management, sovereignty and human rights, especially environment, minority rights (including social license) and anti-corruption.
He is the founder and director of the Eesti and Eurasian Public Service Fellowship, which has provided students from Columbia, Stanford Law School and other institutions the opportunity to intern with government officials and civil society in emerging nations across the global, including Bhutan, Cambodia, Estonia, Georgia, Kenya, Mozambique, Nepal, Philippines, Tanzania and Uganda. Radon obtained his B.A. from Columbia University, M.C.P. from the University of California, Berkeley, and J.D. from Stanford Law School. For more information, please click here.
Dr. Ross Anthony is the Director of the Center for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Ross’s research focuses on Chinese politics both domestically and in its relationship with Africa.
Within the African domain, Ross examines the relationship between Chinese economic investments in Africa and geo-political security concerns. The work examines transnational infrastructure and resource linkages in eastern and southern Africa and, by extension, the adjacent maritime territories of the Indian Ocean and Antarctic region. He is also interested in the role the economy plays in determining political relations between China and Africa, recently fleshed out in a project focusing on the diplomacy of economic pragmatism in the triangular relationship between South Africa China and Taiwan. Within China, Ross continues to hold an interest in the area of his Ph.D. research, the Muslim region of Xinjiang, western China, in fields of ethnicity, nationalism urbanization and China’s market shift. Ross is an advocate of building African-centered China expertise through teaching. He teaches on China-Africa related issues as well as on issues of Chinese politics, economy, culture and history. He holds a doctorate from the University of Cambridge funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and was previously a Mellon Foundation Research Fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies.