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Students from Nigeria: off to China

For Nigerians, Beijing or Shanghai are more attractive than Paris or London for studying abroad. Europe is the past - China is the future.

Owoseni Kehinde in his Chinese Language Training Institute Photo: Katrin Gänsler

ABUJAtaz | Akonjom Great Neke looks a little suspiciously at the blackboard in a large green tent in Nigeria's capital Abuja. The fan hums and ensures that the heat is reasonably bearable. Eight language students sit on white plastic chairs and try to concentrate on the Chinese characters.

16-year-old Neke, a slender, calm student, has been part of it since the beginning of the year. To this day, many things are new to him. “Some things are pretty complicated. All hospital vocabulary is difficult, "he admits," but I like the language and really wanted to learn it. "

This morning the numbers are on the schedule. Teacher Owoseni Kehinde explains how to write them, audition them, and the students repeat them in choir.

Kehinde went to China in 2006 despite having a scholarship to Helsinki in Finland. A friend had made him curious about the country. “After two weeks he sent the first goods that I bought from him. That influenced my attitude towards the country. I thought: It must be a very good country. "

He also wants to inspire his students at the Chinese Language Training Institute for this. His language school is still under construction. But Kehinde is certain: Chinese will become the language of the future and China will become Nigeria's most important partner.

50,000 China Scholarships for Africans

The giant state in Asia is no longer present only with its construction companies - in 2017 the management consultancy McKinsey estimated that 920 Chinese companies were operating in Nigeria. It's also where affordable cell phones, laptops, and computer accessories come from. With a population of around 200 million, Nigeria is an excellent sales market. According to the NCC Communication Commission, more than 111 million people in Nigeria are already using the Internet.

Isah Danja, PhD candidate at South West University Nanjing

"Nigeria can learn a lot from China, especially in the area of ​​population development"

Now China is massively soliciting students. There are no reliable figures on how many Nigerians go to university each year. However, during the Sino-African Summit (FOCAC) in September 2018, the Chinese government announced that it would provide 50,000 scholarships for Africans. There are also other exchange programs and the opportunity to take part in workshops and seminars. The African Union has also set up a program with China.

The homepage of the Chinese Ministry of Economic Affairs can be found on the Internet among numerous application platforms. It advertises 26 universities in the country with full government grants. In the master’s degree, students receive 3,000 yuan, doctoral students 3,500 yuan, which is currently between 400 and 450 euros. In Nigeria the minimum wage has just been raised to 75 euros.

Europe or USA? For the rich only

High school graduate Neke is not that far yet. “In the meantime I have decided that I no longer want to study international relations, but rather fine arts.” He got the impression that China offers more opportunities for studying abroad than Europe. The European Union's Erasmus + program, in which non-EU citizens can also participate, selected just 39 Masters students from Nigeria in 2017.

In Europe or the USA, it is not possible without scholarships or very wealthy parents. The cost of living is high, but the naira is weak. The currency collapsed massively in 2016 and has not recovered to this day. While the exchange rate was quite stable for a few years at one euro to 200 naira, it is now 1: 400. A big problem for those who have to pay fees in euros or US dollars.

For students from Francophone Africa, France has always been a good address. But six months ago the government in Paris announced that it would drastically increase the fees for non-EU citizens. You have increased fifteen-fold. Interested parties from the former French colonies are particularly affected. In China, according to the calculation, money can be earned on top of that. Cell phones and technical accessories can be bought cheaply and resold in Nigeria.

In the superpower of tomorrow

In Yola, the provincial capital in northeastern Nigeria, Munzali Abana fondly remembers his time in China. The lecturer at Moddibo Adama University of Technology did his doctorate in Beijing in the field of information technology. “Great Britain is of course very popular. However, I was one of the lucky ones and got a scholarship to China. It covered all costs. "

It was also a 3,500 yuan government grant. He has not regretted the training, on the contrary. “It was one of the best universities for my department and I was able to publish in well-known magazines.” However, one thing bothered him: “You weren't open with information. I had to find out a lot myself. "

The fact that China is becoming popular is also because the country presents itself as a superpower. It regularly invites African presidents with activities such as the FOCAC summit. The financing of infrastructure is hardly criticized.

Nigerians who have lived in China for a number of years are also reluctant to criticize. When asked whether Owoseni Kehinde experienced discrimination, he gives only one example. “At the airport people once thought I was hiding drugs. At that time I was not treated well, but then apologized. "Kehinde even defends the officers:" I cannot blame them. You see something like that with Africans. "

Akonjom Great Neke doesn't mind that. Nor does he talk about internet censorship of sites that are popular with Nigerians such as Facebook. “I would like to stay for four to six years. China is the top country in the world today. "

The students expect that this is also reflected in the equipment of the universities. In Nigeria, studying at renowned universities such as Ahmadu-Bello-University in Zaria, the University of Nigeria in Nsukka and Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife is a challenge. The lecturers often go on strike. Power outages mean that the rooms get unbearably hot. Learning material is often inaccessible.

"China can become a model for us"

Isah Danja doesn't have to worry about that in Nanjing, a good 300 kilometers northwest of Shanghai. He is doing his doctorate in urban planning at South West University Nanjing and has lived in China for eight years. He also came to Asia by chance through business contacts with his brother. He is certain that Nigeria can learn a lot from China, especially in the area of ​​population development. According to the World Bank, this grew by 0.6 percent in 2017, but by 2.6 percent in Nigeria. For a country in which the infrastructure does not grow with it, this is enormous pressure. "China can become a model for us."

Isah Danja therefore wants to bring some ideas back to his home country after graduating, because for him there is no question: "No matter how long I have been away, I will go back to Nigeria and apply my knowledge there."

The almost finished city planner has no worries that he will not find a job. Because that also inspires the desire to go to the Middle Kingdom. The students are certain: A degree from China is a job guarantee on the Nigerian job market.