China's online "African child placard" advertising services (and the people who don't see a problem with them) https://t.co/XgVpnNNqK4— Nine (@supernowoczesna) August 8, 2017
China’s obsession with all things foreign has led its businesses to exploit poor African children.
A series of clips showing African children shouting messages in Chinese have been circulating China’s social media. The children are depicted holding out placards with Chinese characters and crying out messages, which range from birthday greetings and marriage proposals to company advertisements and motivational quotes.
In one video, children are shown standing behind a blackboard that reads, “If you are looking for a piling service provider, go to find brother Biao, who is well known to all African people.”
In another clip, children shout, “Want to see pretty girls? Use Jike! Want funny stories? Use Jike! Want GIFs? Use Jike! Only 10 yuan, really great!”
The short videos, which were shot in African countries, can be bought online from stores that offer “African child placard” services on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace, China’s biggest e-commerce site. Product description state the clips are “genuine” and “unedited” and contain five to 10 children. They last up to 20 seconds and costs 150 to 220 yuan ($22-$33) per video or 10 yuan ($1.50) for a single photo. The orders are processed in one to four days.
Other online stores on Taobao offer similar services with people from countries like Italy, Brazil and Ukraine.
One online provider described the model as “charitable” because, according to them, the majority of the profits went directly to African children. However, when an ethnic Chinese photographer who made such videos in Zambia was asked about this, he said the children only received a snack or a few coins for each batch of orders.
One of the sellers also added the service fees “mostly goes to the Chinese merchant running the service out of Africa, who can make at least 170,000 yuan a day.”
Some people have voiced concerns about the ads stating the children had to speak Chinese swear words or promote X-rates live streams. Many of the clippings also violate Chinese advertising laws by calling a questionable service or product “the best” or using other exaggerated adjectives to describe it.
However, many of the netizens claim they see nothing wrong with the videos.
“I don't see what’s so wrong with this,” wrote one commenter. “These Africans are helping to make ads and are getting something back. They’re not being forced to do it, so what’s the problem? If you investigate the people making these ads, will the Africans appreciate it when you ruin their business?”
However, Rui Xiao, the owner of a Taobao store said, “Every time a client asks me if I can film African children, I say I can’t because it’s illegal. I despise people who use the poor as moneymaking tools. I give 50 to 70 percent of the money from our videos to the foreigners.”
“This has to do with China’s obsession with all things foreign. Many people here have never been out of the country — they haven’t seen foreigners, so they think it would definitely be interesting for foreigners to do ads for them,” Rui added.
Banner/Thumbnail: Reuters, Afolabi Sotunde