Africa: China non-committal on return date

Published 25/08/2022

An August 18 high-level ministerial meeting convened by the Chinese government as part of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has failed to deliver a date for return to China of thousands of African students who were studying in the country, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak 2020.

During the ministerial virtual conference hosted by the Chinese ministry of Foreign Affairs and attended by ministers, envoys and African Union officials among others, the Chinese failed to commit to a date, only mentioning that China will “help” the students to return.

“China is ready to overcome difficulties caused by the pandemic and help African students who previously studied in the country to return,” the statement said.

At the conference chaired by state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi, and meant to follow-upon on actions of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of FOFAC, the host did not divulge details for the referred return to the dismay of delegates, despite Africa having had an estimated 80,000 studying in the Asian country as at 2019.

“We will remain committed to accelerating the effort to build a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era, enhancing solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, and building the shining example of FOCAC,” the ministry stated without divulging the specifics of the “shared future”.

“We will remain committed to accelerating the effort to build a China-Africa community”

Many of the students fled the Asian country after the pandemic, amid claims of racially motivated mistreatment by authorities and the public – with some alleging in 2020 they were forced from their homes by landlords and refused access to shops to buy food.

Many have been home since, and nearly a year after contact learning and international students went back to campus in many parts of the world.

There has been an exponential growth in African students’ mobility to China – a key pillar in China-Africa relations in recent years, with many of the students being on Chinese government scholarships. As of 2018, African students occupied 16% of all international students in the country according reports by Study International.

China promised African countries a massive 50,000 scholarships between 2018 and 2021, and besides education being more affordable in China compared to Europe and America, this could be one of the reasons for the growth.

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