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The resilience of African migrant entrepreneurs in China under COVID-19

David Prah (School of Management, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing, China)
Hagan Sibiri (School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, Shanghai, China)

Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies

ISSN: 2053-4604

Article publication date: 12 November 2020

Issue publication date: 12 November 2021




As the impact of COVID-19 on businesses was impossible to predict, so is the future of migrant entrepreneurs – some of whom, before the outbreak, had to deal with immigrant status associated challenges. Against this backdrop, this paper aims to focus on African migrant entrepreneurs in China, much less studied ethnic migrants who have always lived on the margins of Chinese society, to examine their entrepreneurial resilience under COVID-19 in China.


The study used a qualitative design using a survey and semi-structured follow-up interviews as the primary data collection instrument. The questions in the questionnaire guide were adapted from the Center for Global Development survey instrument designed to gauge the resilience of SMEs under COVID-19.


Although most business operations in China are impacted, African migrant businesses were very hit due to existing social challenges coupled with their informality (i.e. operating at a low level of organization), lack of contingency plans and lack of stimulus support. COVID-19 is thus not only a force majeure that threatens the growth expectation of African owned-business but also presents a threat to their very existence in an already challenging society for Africans.

Research limitations/implications

Although the study has achieved its intended purpose, the sample was relatively small due to the low return rate of questionnaires and the difficulties in reaching out to target respondents due to the restrictive measures on movements during the data collection period.


This paper draws attention to the entrepreneurship-related challenges faced by ethnic migrants in China during a crisis. The social challenges of Africans living in China became a global topical issue during the COVID-19 outbreak in China. However, little is known about their entrepreneurship endeavors and the associated difficulties. This paper helps our understanding of African businesses’ resilience in China during uncertain times, such as the one created by COVID-19.



The Authors are grateful to all the respondents who candidly responded to our questions. Thanks also to Mr Emmanuel Tenakwah of the University of Newcastle, Australia, and Ms Hannah Getachew of Black Livity China for their useful comments. Last but not least, our heartfelt gratitude to the handling associate editor (Dr Ondřej Dvouletý) and the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestion throughout the review process.


Funding: The study received no grant.

Competing interests: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Availability of data and materials: The data set used is available upon reasonable request.

Authors’ contributions: The authors contributed equally in the design, data collection, analysis and writing the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Prah, D. and Sibiri, H. (2021), "The resilience of African migrant entrepreneurs in China under COVID-19", Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, Vol. 13 No. 5, pp. 1119-1133.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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