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No doubt China sees Africa’s needs through African eyes

By - | August 4th 2013

By Franklin Olumasai Asira

[email protected]

The article headlined “The lure of Chinese scholarships has an end-game in sight”, part of the recent “Dancing With the Dragon” series, is ill-informed. The writer appears to use hearsay to belittle what more than 1,000 Kenyans have benefited from in Chinese Government scholarships.

Chinese Government scholarships to Kenya started in the early 1980s, with the earliest beneficiaries going to China in 1983. Of course there are a lot more pre-1980 scholarships and trainings outside the scope of my article, which put China’s education assistance to Kenya in a class of its own.

These were scholarships for science and technology-related courses, including medicine, architecture, civil engineering, marine engineering, and automation and computer technology.

You do not need to look hard to find these graduates applying themselves in various Kenyan ministries. Those not in Government are applying themselves in various non-governmental and international organisations. And those not in these two categories have set up private concerns employing numerous Kenyans and reducing the burden that joblessness puts on the Government.

Today, Chinese scholarships are not just limited to science and technology professions, but cover the full spectrum for sound development of a country.

The Kenya China Alumni Association seeks to bring together all Kenyans who have studied in China to combine efforts, our different professional abilities and our common understanding of the Chinese culture to strengthen the Kenya-China relationship to the benefit of Kenya.

We recently expanded our scope to include those currently studying the Chinese language and need to maximise on opportunities presented by the knowledge of the Chinese language and Chinese culture.

We believe the one that learns the other person’s language is the one with the upper hand in exploiting the opportunities a relationship avails, not the other way round.

When the Kenya-China Alumni Association was registered at the Registrar of Societies on 30 October 2003, among our goals was to set up a Chinese language training institution to increase the number of Kenyans that could interact with the Chinese people in their own language. However, before our plans were hatched, in came the Confucius Institute, to realise our goal without our moving a finger. We participated at the launch of the Institute at the University of Nairobi and continue to work with Professor Sa Dequan to empower Kenyans in the area of competence in Chinese language skills.

You ask ‘What for?’ The tourism sector is the highest income earner of the Kenyan economy. The Euro-American market was the backbone of this industry until the Chinese designated Kenya as an allowed tour destination for Chinese, thereby allowing the Chinese traveller to seek, and be granted directly, visas to travel to Kenya. Today, the China tourist market is the backbone of our tourism industry. Confucius institutes at the Nairobi, Kenyatta and Egerton universities, and a couple more Chinese language institutions in and around Nairobi, have done tremendously well to increase the number of Kenyans fluent in the Chinese language and qualified in tourism sector professions to take up well-paid tour-guiding jobs.

Residents of Nairobi are now basking in the glory of the super highway that is Thika Road. They are supremely gratified for Chinese technology and workmanship that made the project possible. What are lost to the eye are the countless Kenyans that worked behind the curtains to ensure that the Chinese engineers worked seamlessly with Kenyan partners and manpower.

Yes, many of them were trained at these Chinese language institutions. Reading the Dragon series gave me the feeling that the writer seeks to imply that the scholarships the Chinese Government gives bundle up Kenyans in universities of questionable credentials. In China, it is the Chinese people that are the fabric of the economic machinery that has caused the dizzying development speed in China. They graduate from universities in China. China recognises those degrees and so do all the international organisations that set up in China. We go to the same universities as our Chinese counterparts – proof enough that the degrees are internationally recognised.

The writer is chairman of Kenya-China Alumni

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