May 19, 2018
China’s cultural footprint in Africa has lagged far behind its
surging economic engagement across the continent. Now, there are
indications that may be beginning to change.
Although studying Chinese has been quite popular among elites
in the United States and Europe, it’s been slow to gain traction in
Africa. A 2015 effort to include Mandarin as part of South Africa’s
prompted a passionate backlash
, and elsewhere on the continent
interest was essentially non-existent.
Not so on college campuses
, though, where demand for Chinese
language classes is rising fast.
Students at 40 universities across the continent are filling
classrooms for Mandarin language courses that are all underwritten
by the Chinese government. The classes and course materials are all
free and take place on campus at centers known as Confucius Institutes
Confucius Institutes play a central role in China’s soft-power
diplomacy push, not just in Africa, but in countries around
London-based freelance journalist Ismail Einashe traveled
to Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal earlier this
year to report on the growing popularity of Mandarin education at
Confucius Institutes. His story,
recently published in the independent Hong Kong-based South China
Morning Post newspaper
, reveals widespread enthusiasm for
Confucius Institute programs and none of the apprehensions that are
more common on western university campuses.
In this edition of the podcast, Ismail joins Eric & Cobus
to talk about the politics of language education in Africa and why
he thinks Mandarin language courses are becoming increasingly
popular. Join the discussion? What do you think about the spread of
Chinese language and culture education in Africa? Let us know what