The ‘Fong kong’ phenomenon in Botswana: a perspective on globalisation from below
AbstractMade in China goods have received widespread criticism in Africa for their poor quality and negative effects on the local marketplace. They are termed fong kong (Barrett, 2007) goods, and in Southern Africa including Botswana, are regarded as cheap copies or fakes (Park, 2013a). In Botswana, fong kong is linked to Chinese merchants, bringing a negative image to Chinese businesses and triggering governmental restrictions on fong kong goods and Chinese businesses. However, surprisingly, fong kong goods continue to be sold in the local market. This paper discusses how fong kong goods affect local people’s lives. The research data presented is based on a ten-month field research in major cities and rural towns in Botswana. Data was collected using participant observation and conducting in-depth interviews with Chinese merchants, managers of South African chains, local customers and officials, and so on. After explaining details associated with the supply chain, this article describes local people’s experiences of fong kong goods. The findings show that, despite the negative image attributed to fong kong goods, they have contributed to clothing the needy, initiated creativity and brought convenience to members of local society. Adopting low-end globalisation as theory, this article argues that despite wide criticism received and associated illegalities, fong kong goods have helped poor and middle class individuals greatly to improve their quality of life, thereby creating a more egalitarian society in Botswana.
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