September 7th, 2018
It’s been a while since I posted a blog and it hasn’t been because of a lack of material. Au contraire. Blame it on ennui, lethargy, world-weariness. I’ve been feeling disenchanted with the state of the world, especially, how overnight the U.S. went from welcoming and embracing international students and scholars, to one that is imposing even stricter visa requirements, blacklisting some countries by placing them on a travel list, and spewing rhetoric that is seen as unfriendly and inhospitable by potential students around the globe who have looked at the U.S. as the beacon of higher education. Yes, long sentence, my apologies, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve a lot on my chest and all I can think is that while we see the numbers of international students dropping at our institutions, one country is forging right ahead with its agenda of winning the hearts and minds of students in African countries. You may already know the savvy country that is ahead of the economic and diplomatic game, but in case you don’t, here is it, drum roll please….it’s CHINA!
Just this week, China pledged 60 billions US dollars to Africa with no political strings attached. Yes, you read correctly. No strings attached. You don’t believe me? Click here.
While we were celebrating our three-day Labor Day weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced on Monday, September 3rd, that his country would “give $60 billion in aid and loans to Africa over the next three years without asking for any political concessions in return.” Wow!
China’s pledge involves a combination of grants, low-interest loans, financial investment and trade finance. China’s state media added on Tuesday that these types of overseas commitments were presented as “aid” or “support”, which is their way of implying that the country would make no profit.
The bottom line is that this is part of China’s “soft power” drive to anchor its geo-political and economic influence throughout Africa. According to Chinese state media, in just the first half of 2018, China has spent more than Rmb270m ($40m) on “Silk Road scholarships” for students from developing countries, according to state media.
Here is a sample of some of the countries (there are plenty more, but need to keep this blog brief) that are enjoying the financial aid offered by China supplemented by opportunities in education:
China is thinking of projects that could contribute to the development of Angola in the areas of industry, agriculture, health and education. China and Angola established diplomatic relations in 1983 and since 2002, China has become more proactive when it comes to helping Angola by financing projects to recover and build roads, railways, airports, strengthen health and education and other infrastructure that is a priority for the country’s development. In the first quarter of this year, trade between the two countries grew 22.4% to US$6.8 billion. To read more, click here.
China and Kenya have established many education schemes, and one is the China-Kenya Vocational Education program designed to help train students and teachers for mechanical engineering. To read more, click here.
In Rwanda, Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Musanze (IPRC Musanze) is playing an important role in training technical persons in Rwanda. The college which was constructed by China Geo-Engineering Corporation based on funds received from the Chinese government, is the largest polytechnic in northern Rwanda and it is contributing to technical training in the country. To read more, click here.
If you speak to Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio, he will tell you that China has always been “a reliable friend and brother” that has stood by the country at all times. This says it all, but if you want to learn more, click here.
The Ministry of Energy recently announced that it was inviting applications from candidates to qualify for Chinese scholarship opportunities for postgraduate studies in “one of China’s best Oil and Gas Universities – the China University of Geo-sciences (Wuhan).”
On the recent launching of a project sponsored by China that provides digital learning to rural regions in Uganda, the country’s Minster of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, said: “This is a project that has several benefits, it will support education and encourage digital learning in rural schools by providing learning aids in form of projectors and televisions. These will be utilized to implement lessons plans and demonstrative education through videos and pictures.” To read more, click here.
The appreciation for China’s supports is also shared by Zambia where the country’s Higher Education Minister, Nkandu Luo, has praised the Chinese Government for supplementing government’s efforts in the education sector. For more, click here.
Zimbabwe has been sending students to study in China because it is affordable and gives the graduating students the chance to develop business connections. It makes sense, since China is Zimbabwe’s largest overseas trading company. And, as China’s visa rules don’t allow international students to remain in the country after graduating from university, the students return to Zimbabwe which prevent brain-drain. To read more, click here.
China-Africa: Soft Power Diplomacy
These are just a handful of the countries in Africa, where China has established bi-lateral relations through its “soft power” approach. China continues to award education scholarships to various African countries allowing students to study at its institutions of higher education and to return to their native lands on graduation. It’s a win win situation for all sides.
I recently saw the big box office hit “Crazy Rich Asians”, a film about a super wealthy Chinese family in Singapore whose son is returning home to attend a friend’s wedding. He brings with him his Chinese-American girlfriend, a college professor who has absolutely no idea of his extreme wealthy origins. The film is billed a rom-com, but for me, it was a reflection of where we are today and what the future holds. Today, the number of Chinese billionaires exceed those in the United States. This is a major turning point for China which now boasts 596 billionaires – 60 more than the U.S.- after a staggering 242 Chinese people became billionaires for the first time in just one year, according to a new survey. There may be more Chinese billionaires, but according to the survey, those in America are richer and dominate the list of wealthiest people on the planet with Americans making up seven of the top ten. Regardless of who is the richer billionaire, at the rate China is expanding its reach into Africa, through education, manufacturing and trade agreements, it will not be for long that it will truly be a super power with Africa by its side.
The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.