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Beijing's first African hair salon thrives a year on

POPULAR: Congolese owner says "customers come in from all around China" for her winning styles

CHINA'S FIRST all-African hair salon is thriving one year after opening its doors in the capital of Beijing.

Martha Makuena, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, immigrated to China in 1999 and started the business, but admits she didn't expect it to take off in the way it has.

"It's the first official [African] salon in Beijing," she told the BBC.

"We have customers come in from all around China, they catch their train at night, they arrive in Beijing early in the morning. They come here and get their hair done and they catch their train back home at night. The other time we had one, she saw a Chinese artist that braided her hair and she wanted her hair braided the same way. For them they say, 'I want to look cool'"

Martha had all of her children in China and says that despite the obvious differences, there is nothing that separates them from their fellow country men.

"When I'm with [my kids] we speak Chinese. When doing business in China, the most important thing is the language. When you understand the language, you understand the person.

She added: "People when they look at Africans, they mostly they think about bad things. I remember one time, someone said to me, 'you Africans, when you start something, today we see it and tomorrow it disappears, but now people are seeing that I'm here, so they respect me. They don't look at me as an African, they look at me as a person doing business."

opening in Beijing.

Over the last decade, hundreds of thousands of African immigrants have made their homes in China.

They've been drawn by the business opportunities China's booming economy has created.

But it's not all about trade and commerce. Some are offering what you might consider an essential service.

Martha Makuena, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, opened Beijing's first all-African hair salon last year, and the business has taken off in unexpected directions.

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