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Chasing a Pair of Chinese Sandals: Markets and Trade Routes in Cameroon

Sylvain Racaud


What are the connections between a village in Cameroon and the transnational network of Chinese junk? From interviews with vendors of Chinese junk and observations of commercial areas, this paper shows territorial dynamics at two ends of the trade route in Cameroon: Douala and the periodic markets in Mont Bamboutos (West). This paper argues that the structuring of the Chinese junk trade route integrates town and countryside in a complementary space produced by commercial relations, appropriated by the traders, and characterised by recent booming trading places, recent urban-rural mobility and unprecedented connections to transnational networks. The development of the Chinese junk sector structures a trade route characterised by local combinations of visible faces and inconspicuous connections and sides. The first part of the paper emphasizes the development of Chinatown in Douala through the change of the commercial equipment’s landscape and the change of the actor landscape. The second part deals with the role of the rural markets and of the rural hawkers’ mobility in the structuring of the trade route and of new territorialities based on urban-rural mobility.

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  • 1 This work was supported by the LABEX SMS, reference ANR-11-LABX-0066, and the FP7 European Project (...)

1The saying “cheaper is expensive” is often heard in Cameroon as well as many other African countries about the junk coming from China. This aphorism means that buying a poor quality cheap item repeatedly because it doesn’t last, makes it more expensive in the end. It also suggests that the use of low quality items can have important costs, e.g. if a low-cost electric oven sets the house on fire. Within this context, inexpensive plastic sandals are nicknamed “sans-confiance” (unreliable) in Cameroon because there are no guarantees one can reach the destination wearing them. Nevertheless, despite their short-lived nature, these items have flooded African markets: plastic sandals, cheap jewellery, various fashion accessories, cheap clothing, etc. A wide range of imported items of low value can be found everywhere, from busy metropolitan commercial areas to small periodic markets in agricultural mountains.

2New commercial hubs develop through overseas exchanges with, for example, the journey from Guangzhou or Yiwu (China) to Douala or Dar es Salaam. These metropolises are the most visible aspect of the trade routes. In such African places, the global merchant streets reconstruct urban landscapes and strengthen the commercial functions of these areas (Bertoncello and Bredeloup 2009). But what about the dark side of the road, i.e. the destinations of the cheap things entering rural areas? Indeed, most of the studies show these transnational routes articulating Chinese trading posts with the African continent ending in urban areas (Bertoncello and Bredeloup 2007, 2009) or stopping on main arteries without following rural branches (Pliez 2009). The question of connecting the rural areas to these global trade routes is not well documented in Sub-Saharan Africa. But nevertheless, Chinese junk is omnipresent in the landscapes of rural markets, particularly in dynamic rural areas of the African mountainous countryside.

3Agricultural trade networks and the flow of imported goods have connected rural areas with urban areas for decades (these ways of integration to the market are very heterogeneous). However, the development of the Chinese junk sector intensifies the relations between rural areas and urban areas and with recent transnational networks. Indeed, if finding imported goods in a rural market is not new, the flood of Chinese junk in the markets is recent; it dates back to the early 2000s. According to Cabestan (2005: 1), “The turning point in the Sino-Cameroonian relations was the first Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in Beijing in 2000. Since that summit, bilateral trade and economic cooperation projects have rapidly increased”. Bilateral agreements, availability and cheap prices of the junk, socioeconomic deadlocks both in urban and rural areas (high unemployment, lack of agricultural horizon, etc.) are major drivers for the intensification of the Chinese junk trade. The specificity of the junk is that these items are very much available; they are cheap and are adapted to low income populations. The junk trade business is also easily affordable as the necessary starting capital can be very low. Moreover, the renewal of these poor quality items is high because the junk is mainly flimsy items that are highly fashion-prone. Therefore, the junk circulates a lot and its flows connect the centres and some margins of the world.

4This paper deals with the trade route of Chinese junk in Cameroon, from Douala, the coastal metropolis, up to villages in Mont Bamboutos (West Cameroon). How does this imported junk manage to reach a mountainous village? Who are the actors involved in the exchanges of the Chinese junk? What commercial places contribute to the circulation of these items? The objective is to analyse geographical effects of the structuring of the trade route of Chinese junk, both in urban and rural areas. How does the development of the Chinese junk sector structure a trade road which contributes to specific territorial dynamics at two ends of the road, i.e. the national trading post and rural periodic markets? The trade route consists of the actors and the places linked by lasting relations with regards to commercial exchanges. Analysing the path of trade through its actors and its places highlights the junction between social networks and spatial networks (Belguidoum and Pliez 2012) and it enables a grasp of the sense of the place within the network.


5This paper favours a comprehensive description of the circulation of Chinese junk, through the examination of commercial places and of traders (in their context), in order to show the space of the road and the territorial dynamics between the trading post and rural markets; in other words, the geographical forms of the road. This article proposes the following hypothesis: the structuring of the trade route for Chinese junk integrates town and countryside in a “merchant zone” (Grégoire 2002), a complementary space produced by commercial relations, appropriated by the traders, and characterised by recent booming trading places, recent urban-rural mobility and unprecedented connections to transnational networks. The space of the road is a “form of spatial continuity between urbanity and rurality” (Walther 2004: 319); it is a continuum of flexible combinations of urban and rural attributes. The landscapes of the commercial places, the circulations and the practices of the traders are the starting points for exploring a trade route and its more or less visible faces.

6The empirical material stems from two periods of fieldwork (May 2014 and August 2015) in Douala and Mont Bamboutos. Douala, the coastal metropolis, is the Cameroonian gateway for the imported goods. Mont Bamboutos, at the end of the road, is relevant to the study of the structuring of new trade networks because this zone (as many African Mountains), has been integrated into old agricultural transnational networks for decades. However, because of the reshaping of the agricultural model, new commercial linkages have contributed to the new opening up of the mountain economy. With the flooding of Chinese junk several merchant networks coexist.

7The approach is inspired by the multi-sited approach, particularly the follow the people, follow the thing and follow the life techniques (Marcus 1995). The data have been collected along the road and biographies have been carried out. Following the goods in commercial areas in town (from main street to inconspicuous interstices), following the rural hawkers from village to village, and using the same means of transport (on foot, moto-taxi, lorry, collective taxi) is a kind of road research: the movement is the vital lead for data collection along the road. It enables one to experience the road and some aspects of the daily life of the hawkers. 54 semi-structured interviews of vendors were used, one third in town with shop managers and shop employees, and two thirds in rural periodic markets with traders which follow the route of the periodic markets. Group discussions with rural hawkers were carried out in two rural markets. Observations and landscapes’ analysis were used; the landscapes shaped by the commercial activities provide relevant information (Steck 2006). Interviews were carried out in the “working place” (except for the biographies, the latter having been carried out in bars). Conducting a survey in the streets, in shops or in markets, with more or less precarious actors, is difficult. There are blockage factors linked to the activity and to the place where data is collected such as the high precariousness of traders, limited availability, and fear of giving information to somebody who could work for the tax office.

8To highlight specific territorial dynamics at two segments of the road, the article is organised in two parts. The first one is about the emergence of Chinatown in Douala and shows the shift of the commercial landscape and the emergence of the behind-the-scenes in trade. The second part emphasis is on inconspicuous places and inconspicuous actors of the road in the countryside, by showing the role of rural markets and of rural hawkers in the structuring of the trade route.

Douala, a major African gateway

9Douala is a port with important commercial and logistic functions. The national census of 2005 indicated that Douala had more than 1.9 million inhabitants (BUCREP 2010). For the period 1987-2005, its annual population growth rate was notable at 4.7 % and with the same rate Douala would have three million inhabitants in 2015.

10As with other African countries, the bilateral trade between China and Cameroon is booming. Between 2000 and 2011, China-Africa exchanges have multiplied 12 times over as a consequence of the economic growth both in China and in Africa (Gabas and Chaponnière 2012). Cameroon has become a regular African trading partner with China since its first commercial bilateral agreement signed in 1972 and cooperation agreements followed one after another. The Cameroon’s merchandise trade with China is booming: from 2005 to 2012, importations have increased by 406% and exportations have increased by 772% (Cabestan 2015). Textiles and footwear are listed among the main imported goods from China and they enter Cameroon via Douala.

A flood of Chinese goods

11The imported goods from China brand a booming merchant area, located in the old town: a section of the President Ahidjo Boulevard to La Douche, in the Akwa area. Douala has two other major commercial places: the central market (Marché central) in New Bell area and Mboppi market in Deido. These two huge markets date from the early 1980s. They are the biggest commercial places of Douala and are highly congested areas whose delimitation is not clear. There is a commercial continuum from La Douche to the central market; the Congo market along the Congo Paraiso Street is the interface. Mboppi and the central market follow a linear trajectory: growth of the activities and spatial extension is problematic here, contrary to La Douche which is appropriately called Chinatown due to the development of the Chinese trade.

12Indeed, the landscape is highly particularized by many Asian indicators: Chinese characters on shop signs, Asiatic sellers behind the counters, and the omnipresence of clothes, footwear and hand bags. Chinatown is the hotbed of Chinese commercial activities in Douala (Toug 2010) and would be the main supplier in Cameroon of imported shoes and clothes. Everybody agrees (at least the interviewed vendors both in Douala and in the West region) that, if someone wants to get supplies of clothes or footwear, Chinatown is the right place. Countless shops of various f is the restedtal Salaam. onom"s, rececntlory: grois the restern the intee junka> m"s, rec,0 mo La Douche wThis artieas the risinet reops ng ofreet toom the eaigin.of the tran, a mestini the Congo Parket alo clotral market fThe secps ofed; o Labe"s, r madian A foGet k, Lebase c,nd Cameroon in inrticularly thBilyNekwThRent uly,he Chinese tre no ewme arthat arve muliated in Ladousiness i

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122/span>Toinatown is thcoecific teviancht.rmatil/formatilnterface. ith China e ittributes. ThIormatilytivity as about th75%f thuala anployment, Thea aatendspan>Th alon.e10)3 tchlits fivelopment of the rigomeltn the jeSecture mardjuannts Png=f fi1987o(Foudou th1993)Btreet iswkerg in pr nmnermatic hetivity asevokg informatity and uniis noaedil a fltirarst onget of thoiness istivity i.srea iises tht nerequia. aelotf trmital c. Bunew,rtheless, deneet grwkerg ins beco thleg aat inteameroon an the mufceasof thNemenr">f15,h1991This paneg anshnos,itninJrs né thVi pt oreot anvement is– aespan>Threal exbilityzion is co ortsion to the jerulg toaow ha ough itreral meaedil aeneeik (ad woess fispan>Th– dicated inat buformatilytivity i inea. t clayems an/2 mlyoprohleititthe aenea. sioued in thecific tentext),f(Ldex" pe10) aThIormatilyndors weda. aesus of Chunfa contmeetion.oraBunthe o cow are the acrt ofvirus -1ndgns),the omrengs,ipeddls. ad blten hee o cow aroplieofe jm!eT Caaldd wosinported raBunthhidd inom vill, the flnspicuous connrarycatrns ben counnvgencn 20aontercial reald

122/span>DoAlln 20aer,rt shoan, vethoiness issutions antbecrtaa:lasit be; pl=r dn i thfenced,hipetworks coexmg from Chasit be; pl=r dn i in tclung tomeal ex asts t ce),rmilyNi networks (Bebad in.o> ilyNi nel=r dn i i rurelad ru transdshourses t)thersb networks (Be lod;h theilyNi networks (Bb thtensing to Caaroub-BilyNekwogup d)>d wosceastociale a (g. ifMoukalagn sr the imBilyNekwogup d)Analnysveal ons , lottinuuei.e. thahgup di rumeer">ofnhpartyaaontexbutesns , nhpaknn,ad thedt 20ch a ier mlad thw areasts 0ch a ier mla pr nmportant conns of trganisedion: f threral meysveal ons b,he gsre is nran, a e gsre isr th iness iwie gsre isr thmeal exourses ,he gsre is nraheillage, anc. A is apvtiplieehmeer">ohipeables onahpers gr Cae the j coecific tertsion tssr the i coecific teterfaes wi( iness iwimeal exoetionge TeT Cadt ofsuess">fupeade. rope the o cow arc nmachied aargh prlelopo imporvil ced twpoavil ce i inalther 2004).: 15)Bspan>

123/span>Asiseend pion to thvtiplieehmeer">ohipss to anbeiie at rertyareral mentexbutesns >and the ap hit clelys ofrtsble fac the imsll peade. roThe lander haten hese iettee expnr anoteysveal ons acause the jyear of theiira anhonrs fasr contmminnts fi.e. thaolpeyhe rontexbutesns The lanelopo imporvisutions antbeoposeronxterviews ire53,ransds ,ogust 2,h19,00015,fuala, )ThSe a binessmen, nenedpe cenatal ca 20asr cooiness isaolpitan/2n if tra comtral mager annt inthuinkworus hat arty enve thalgh prlelopo impdutt tns ThAsmomnced,hipel=r dn i (eth imloeol oehopl.restdor un m" pcofs thsus r inat buntexbolof she eaquaty an the juinese junk see very mumited avxterviews ire53,ransds ,ogust 2,h19,00015,fuala, )ThR=r dn i ith imuala andhor

123/span>Thtehe emtewayThted gies, The natt),frt emfoconom" the traritorial dynamics at twoh

Reapedg of Che strce o-ei a rural petas wha>

9<3/span>InAropuximely ca3,0 kmfom Douala, the stMtexmBilut toiegion) s thconamics greeult. al pegion) rae naban lahierchéfl the negion) snsists fo thBafoussam,fusangesnd Mbout da.hBafoussam,fnatal ca 20asrast reRion) ,rhad 240,0 an 2bitants in 201505Bae firn r mocargt rewn is Chieroon i thgupng thquick lith imlth lal population growth rate wa Ch4.1%ac the imriod 191505-0010GaCREP 2010). FoWh the same ra lal porata,re imrulation gruld be th357,0 an 2bitants in 2015.

Ral markets andsmteway

113/span>AgRal markets anmlrvthasajor Afterface. hatween thral petas w,nd wore th stldssiscutt area, w,nd woe higotspotssr thchanges.both inonomic gu" someal eThe nariod 1 gurkets and the acrts,g toaces liere daople

Sypan xml:lang="en" lang="en">saFige a


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2<3/span>ThTheonamics greeult. al peck tgrnd ev thcomm pion to the eavelopment of the Chadinroute of thinese junk se rural petas wIntehier mawds, thral markets anperess ommercial contlementary y ieof tra corchant araritoriaand to oflvenotenat buntexeortesryaobalization: tldcnwi thcal comtext),i

123/span>Thiseedsion an the jupder hto the earkets anobaliz fl o awa at ar Che imrulation grd ofcs thusmportant cThe narulation grdsion an highly,irge g from Ch2 an 2bitants inr f km²t tr8 an 2bitants inr f km²t(Yemmafou 00013)nd to o are bldut the irtygriod 1 gurkets an MontexmBilut toietas e( tclung toaocargtrfrt em Che imYémbaandsc)ftween a usanges,bout da d toBafoussamThey are thcated in the trnirtaad me omrenture g of thcoadinroute oTspan>

123/span>The emrkets anda. v> id in ttoxngffencetectoris ofccifi aatg of thrticularizvoprctiosThere iv thcor obactoris nd itmaods frstedns ,sth inth the s shoub-ctoris oThere ive bldshny Asstial exlay, rds the h ive blrkets aThSe a rkets datak aple oiith laenedprce oitchlitier manda. enr"dr by nraheillage, apseves aThiseo ypeof trdisacey lrdirerctsru traheawypeof trods f,sg. ife lauond p-nd bamthes oo araedil a fllaidh) snanv nommv rofllth she earod rhichlmee tr r rest comthes oo ardrrge odh) srtheal mrdisacey l(Fige a . InOshe eaosess,re trmplrcial redisacey le bloic/2e.nsists g of Chbiluttrales onom Chldssian 1.ineaoqutecorct to shsixaoqutecorct ta at armeyh rrmeyht clbeommv red

Sypan xml:lang="en" lang="en">saFige a 6. Pngic sandals, anctoris nilaBilelo thrket aspan>


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i yleshfootst-weht p:nmatil; rSrce" :uthor

2<3/span>The shoposeronThe shinese junk se sr commeeetion.o>th thrond pand bamthes oo nhave throck-th aoifodes of ana coinese juoprctiosemnge othe shomv rty,he C is a noore thomv rty,he o cow arre canirtaea. t ore thnirtthiishelps ua cocitspan>Th(exterviews ire31,ransds ,ospan>ThMayth26,00014, Bg="ges,brs fansnation g)ThT higousewe ofserlg tomthes oos twatry lootsion in pinn todut the emina e items arcause the jye ardordables . Aleast thrhiv thce at resiyare ornthes oo mvieomchldr the be vre, e coroding of Chral markets an maina e trges fTecording to Car mlawearg throw coerd bamthes ooans thaolme a , reefaomv rtyThiseoeap prina e items a an iness isvelopment ofovide rmocal coiolation grw co orteduty ih2> mle ilihes thnyybeo"esumation grd ofcmovid rutoss wa commnsedtaoods fr(Lys of alon.e10)3 Moe impssu eefaquaty an the juinese juods fr th trrend psryaportedae o.verybody agreemethat bue lainese juowi, anmthes o, js i, chphon, anc. A vot langicvcecnfrb the eenea. ailable; pd wosordables ,sth ino commnsedta ad thede. ro

123/span>ToT eavelopment of thinese junk sex"pdorwi thahcal comtext),tch is aparacterised by recaw0consm oo nhaynd gaiolation gThr thample, thgstic sad itiyne sc sashion-putoss wors athpd rhquaty ancosmsc s anc. A ea. eap prd wosordables n the muy, ras thowinnnishFige a 7Thiseoeuraois are thynd gawe anre eve trineadess by nrbck ofeddaliban lawe anr nraermf Chshion-pThShess becnrban-r yleshrd showeawearthe shlad onohion-p:howirtadess ,hThdo peops s (,ashion-pubeltags.,ashion-puha codess rd shjs i,le, coc. A suaiod 1 gurkets athe rejor cy of the jeeuraois are thfemalene eve trrkets -aces andribtivleigor of thynd gaiple Sypan xml:lang="en" lang="en">saFige a 7ThFhion-putoss wors aedisacey l thBatangmhrket aspan>


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i yleshfootst-weht p:nmatil; rSrce" :uthor


113/span>Doesekjor cy of thinese junk sewkers ave blr, nd some asccifi aas dn i i vecodt ofexcluve dlmesentrv Chrma malenede. ro,inkk. shion-putoss wors aud coopsmsc s . Halff tra cowkers avle is nran, a inly flusanges,bd wore of gin.o from thatrurand eg ofllage, InDeite thinese junk sewkng berodin e trmeroon in inrkets rsce th15, -15,8,as lff tra cowkers avve then caede. rofoma me than 1.n heyr, l/aere ive bl udalegionmioosce ne orma re mannhant a>and the omadinro thinese junk sen be veariurle; paoce" s imponsm Thr thcoynd gaiprs g,treting poan iness isth urn coems arans thr, ng oferfgicvponsm , aelotf tribtvere.mts,g ton coomnced,n threral meaces, thbei th gr Cdi run coohion-p>and thknn,g the saengt fTeItoao earta betwg beraasfm theigomeld ariprntnvtarea borg toth urnoings thdouier maan 1.raamg. frten hepa cockboun mlawh urty tlcomnge" s imobin ei th rein

124/span>AsMe than 1.nwole r of tra cowkers avierviews ide rural perkets an(mprehesg the o cow arle is nran, nve thaess wa coaeeult. al peconsm oi.e. thahro. on hd toes thraamg. . Usu a fthiis noall peoca atnaamg. no commercial lan obacrs ord ofsubsts cecorcrs orere daahroaeasegeiundethlt. ddati gr praedil a flaut thineatecnale

124/span>Thtehadtion.oththjuckagftween a veeult. alene eve trowth ra thinese junk seadinroansnatio in ttoxe trmplementary y an 20ase two segrce" sn imponsm Thdeed, theh intivity i inppliirtach a ier ms a a coponsm sfm thineaoe ren be vnefithe eaier mThere iv tt laf de ofe atnrrelaitsumv rhe eaier maineaTheh inse rmoda. equddaltar(exspan>Thterviews ire1/span>ThthMayth23,00014, Bglelo t,brs fansnation g)ren se me o cow arve thaa vral groaeasegei(1rve)>d woscll me than 1.rn rldatshr f en kThspan>Th anIthyndhdouie the Th(exterviews ire2/span>ThthMayth25,00014, Fg>rn rldatshen kla,oraamstnwoldatshr f en k,t rures wi thS alsyThspan>

124/span>InOshe eaier mand b,aveeult. alen( tclung toaeeult. al peoloyment, )>dmo pontrrenturn graloyment, ,ssa asr impductiosefm thgaer miesnd Mbhuinuut,brious conraft anc. A pr nmportant conns of expsalesishg oferreting pomital c. T omreting pomital cr prrrequ ulyrpplieentarednth imlomish vo ons , lovo ons ufoand ofom Che eaeilyNy, c l/ foth theish om Che eattinuue. Hower, thme asede. rofletin; oth urnoonetal ca" bagegihepa sa asreasts t tifrten he thcol=r dnveIntehe emBilyNekworiale ai.e omadinrod ouracyss becnrennge" ruret eg ofe uniis nontmm pre atndung them. oeaoolr. lidatshynd gaipleangreement intt arty enshtneyhcomerin ecdmou of thm peyIntehr tee mirene uaiod 1the reje ofgifs to.kers ave blce at re"esumatioencodt of100,0 anCFA Fnumcan(aut th155neuros). Hower, the rejor cy of the jewkers avierviews ide rural perkets anletin; oth urlomital carge g from Ch10,0 an re50,0 anCFA Fnumcan(15 Ca75neuros)nd some asth urie thfe iseurosMbot of the stwkers avllow a a copnuueesrya the stral markets an getue ofe rmy nrahe shmst ongeepin ttoxe troiness iThe l iv thcomeal exoesigaon to th"asts 0t nattwcois areld cg arahe shmu ale

Hkers aveld commercial laad

114/span>Age firenture g of the Chnk sead dmo poe rmyaut ths lffgoh toeh stnw oeha en k,t rue eaier mandlff toeh stnw oeha rene CaAlry mueewagohldssian 1.incetr f rene CaT apins that bue lannectedns bebween thral petas wnd loe reinavil on

124/span>ThTde. ropmculatioening thmmectednveoansport (sa inly flbonom" f 30roeat in t a cory)ThSll pe mou oi (ldssian 1.tee mibags)nn be veansport (eth cobon,aier mwisehcargtrf mou oi e bl nsport (eth cocctukiThe l ire, ,he bl nsport (ector stao easvnefitsrom Che eavelopment of the Chadinroute o

124/span>Thiseeambula transds opmculatioenaelotfthin th ldatween the trral petas wnd loe rewn isFoWh to thtehaus g ofe jemplemexy of the jeansjtor si, thoe a repsent itonvtrpder htshvelop th rureve exs meawypeof trrchant araritoriai aats, The nasts cs oopsent i in.o>Fige a 8howina a cooce of thrchant artivity i in thcottwcois re eve trinea ura20perience tdransds ,oeh inserlg toshion-putoss wors a. Bh intra repsent itonvtroclmmercial lamculation i i two segtes in urahrchant arce ne /span>

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124/span>The emrchant araritoriaan the jeperience tdransds p hit clie thcargtrfan 1.e stinea the jettwcois thiisao eategrates toeh ine trregnal neretposesisnd loe reinavil on

124/span>ThHkers avve thty tlcomital ca eae sarve thtarop mantrrea ulyr(Fige a 9)The nariod 1 gy of the jirfruhants livsrieofsording to Caa coosed) rae naletina the jettw oeaoolryr, od loChristmpa ssed) nd the acoinet reriod 1aud cooculation i in besily afdoues . F r merme, ,hw ashaattinuueiral iwie gsr the ritcrasn to thebtvera anuala i. Gedil a fltirag ers ngo. f exgular ynpplies avierder to shobin eeges fr) snreditThe lander hatbeoposeron

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124/span>Toteed, the Chinese junk sector st aparacterised by realgh prlelopo imnceew ca 20ims . Ges frcome a ,ld-shion-p itry loquick lCaT apins that bue lannectedns bedt 20beantrrea u,rede. ropve thtarkeeto thonh asth thwt ar apgog tos ufoawn, a mndren sere thwt as meupofohe laoigawn, a uala i. span>The eyedt 20novenntrrea ulyr aias mee lancetuaan thspd, thithyndhdot ladoinkk. e gs,hyndhgoeck to vie jellage, span>Th(exterviews ire2/span>AsthMayth24,00014, Bgfoussam,frs fansnation g),traidharansds pntleang them. ce of thoiness isaolat ar Che imreeult. al peckd byllage, atch is apiprntnvtar anbeimh asslow h. Buneasue trllage, agemmetwire thd wore thnnected ru traheaban-r ceti, ani inras s toao eaangesg. . Wchlmetas wn thbility anda. expt eg o,a seoral maras sspd, meupThteed, the Chvelopment of the Chnk ss meutadmpducti aedailyoponsm sat ar apngffenceteom Che eareeult. al peai a w ashm peyouamerten hepft rhe earacvt rThIthe tradinrh iness iwiveite thw a valu oi.eonsm oo remeayp itquick lid coopeibutes.u traheafluidy of thonomic guchanges. AnWh the savelopment of thbilitehphon, hd worer scycl, ane arfw a thnk senneibutes. f exrow coys trlifoabad in.o>mculation iet ofcmmediacyThspan>

124/span>Doesekrenture g of the Chadinroute ohe e are, romeltsi 20w corchant araritoriai aats, ategratesg them. ral pet baaheaban-r 20auuce of thmplementary y a,sth ino cobilitehede. rople g of thon and dfa cowkers avle g of thafllage, InTse twntlementary y ieofres n.o>mmercial lanctions. sat arrengthen the trckages hatween thral pet baban-r tas w ough it jemculation ieofoiple

Conccusns a>

9<5/span>AsBymfoconi th gr wexpn of tra commercial lauce of– uala i-inatown ise eve trral markets an urMtexmBilut toif–wie gsrticullsavemtrrenad ru ritorial dynamics atsumeltg from Che earenture ion: f the stinese junk seadinroute os.hBause tharrtipltunro thndors wece mut the eonculation ieofoe stges f,rcause the junk se srailable; pd woeap pthe aenrts,he imnd, me tra colaw0consm aban-r t rural marolation gThuala, the sttewaygsrotgffThey arnagersdraotseple oi eae ris rede. ro,iw are thmmeeeed Ch thionfto the stull peng=eirennd the coAhidjo Boulelar Texhjuspan>inrengs,iatebbi tspan> an maina e trade. ropeldages f0nneibutes. f ext costial exngffencetiion: t rureseltsifm theimmebinion ieofocal cod twpoara-cal cordacoTspan>

125/span>The lanal coiow hae tnanplos tiz oue lannlemexy of thcal codrrge onts f,ach a tors ,osording to Cahipaptsion t,oers antoomlcus hatjirftivity i ithgstyg toth urthsaperanseity an the laon alsrs antween tho cm and loformatilftivity i iThiseoenlemexlasit be; pl=r dn i the trre th stldssifa c afdissepuales rckages h,ospan>The nocal coperess is of ura20conspicuous acobalization: aeuce ofess rce" span> a(exPsitzh15, )i.e. thahuce ofovide g toonomic gu orteduty ih2>d wosropriated dhbthe Thmmectedns s tredingon t cxade bs nof Chunpshntdt i inadinr,ht oflvenotenat buntexeortesryaobalization: tldcnwi thcal comtext),i

125/span>InDeite their feddols acaccifof the Chnk sector s,nserlg tonk se sravcecn-aermfaoce" s imponsm ac thral maw on hd ttthnyybeo"omm pion t,>dmo poier ms ivity i ith thsusin eseity an thpeasen rlith imregarra shral pedeadcal ff awa otrr obstuff,fcmmigraon to thuala anandeatth ant ind tontmminnts o vie jellage, CaIts thshnt ulmesens idebthe arkegi of ure trald ainofthe hajopspan> a,re thmmected ru tradepol one trrement is 20aurchant arctmementary yhuce oftegratesg then ise evmmtrieyse rThaculation iet offluidy ofses ar anbeime ascoluons. sao0a covelopment ofeiiralen(Lmeb intt ofNit cl10). nb thnkieg ofethe emrd alstis f the Chnk ss meutadminean befe" edouetfuc. T omnk se sraveap prctmeine of thobalization: ,xroglal tation: tc the imroor? Isniisoal= maelavil on thtaromv rtyn m" miragea thvelopment o?ospan>



1 This work was supported by the LABEX SMS, reference ANR-11-LABX-0066, and the FP7 European Project RurbanAfrica. I express my gratitude to David Scott, Cindy Gaudin and the UNV Online Volunteering service for the proofreading. I thank Aristide Yemmafouo, from the University of Dschang for its comments and suggestions.

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1. Jin Mao International Commercial Center on the President Ahidjo Boulevard
Caption Source: author. This kind of building, with emblematic attributes of globalization, is the model of the new buildings in Chinatown, Akwa, Douala.
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 2. Specialized wholesale shop in an ancient building by the side of the President Ahidjo Boulevard
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 3. Basic commercial displays in the interstices leading behind the scenes
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 4. Behind-the-scenes of Chinatown: small shops run by small traders
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 5. Rural markets are a collection of several trade routes
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 6. Plastic sandals’ section in Baleveng market
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 7. Fashion accessories displays in Batcham market
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
Title Figure 8. Spaces of activities of two traders
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 200k
Title Figure 9. Young hawker at the beginning of its career
Caption Source: author
File image/jpeg, 2.1M
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Electronic reference

Sylvain Racaud, « Chasing a Pair of Chinese Sandals: Markets and Trade Routes in Cameroon », Articulo - Journal of Urban Research [Online], 12 | 2015, Online since 21 March 2016, connection on 13 December 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/articulo.2899

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About the author

Sylvain Racaud

Sylvain Racaud is Deputy Director of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) in Nairobi, Kenya, and Associate Researcher at the LISST Dynamiques Rurales Laboratory at the University Toulouse Jean Jaurès in France. His research investigates urban-rural linkages in Africa through trade networks that integrate rural society with urban, and to globalisation. His work focuses on the structuring of trade routes between African trading posts and mountainous villages. Email:

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