The Chinese government will establish more Confucius Institutes in African countries to meet the locals' needs in Chinese language teaching and will encourage Chinese universities to teach African languages, says an action plan adopted on Sunday by China and 48 African countries attending a two-day gathering in Beijing.
The Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi in Kenya's capital, the first of its kind in Africa, was inaugurated last December as a nonprofit organization specializing in Chinese language teaching and cultural communication.
Confucius Institutes have been set up over the past year in South Africa, Rwanda and Zimbabwe while some other African countries are seeking to have similar institutions established at their universities and colleges.
In September, the Office of the Chinese Language Council International signed a letter of intent with Cairo University to jointly set up a Confucius Institute.
Statistics from China's Ministry of Education show at least 8, 000 African students are studying Chinese and the number is still on the rise.
Nearly 120 schools in 16 African countries had opened Chinese courses by July 1, 2005. China has sent 200 teachers to Africa to meet the growing demand of African students who wish to speak good Chinese, which will help them find jobs as tour guides for the increasing number of Chinese tourists or at Chinese-invested companies.
China has also assisted African countries including Cameroon, Egypt and Mauritius in building linguistic labs for Chinese language learning and provided Chinese textbooks.
Closer ties with China have made Chinese language increasingly popular in many African countries. Yet due to limited resources, universities often have to restrict the number of students taking Chinese courses, said Isaac Mbeche, principal of University of Nairobi's College of Humanities and Social Sciences and dean of the Confucius Institute.
In China, only a few leading universities, including Beijing University and the Beijing Foreign Studies University, teach African languages, but increasing exchanges with Africa in recent years have boosted the demand from the locals, particularly engineering and medical professionals working in Africa and business people who wish to invest in African countries.
The action plan also spells out China's decision to help African countries set up 100 rural schools in the coming three years and increase the number of scholarships for African students in China to 4,000 a year by 2009 from the present 2,000.
The Chinese government has also vowed to provide annual training for a number of educational officials as well as heads and leading teachers of universities, primary, secondary and vocational schools in Africa, according to the document endorsed at the two-day Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the largest gathering between Chinese and African leaders that concluded Sunday afternoon.
"The two sides resolved to encourage more exchanges and closer cooperation between institutions of higher learning of the two sides, take steps to ensure the effectiveness of the bilateral student exchange programs, and carry out consultation on concluding agreements on mutual accreditation of academic degrees, " the document says.