China tops US and UK as destination for anglophone African students

More and more African students head to China each year to study.

The surge in the number of African students in China is remarkable. In less than 15 years the African student body has grown 26-fold – from just under 2,000 in 2003 to almost 50,000 in 2015.

 

According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the US and UK host around 40,000 African students a year. China surpassed this number in 2014, making it the second most popular destination for African students studying abroad, after France which hosts just over 95,000 students.

 

For years, these numbers have remained untranslated in the online archives of the Chinese Ministry of Education. But a recent initiative by Michigan State University researchers to translate them introduces the reports to a wider audience.

This dramatic increase in students from Africa can be explained in part by the Chinese government’s targeted focus on African human resource and education development. Starting in 2000, China’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summits have promised financial and political support for African education at home and abroad in China.

 

Since 2006, China has set scholarship targets to aid African students coming to China for study. For example, at the most recent 2015 summit, China pledged to provide 30,000 scholarships to African students by 2018.

 

Although China stopped publishing regional scholarship data in 2008, our data analysis using the 2003-2008 data to generate scholarship estimates suggests that this target is on the way to being met. China seems to be upholding the pledges made towards African education.

 

Mutual Benefit - in education and business

For the Chinese government, providing education to Africans is an extension of China’s soft power – cultivating the next generation of African scholars and elites. The experience that these students get in China can translate into a willingness to work with China and view China’s internal or external policies favourably in the future.


Manuel Kalama

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