This is how many West Africans living in New York City ship goods to their families back home—loading everything from high heels to SUVs into trans-Atlantic shipping containers. Some immigrants have even turned their shipments into business opportunities, sending furniture, food and other in-demand goods to partners who sell them in the city markets of Guinea, Liberia and Senegal.
The United States is the world’s second largest exporter of containerized cargo (after China), while West Africa is the 11th largest importer, according to the World Shipping Council. New York City is home to a West African-born population of about 66,000, many of whom take advantage of the African-run shipping businesses in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
“You cannot compare Africa to America,” said Baba Sy, an Ivoirian immigrant standing outside of Khady’s African Hair Styles on 116th Street in Harlem. Sy uses the businesses to ship food and vehicles to his family. “Some stuff we just don’t have there.”