Posted by: Home Strange Home | February 17, 2011

“Ni hao,” says Africa

Soft Power

In past posts, I have written about both the influence of China in Africa and the presence of Africans in China due to economic migration.  Continuing along this vein, an interesting (but perhaps unsuprising) trend is the uptake of Chinese-language studies among Africans.

Africa now has no fewer than 21 Confucius Institutes and 4 Confucius Classrooms, spread across the continent from Morocco in the north to Liberia in the west to South Africa in the wouth to Kenya in the east. These non-profit institutions are designed to teach standard Manadarin and promote Chinese language and culture.

The Chinese government has also expanded the number of scholarships it offers to African students over the past several years.  While the Chinese governmental statistics on this are notoriously unreliable, Deborah Brautigam (an expert on China in Africa) cites estimates in her China in Africa blog that possibly a total of 18,000 African students have been awarded Chinese government scholarships over the years and 12,000 to 20,000 African students are currently studying in China.

Many Africans feel incentivized to learn Chinese to increase their opportunity of landing a job with one of the many Chinese companies investing in their country, e.g. working as a local representative for Chinese infrastructure investment projects.  Other job opportunities for Chinese-speakers could present themselves in the tourist industry; last year, some 20,000 Chinese tourists visited Kenya, for example.

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