Shanghai Black Expo introduces Africa to Chinese consumers

Published:  28 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, China, Euro
An event held recently in one of Shanghai's most historic buildings is shifting assumptions about black entrepreneurs in the Chinese mega-city.

Set in Shanghai’s historic quarter, Black Expo is all about changing the way the Chinese see black expats living and working in the huge city. The event featured booths selling the best of black design, from Ghanain jewellery to fashions and much more, displaying the colourful, totally individual talent of black designers at present totally unfamiliar to the majority of the city’s Chinese residents. Exhibitors made the most of the exposure to potential clients of their Africa-based designs and creations, easily persuading fascinated shoppers that African products are great for non-African consumers.

Black Expo is the inspiration of Ugandan artist James SSerwadda and American think-tank worker Olivia Nadine, who started the project with the aim of shifting assumptions about black expatriate entrepreneurs in China. Both had realised black entrepreneurs have a very hard time establishing themselves and their ideas in Shanghai, struggling to get the attention and finance necessary to grow their start-ups. Exhibitors at the expo presented high-quality products across the board, from shea butter cosmetics and moisturisers perfect for Shanghai’s bitter cold, dry winters to colourful designer fashion and the iconic African music being celebrated on an outdoor stage.

Participants in Black Expo view this and similar events as a way to break down the long-established stereotypes applied to China’s growing black community, normally seen as athletes and musicians rather than talented businessmen and women active in diverse sectors. According to Ghanain fashion entrepreneur, event organiser and bespoke tailor Benjamin Kontoh, there are a huge number of African entrepreneurs trying to make it in China’s big cities, all of whom have problems getting backing as a result of being stereotyped by the Chinese.

In the Chinese media, Africa in general is portrayed as a continent where wars, disease and poverty predominate, meaning readers miss out on the amazing talent and capability inherent in the African people, all of whom truly represent their iconic cultures at their most vibrant and fascinating. One sector especially of interest to Chinese female consumers African skin care products, with many keen to try them out. African music and dance is also endlessly enjoyable, with authentic hip-hop especially popular with Shanghai’s younger crowd.
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