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 favorably in the future.
But what do African students gain in return? China-Africa scholars
have found t
hat students head to China for many reasons. Some simply go to pursue an education that is affordable, even without a scholarship, while others go for the chance to develop business connections or learn the language of a country presumed to be a rising power.
Based on several surveys
, most students tend to be enrolled in Chinese-language courses or engineering degrees. The preference for engineering may be due to the fact that many engineering programs offered by Chinese universities for international students are taught in English
The quality of education has received mixed reviews. Some studies have shown that African students are generally satisfied
with their Chinese education, as long as they can overcome the language barriers
found that even if students were not impressed with their education, they appreciated the trade
opportunities that a Chinese education made available to them back home.
The next generation
It's difficult to know exactly which African countries are sending the most students to China. These details are not kept by the Chinese Ministry of Education. But the statistics from Tsinghua University
provide an insight. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the majority of the university's 111 African students came from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Morocco, Eritrea, and Cameroon -- slightly favouring East Africa.
African students in France overwhelmingly come from
francophone West Africa. If Tsinghua's profile holds true for the larger African student body in China, it means China is an increasingly important player in the education of countries outside of West Africa.
Due to Chinese visa rules, most international students cannot stay in China after their education is complete. This prevents brain-drain
and means that China is educating a generation of African students who -- unlike their counterparts in France, the US or UK -- are more likely to return home
and bring their new education and skills with them.
It's still too early to tell how these new dynamics might be shaping geopolitics on the continent.