Accepted paper:

In whose interest? China in African universities


Abdul-Gafar Oshodi (Lagos State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper draws attention to the growing presence of China in African universities. Identifying two broad manifestations of this presence as 'hard' and 'soft,' the paper interrogates both, teasing out the complexities (and sometimes contradictions), interests, and beneficiaries.

Paper long abstract:

Described as "the most momentous" event on the continent since the Cold War, China's presence in Africa (earlier described as "Chinese Africana") has generated considerable commentaries (often revolving around issues of natural resources, infrastructure, industries and the role of actors such as governments, small businesses, labour groups, the media and other civil societies). But in spite of their centrality to the production of both knowledge and the next generation of policy leaders, very few observers have interrogated the manifestations and significance of Chinese Africana for/in African universities. Given that universities are important arenas of Sino-Africa engagement and conversations, this paper discusses two dimensions of China in African universities: i.e. the 'soft and the 'hard' dimensions. The soft dimension locates Chinese presence in Africa within a Foucauldian and instrumentalist perspective that strongly views it as a powerful conversation that sets and sustains certain frames, frames that sometimes fit into broader political economic debates. The hard dimension highlights the nature of Chinese construction projects on African universities. Both dimensions - i.e. the hard and the soft - are then critically interrogated to tease out their complexities (and sometimes contradictions), interests, and beneficiaries. This paper is based on data from university websites, news reports, preliminary interviews, and observations at universities in three countries. It is also a part of a broader research agenda entitled 'African universities and the ecologies of China in Africa.'

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Economy and Development
A new political economy in African higher education