The importance of culture in Sino-Africa relation cannot be overemphasized as it goes a long way from becoming an important mechanism for deepening bilateral and multilateral cooperation, to fixing the images of the two parties involved.
Since Admiral Zheng He’s expeditions across southeast Asia, the red sea, the Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa, China and Africa have evolved a long history of cultural ties. These two cradles of human civilizations are embedded with rich historic and magnificent cultural heritages that both hold in high esteem.
The robust and cordial friendship witnessed today in Sino-African cooperation, is a product of the official establishment of diplomatic ties with African countries starting from the 1950s when African nations began unshackling the bonds of colonization. Egypt was the first country to establish such diplomatic relation, and other African countries like Morocco, Algeria, Somaliland, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria followed suit. In 1958, twenty Chinese cultural delegates visited Africa, and in return, forty-five African delegates visited China the same year. These delegations, as they do today, included diverse cultural and political icons and groups such as acrobats, sports team, youth delegations, and theater groups.
Through cultural exchanges, the diverse Cultures of China and Africa are now at the center stage of global admirations, for instance in recent years, under the FOCAC forum, Cultural exchanges between artists have attracted 734 artists from 20 provinces who were invited to attend 27 festivals and celebrations in African countries. In return, 370 artists from 21 African countries performed at the International Art Show in China.
China has been keen on promoting cultural understanding across the globe through china’s initiative for improving global governance and win-win development by establishing museums, expos, festivals, and numerous heritage initiatives to improve better understanding among different peoples. This has lifted its status in the Soft Power 30 index from rank 28 in 2015 to rank 27 in 2018 and shows that China understands the value of cultural diplomacy (through which countries promote their arts, culture, music, education, and language).
As such presents China as an important promoter of globalization and building a shared future for mankind. Over decades China has establish more cultural center like spread of Confucius Institutes and has launched series of cultural events such as the Marine Silk Road International Arts Festival, the Silk Road International Arts Festival, the Silk Road (Dunhuang) International Cultural Expo and the most recent Lu Ban workshop to promote cultural communication and better understanding of building a common future for mankind.
During the recently held Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, President Xi announced eight initiatives to run for the next three years and beyond aimed at building a closer China-Africa community with a shared future. Among the initiatives is the capacity building initiative in which China will share more of its development practices with African countries and support cooperation within the continent on economic, social and human development planning.
Speaking of capacity building, president Xi said China will set up 10 Lu ban Workshops in Africa to offer vocational training for young Africans. China will also train 1,000 high-caliber Africans, provide Africa with 50,000 government scholarships, sponsor seminar and workshop opportunities for 50,000 Africans, and invite 2,000 African youths to visit China for exchanges.
This presents an opportunity for African countries especially Nigeria to key in and leverage for her youths through closer, reliable and brotherhood partnership. Thus building a large, strong, diversified, sustainable and competitive economy that effectively harnesses the talents and energies of its people and responsibly exploits its natural endowments to guarantee a high standard of living and quality of life to its citizens, Which are part of the two broad objectives and development aspirations of Nigeria’s vision 20: 2020.
China is advancing its cultural exchanges with Nigeria under the FOCAC framework through educational agendas such as academic exchanges, government scholarships, higher education cooperation, and research projects, dispatch of teachers, and human resources development to cover technical and vocational education and training, distance learning (remote learning), dispatch of volunteers and teaching Chinese as foreign language in Nigeria.
The Confucius Institute in Nigeria facilitates and promotes Chinese language and cultural exchanges in Nigeria and in turn produce qualified Chinese language teachers and excellent Chinese language students. The presence Confucius Institute in Nigeria has contributed to a reduction of unemployment as those who graduated from the Confucius Institute are gainfully employed as teachers, and translators in various Chinese firms, acting as the bridge between Chinese firms and local industries.
On the other hand, in 2017, the Nigerian minister of information and culture disclosed that Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in its bid to reposition the sector, has established 14 Cultural Industry Centers with necessary facilities across the six geo-political zones of the federation to serve as skills acquisition and capacity building centers for the country’s teeming youth and women, with the aim of creating wealth, generating jobs and boosting national GDP.
This provides an ample avenue for China and Nigeria to deepen their cultural collaborations through the forum for China- African cooperation (FOCAC) framework, thereby building and training young sinologist that will shoulder the future responsibility of this cooperation embedded in values of shared prosperity. China has shown its willingness to deepen her cooperation with Nigeria through promoting cultural exchange across the FOCAC framework, Nigeria, on the other hand, with an open arms welcomes China’s initiatives and the proposition to build a community of shared future for mankind that pursues an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace , universal security, and common prosperity.
Edeh Emmanuel Chidiebere, from Nigeria, is currently studying at Zhejiang Normal University, Zhejiang province. He is a master's student of Chinese language and also a beneficiary of OBOR through FOCAC.
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