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China in Africa: The Real Story

How Many Africans are Studying in China?

Deborah Brautigam

In recent years, I've been pleased to see a lot of African students attending conferences and workshops on China-Africa topics in Beijing and Shanghai. Now I think that the turnout has actually been quite low, if a report by Antoaneta Becker is correct:
"In recent years the Chinese government has encouraged more African students to study in the country, offering thousands of scholarships. In 2009 China had 120,000 students from Africa, ten times more than it did in 2000." 
I'm willing to bet that this number, 120,000 is wrong. The late (and much missed) Professor Li Baoping estimated in a 2006 paper that more than 18,000 African students had at that point received scholarships over the decades from the Chinese government. Hong Kong University expert on Africans in China, Professor Adams Bodomo, estimated in a recent paper that 12,000 African students were currently studying in China under government scholarship, with perhaps 8000 more studying under their own funding.  

Here are the official numbers. Do the math.

           Year        Number of Africa Scholarships/Year
            1983         400
            1986       1600
            2005       2000
            2009       4000
            2012*     5500

*Pledged at the Sharm el-Sheikh FOCAC Meeting, November 2009.  Sources for others are in my book, The Dragon's Gift, p. 121.