China has been engaged with Africa since the 1956. Following the domestic economic reforms of 1978, politically and ideologically motivated engagement gave way to economically and commercially driven cooperation. Successive waves of reforms in China have made the engagement more economically and commercially driven. Initially China’s engagement with Africa in general was dominated by China’s state-owned enterprises. More recently private enterprises have entered the arena. In discussions on China–Africa, China is often presented as a single actor. In fact, there are many ‘Chinas’ in Africa. More nuanced literature has disaggregated ‘China’ in Africa into different actors. With regard to China’s economic cooperation, the literature has either focused on its state-owned enterprises or the impacts of its commercial relations on local African business and populations. This paper intends to contribute to the growing literature on Chinese private enterprises in Africa. It provides a characterization of Chinese private companies in Kampala, Uganda, based on a recent survey of 42 Chinese enterprises there. It will present the data, analysis and stories of how and when they came, what problems they encountered and how these were solved based on the in-depth interviews that were carried out. The paper will show that many of these companies are relatively small, recent entrants in Uganda, motivated by the potential of the markets and increasingly facing problems with the authorities concerning their visas and work permits. It will be concluded that life for these private enterprises in Uganda is becoming gradually more difficult. There will be a shaking out of the companies that do not provide positive contributions to the local economy and society in general. This leaves many, especially smaller, Chinese private entrepreneurs uncertain about their future in Uganda.

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Journal of Asian and African Studies

Warmerdam, W., & van Dijk, M. P. (2017). What’s Your Story? Chinese Private Enterprises in Kampala, Uganda. Journal of Asian and African Studies, 52(6), 873–893. doi:10.1177/0021909615622351