( CNN ) The upsurge in the number of African students in China is remarkable. In less than 15 times the African student torso has grown 26 -fold — from only under 2,000in 2003 to almost 50,000in 2015.

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

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 developing. Starting in 2000, China’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summits have promised financial and political is supportive of African education at home and abroad in China .
Since 2006, China has determined scholarship targets to aid African students coming to China for learn. For instance, at recent developments 2015 peak, China pledged to provide 30, 000 scholarships to African students by 2018.

Although China stopped writing regional scholarship data regarding 2008, our data analysis using the 2003 -2 008 data to generate scholarship estimates suggests that this target is on the way to being met. China seems to be preserving 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 into China can translate into a willingness to work with China and position China’s internal or external policies favorably in the future .

Based on several surveys, most students tend to be enrolled in Chinese-language courses or engineering degrees. The predilection 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 evaluations. Some analyzes have shown that African students are generally fulfilled with their Chinese education, as long as they can overcome the language impediments. Others found that even if students were not impressed with their education, they acknowledged the trade and businessopportunities that a Chinese education made available to them back home .

The next generation

It’s difficult to know exactly which African countries are mailing the most students to China. These details are not kept by the Chinese Ministry of Education. But the statistics from Tsinghua University offer an insight. In the 2015 -2 016 academic year, the majority of the university’s 111 African students came from Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Morocco, Eritrea, and Cameroon — slightly preferring East Africa .

African students in France overwhelmingly come fromfrancophone West Africa. If Tsinghua’s profile holds true for “the worlds largest” African student body in China, it intends China is an increasingly important player in the education of countries outside of West Africa .
Due to Chinese visa rules, most international students cannot is necessary to stay in China after their education is complete. This prevents brain-drain and means that China is training a generation of African students who — unlike their equivalents 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 .

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