Ahead of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s scheduled visit to China in April, there are strong indications that the trip will open up a new vista to further deepen exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in the field of culture and education. While addressing the 6th Ministerial of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg last year, President Buhari noted that in addition to the growing socio-cultural relations with China, Africa expects Chinese investment flows to the real sector of their respective economies in order to promote African enterprises. He added that there is also another way that a new generation of Nigerian corporations, SMEs and particularly ICT entrepreneurs can participate with and learn from China.
The Cultural Counselor at the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Yan Xiangdong, gave the hint in a statement issued at Abuja, in which he said that China is poised to strengthen its ties with Nigeria by enhancing the cultural and education relations between the two countries. Xiangdong also promised that the Embassy of China would like to offer more government scholarships to the Nigeria Scholarship Board and training opportunities to the Cultural enthusiasts in Nigeria.
Nigeria and China have had diplomatic relations for 45 years; the countries’ cultural and educational exchanges over the years have been dynamic, ensuring vigorous interaction and mutual understanding. In addition, Nigeria is the first African country to set up its cultural centre in China. China’s Cultural Centre in Nigeria has taken root firmly as well. Each year, there are numerous exchange visits between cultural and academic groups.
Meanwhile, there are two Confucius Institutes in Lagos University and Azikiwe University and other four Chinese language teaching centres in Kano, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun. More teaching stations will be expected in Abuja University, Ahmadu Bello University and Northwest University Kano.
Xiandong, who also doubles as the director of the Chinese Cultural Centre (CCC) in Abuja, also observed that with the rapid trade and economic exchange between the two countries, more and more Nigerians are heading for China for business and to learn Mandarin, which according to him, is a must.
“In general, more and more Nigerians students take China as the their destinations for further study. Take 2014 for example, there were as many as 2,979 students studying in China and among them 251 scholarships students and the rest were on their own expenses.” ~ Yan Xiangdong
Similarly, the Embassy of China has been working closely with the educational department, such as the Secondary Education Board (SEB) of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Moreover, China book corners were set up in the 11 schools supervised by the FCT’s SEB in January of this year. A China Library was established in Abuja University library in February as well.
Applauding the efforts of the Chinese government, Dr. Shade Yemi-Esan, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education said Nigerians are grateful to China for its generous support to Nigerian youth, adding that there are so many things to learn from the Chinese Education system.
“We are also impressed by the commitment the China side devoted into the cultural exchanges and hope to be informed for future events. We ask you to invite more Nigerian students to visit your cultural center”, she added.
Also speaking in a similar vein, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, noted that the Nigerian government holds its relationship with China very dearly because China is one of the most important partners in Nigeria’s quest to develop its infrastructure.
“China is a veritable development partner with Nigeria. The relationship between the two countries started at the level of cultural collaboration but has now gone beyond that to the developmental level. ~ Alhaji Lai Mohammed
Mohammed cited the partnership between the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Star Times of China, the funds being provided by China for Nigeria’s rail project and the involvement of a Chinese firm in the Lagos State Government rail project as instances of the strategic relationship between the two countries.
He also called for more partnership between the two in the area of tourism, saying China has done well, especially in the area of domestic tourism.
The Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Nigeria, Mr. Gu Xiaojie, who has extended an invitation to the Minister to attend the First World Conference on Tourism Development in China in May 2016, described the relationship between his country and Nigeria as “excellent and strategic.”
The Chinese envoy said both countries attach great importance to the relationship and would work harder to strengthen it, especially in the areas of information, tourism and culture.