Collaborations between Chinese and African higher education institutions are poised for greater heights after African scholars visited key Chinese institutions and cultural centres, and made bilateral agreements on a variety of joint research projects in the fields of humanities and social sciences. The China-Africa Institute, China University of International Studies, North West University of Politics and Law, Communication University of China, University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China, and the Rural Development Institute in the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, are ready to sign memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with the University of Namibia, University of Zimbabwe, University of Zambia, University of Botswana, University of Lagos(Nigeria), Makerere University (Uganda), University of South Africa, University of Makeni (Sierra Leone) and Open University of Tanzania. The MoUs between Chinese and African universities are part of initiatives aimed at strengthening ties between China and Africa under the auspices of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s new blueprint of development and guidelines for China-Africa relations.
Scholars from African universities were upbeat about the collaborations they established with Chinese universities and other higher education institutions.
According to Maria Kaundjua, Namibia stands to benefit from the various strategies of poverty reduction she learned from the International Poverty Reduction Centre in Beijing. “This trip was an eye-opener to China’s approaches to poverty reduction and rural and development. Namibia can adopt some of the approaches that have assisted China to drastically reduce poverty and improve the living standard of its citizens, especially in rural areas,” said Kaundjua, Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of China. In addition to adopting the Chinese poverty reduction approaches, Kaundjua said what Namibia needs are more accountability, funding and commitment of leaders at all levels in order to successfully implement developmental initiatives contained in the Namibia Development Plans and Vision 2030.
China’s achievements in poverty reduction are glorious. Since 1978, China has been able to reduce poverty from 98 million people to 16 million people, and it has set a deadline of December 2020 for the complete eradication of poverty. The ruling Communist Party of China takes a leading role in the target of poverty eradication. One of the indicators of the level of rural development in China is that 99% of the rural population has access to electricity. The Chinese model for development has been successfully tried in Peya Peya village in Tanzania, and can be adapted to other African countries.
Celia Isaac Muyinga, Head of International Links and Partnerships at the Open University of Tanzania, hailed the organisers of the visit to China for affording her an opportunity to establish collaborations with African and Chinese universities. “As a Tanzanian scholar, I am humbled to be nominated to participate in this programme. I have networked with African scholars who I could not have met in Africa. Also, it was an honour to interact with professors from prestigious Chinese universities,” added Muyinga. It was revealed that the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party of Tanzania has strong ties with the China Communist Party.
For Femi Saibu from Nigeria, the visit to China opened doors for closer co-operation between Chinese and Nigerians. “I am motivated and empowered to promote the people to people exchange of China-Africa relationship.” Saibu is a professor and director of the Institute of Nigeria-China Development Studies at the University of Lagos.
The University of Zambia’s representative, Patricia Mwila, said that her major interests are in joint projects in agricultural development and international relations and diplomacy. “We will also want to enrich our students and lecturers through exchange programmes in language and culture,” said Muyinga, the International Link and Liaison Manager at the University of Zambia.
In order to appreciate China’s contribution to higher education students from Africa, the visiting African scholars interacted with students of the International Master of International Communication (IMIC) degree programme at the Communication University of China. Anethe Mtambanengwe from Namibia wrote a thesis titled, “The role of social media in promoting public participation in the legislative process in Namibia: A case study of the social grants debate on Facebook.” In her presentation she said that the major finding was that ICT for legislators is vital for them since they can use technological devices to deliberate with members of their constituencies on social media. Results showed that Namibian legislators are not taking full advantage of Facebook. In his MA thesis titled “East African media representation of 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation: A comparative analysis of the East African and Daily Monitor newspapers”, Teodos Sabas Komba from Tanzania provided a model for mastering the ecology of global communication and reporting systems. For Luu Machila from Zambia, the theories of constructive journalism and agenda setting remain paramount to making the profession more solution focused while remaining critical. The title of his thesis is “International and Western media representation of African debt to China: Stereotype or solution?”
While all the African scholars expressed satisfaction about the visit to Chinese higher education institutions, and said the visit was a resounding success, the question that remains to be answered is how effectively the scholars will turn the benefits of the trip into reality back in their countries. More often than not, huge sums of money have been spent on trips like this one, and when it comes to the implementation of ideas, a little or completely nothing is done. It becomes a waste of money and time.
Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org