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Aug 12, 2017

Nairobi-based journalist Mark Kapchanga contends that it is time for Africans to learn to speak Chinese. In a provocative column published last month in the Chinese newspaper Global Times, Kapchanga warned that Africans are at risk of being on the losing end of an "information asymmetry" unless they begin to learn Mandarin in order to better negotiate with the continent's largest trading partner and second largest source of foreign investment.

Kapchanga also urged the Chinese government to redouble its efforts to expand Mandarin language training in Africa: "the biggest challenge ahead now is for the Chinese to take a step and start teaching Africans their language. Today, most Africans speak Western languages such as French, German and English, thanks to the colonialists. It is time, too, for the Chinese language to be inculcated in African countries' education system."

The Kenyan journalist said he was inspired to encourage Africans to learn Chinese after a recent visit to Beijing where he met a number of young Chinese executives who were fluent in a variety of African languages.

Language, though, is a highly contentious issue in Africa and Kapchanga's column touched a nerve on social media where people from across the continent expressed their outrage over the suggestion that should learn yet another foreign language. "When the Europeans came they imposed their languages on us and now the Chinese? Why can't those imperialists learn African languages?" decried LinkedIn user Simbrashe Chinanga from Zimbabwe. Chinanga's frustration is representative of a large number of Africans who worry that their own indigenous cultures will be further diluted by studying Mandarin after centuries of imperial European rule.

Kapchanga joins Eric & Cobus to answer his critics as to why he thinks it is so important now for Africans should learn Chinese.

Join the discussion. Do you think Africans should learn Chinese or is that asking too much of public school systems that are already underfunded and straining to teach the basic reading, writing and math courses? Let us know what you think.

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Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque | @kapchanga