Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

Nigerians in China: Health maintenance, circulation and everyday transnationalism in Guangdong Province

Nigerians in China: Health maintenance, circulation and everyday transnationalism in Guangdong Province

Auteur(s) : Adebayo Kudus ;

As the presence of Africans in China continues to intensify, the challenges they face in Chinese cities has attracted scholarly interests, particularly their healthcare-related barriers. However, little has been done to uncover how they navigate health problems through circular migration and transnational practices. The article explores the importance of circulation and everyday transnationalism in the health maintenance practices of Nigerian migrants in China. Situated within the growing literature on the presence and health challenges of Africans in Chinese cities, this contribution uses qualitative data from ethnographic fieldwork to analysing the modes and context of circulation and transnationalism in the health maintenance practices of Nigerians in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

This study was based on a data set collected from 52 Nigerian migrants in Guangzhou over the course of two visits in 2017. The current contribution, however, incorporated the views of a total of 37 Nigerians who discussed their health maintenance practices. A combination of qualitative interview techniques was used to collect data from the participants, all of whom were living in the Chinese city during fieldwork. Data analysis employed thematic and interpretative approaches while findings were reported using ethnographic summaries and verbatim quotes.

Findings revealed that circulation and transnational practices were crucial in the maintenance of health among Nigerians. For example, circular migrants operate as human transport infrastructure between Nigeria and China to import herbal medicines and hard-to-acquire pharmaceutical drugs on behalf of those residing in Guangzhou on a more or less permanent basis. Circular migrants fall into two groups: 1) those who visit Guangzhou market on a regular basis, and; 2) those known as ‘flyers’ whose sole drive was to import in-demand goods and distribute in the Nigerian migrant community at a profit. Meanwhile, migrants’ transnationalism for the maintenance of health involved flows of different kinds, particularly medical information and goods, with family members and medical professionals in Nigeria playing a major role. Whereas family members and relatives send commonly used drugs to migrants residing in China, doctors facilitate therapeutic flows, a practice that becomes important for migrants who have a pre-existing condition and had sustained trusting relations with his/her physician in Nigeria. Finally, while medical return migration was not always a choice for everyone, a return can sometimes be the last resort for some. Having a limited choice to embark on medical return was more prevalent with migrants that were undocumented. In some cases, return becomes inevitable, and some undertake such a journey when an illness is at the advanced/critical stage.

Despite the healthcare barriers they experience in Guangzhou, Nigerian migrants engage in a number of health maintenance practices to improve their health. This study underscored the importance of migrant circulation and transnational practices in the health maintenance practices of Africans in Chinese cities. It showed the ways that the social, cultural and political contexts and migrant ‘illegalities’ facilitate and inhibit health maintenance practices of Africans in contemporary China. The study contributes to the literature as it responds to the growing call for the adoption of a transnational lens for interrogating migration and health behaviours.


Mot-clé : "Africa-China relations", "circular migration", "medicinal commodities", "migrant health", and "transnationalism"
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