Mandarin: A New Economic Tool In Africa?

While some may view China as a predator as opposed to a development partner, for numerous reasons including the environmental and social implications of the nation’s resource-centric investments, it can be argued that this opinion is of no consequence as we are in the “Chinese economic era”.

The presence of China in Africa is undeniable and cannot be disputed: With multi-million dollar Chinese-financed mega projects announced every other week around the African continent, Chinese stores you are guaranteed to find in every other shopping mall, development partnerships at Governmental levels; it is impossible to ignore China’s strong economic presence and dominion.

The Republic of China is one of Africa’s top trading partner with vast investments in multiple industries such as construction, manufacturing, mining and agriculture; to name just to name a few, which has further strengthened economic ties. Bilateral trade between China and Africa continues to rapidly increase with Chinese companies investing in sums to the tune of 3.2 billion dollars in 2016.

As expected, the increased trading with China has resulted in an interest in Chinese culture and an increased demand to learn the Chinese language, Mandarin. The Power Language Index is an index using 20 indicators to measure the influence of a language and the usefulness of a language to a representative human being. The power language index ranks Mandarin as the second most powerful language in the world. The Chinese language is preceded only by English which is the dominant language of three G7 nations, namely the United States of America (U.S.A), United Kingdom (U.K) and Canada. Despite these ranking, Mandarin is steadily challenging the English language ascendency. Mandarin is even an official language of the United Nations and International Crime Court.

According to reports, there are 48 Confucius Institutes in more than 30 African countries; as well as 27 Confucius Institutes and classrooms and more than 400 teaching centers. Our very own University of Botswana (UB) offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese studies through its humanities faculty. Also at the University of Botswana (UB) is a Confucius Institute which began operations in September 2009 and is said to have already trained over 4,700 students, all eager to equip themselves with the new economic tool; Mandarin. After all, like Nelson Mandela once said; “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language you speak to his heart.”

While there are the few remaining nay sayers about the Chinese impact in Africa, it is certain that it is has a strong and increasing presence in Africa.

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