Africa reaps rewards as students favor China

By Joyce Chimbi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/16 18:28:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Not only has China surpassed both the UK and the US to become a top destination for African Anglophone students pursuing higher learning abroad, the number of Africa students in China has also grown 26 fold in just 15 years.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics, in 2003 there were an estimated 2,000 African students in China, but now there are more than 50,000.

This is not only a demonstration of deepening and strengthening ties between this Eastern nation and the African continent, but also a tangible outcome of China's concerted efforts to support Africa in building a formidable cadre of human resource.

While the US and the UK host about 40,000 African students in a year, China surpassed this number in 2014 and is second only to France as the country with the highest number of African students.

France caters to a significant number of African francophone students and the language barrier could explain why it is still a leading destination.

This therefore means that outside of West Africa where these francophone students hail from, China is a key player in the education sector for many other African countries, particularly the East African region whose ties with China have significantly deepened in the past five years.

Research further shows that engineering studies are a popular choice for these students who are keen on driving innovation and boosting economic growth in their home countries.

Many others are keen on studying Chinese languages and making business connections since Chinese products remain popular across the African continent.

Chinese international education trends are indicative of China's commitment to support African education at home and abroad.

In 2015, China pledged to provide about 30,000 scholarships to African students by 2018 and this is a further attempt to respond to Africa's most pressing challenges in the higher education sector.

Meeting human capital development gaps that still face the African continent will significantly contribute to human development and in essence expand human choices.

Research has increasingly shown that socio-economic development is not just about growing gross domestic product, but it is also about focusing on people, building their capacities and expanding opportunities available to them.

As more African students access opportunities to expand their knowledge locally and abroad, this is an important development in establishing a solid pathway for sustainable development.

The world is grappling with a new growth order as the 2030 agenda for sustainable development with 17 global goals and 169 targets between them takes shape.

For Africa to make any headway and to perform better than it did under the Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015, a better educated and exposed human capital is a prerequisite.

There is a lot for China to gain too in this arrangement. There are those who see China's support for education in Africa and abroad as an expansion of its soft power.

Others believe that more Africans will want to work in China, as there are more and more Chinese people working in Africa.

The underlying factor here is that it is a symbiotic relationship as Africa seeks to replicate the impressive socio-economic meteoric rise that China has experienced in the past 15 years.

But even more interesting is the fact that unlike students who study in Western countries, who tend to remain in their host country well after graduation, contributing to the crippling brain drain on the African continent, things are different in China.

African students studying in China tend to return home and are therefore more likely to transform science and technology companies into organizations that are highly competitive and not just locally, but regionally and internationally.

These students, largely youthful with a high affinity for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), are also highly likely to reshape the industrial sector with the Internet.

ICT is crucial toward improving the competitiveness of African industries and their capacity to overcome the modern development challenges that they face.

A youthful human capital armed with innovative ideas and strategies from China, which has excelled in this area, can further address economic exclusion that still faces the African youth.

The author is a Kenya-based journalist.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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