A BBC Africa Eye undercover investigation has exposed how a Chinese syndicate exploits vulnerable children in Africa to produce racist videos.
In the 49-minute forensic investigation released on Monday, the documentary showed how Chinese content creators sold videos of children in Malawi who were made to chant racial slurs against blacks in Chinese.
In one of the videos shot in February 2020, a group of African children were instructed, by a voice off-camera, to chant phrases in Chinese.
The kids repeat the words with smiles and enthusiasm — but they don’t understand that what they’re being told to say is “I am a black monster and my IQ is low.”
BBC Eye reporter Runako Celina and Malawian investigative journalist, Henry Mhango tracked the digital and on-the-ground footprints of a Chinese filmmaker they suspected of making the ‘low IQ’ video.
They were assisted by a Chinese journalist who filmed undercover, recording the man expressing a series of racist opinions about Malawians and about black people in general.
After analysing and cross-referencing hundreds of similar videos against satellite imagery from Google Earth, the BBC Eye team located where the ‘Low IQ’ clip was shot: a village on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.
Some of the videos identified in the investigation were sold on Chinese social media through Weibo and Huoshan, among other Chinese video-sharing apps.
These videos range in price between US$10 and US$70.
New video evidence filmed by the BBC reveals that the words the children say aren’t racist alone but are often good wishes or adverts for Chinese companies.
There are no official figures on the exact number of vendors or how much money the sector makes from the sale of these videos.
The reporters also met some of the families involved in the filmmaker’s activities and examine how cultural misunderstandings, rural poverty, and racist exploitation underpin the video-making industry.
The grandmother of a child featured in the ‘low IQ’ video told the BBC that the Chinese producer was “profiting from the poor.”
The investigation disrupted the video-making syndicate — but in villages across the continent, African children are still being exploited for profit.
Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.