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This Is What Twitter Data Tells Us About the Worst Week in China-Africa Relations

Last week, the world witnessed a defining moment in China-Africa relations. Amidst fears of healthcare and economic collapse in Africa, the unified voice of Africans against the reported maltreatment of Africans in China on social media became a forceful agent in diplomatic affairs between the two parties. An engagement typically defined by closed-door agreements between government officials became distinctively public and elevated.

Eric Olander of The China Africa Project called the fallout that week “An Unprecedented Rapture in China Africa Relations”, citing tweets from grieved Africans under the trending hashtag, #ChinaMustExplain. Simon Marks at Politico similarly proclaimed that Coronavirus [had ended] China’s honeymoon in Africa and Cobus van Staden, a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, explained that “Africa’s official response [to its citizens in China] took into account popular sentiment a lot more than it usually would have”.

Social media, specifically Twitter, was the medium through which photos and videos of reportedly evicted Africans sleeping in mere coats and surgical masks at store-fronts in Guangzhou, China became public. Twitter was also the platform Africans used to call foul on China for the latest events in Guangzhou and express deep-seated angst. Twitter continues to be where African politicians listen and share their responses to community concerns.

Given its evident usefulness during the worst week in China-Africa relations, could further analysis of conversation on Twitter reveal interesting insights that could be useful for more pointed discussion and problem-solving as we ask what next for China-Africa relations?

About the Data

The data below focuses on the continental African response and perspective to the events surrounding the reported maltreatment of Africans in Guangzhou, China from April 8th through the15th, 2020. Data from Africans in the diaspora has been intentionally omitted to hone in on the growing and pertinent virtual voice of Africans on the continent and its impact on diplomacy.

Data was scraped from public profiles on Twitter. Only tweet text and geographic data were utilized in analysis to further protect the privacy of all tweets.

Bridget Boakye is a trained data scientist and Co-Founder of Talents in Africa, a continent-wide hiring platform that connects young people with meaningful employment opportunities. She has consulted on strategy and content for the first independent Ghanaian oil company, a controversial political newsroom in Ghana, the Jack-Ma Foundation, and numerous tech startups in Ghana and Nigeria. You can follow Bridget on Twitter at @Boakye_B or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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