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Ghanaian Students Returning from China Face Unique Challenges…and Opportunities

Prior to the pandemic, around 60,000 African students went to China to study every year. GREG BAKER / AFP

More African foreign students are studying in China than anywhere else in the world. But do these qualifications get them jobs back home?

A new webinar series by the Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations (ASCIR) featuring the China-Trained African Professionals (CTAP) network showed that while Ghanaians with Chinese qualifications face discrimination compared to their counterparts who studied in Western countries, Mandarin-language skills open significant new opportunities.

Qualifications Bias

The biggest challenge for returning students is people looking down on their Chinese education. Many Ghanaian employers don’t see Chinese qualifications as on par with a Western education. However, the panelists believe that this perception is gradually changing. Dr. Lucy Anning asserted that there is the air of fear among the China-trained professionals especially when there is no plan in place upon their return.

She shared the findings of a recent survey she conducted among returnees. Dr. Anning found that out of the 70.7% of graduates of Chinese universities who returned to Ghana, only about 20% of those in the medical field are actively employed. The majority of returnees in other sectors are also still searching for employment. She attributes this situation to the negative stereotypes about Chinese education.

Mandarin Brings New Opportunities

In contrast to these pressures, the panelists emphasized that mastering Mandarin opens new options both in China and back home. 

The panelists said learning and speaking Mandarin is one of the surest ways to navigate existing and emerging hindrances to integration. Even though several Chinese academic courses are taught in English, the panelists advised students and scholars to go out of their comfort zones to study the Chinese language. 

Dr. Anning advised young China-trained professionals returning to Ghana to consider venturing into business, particularly the small and medium enterprise sector. While Ghana’s current economic climate has resulted in a freeze in public sector employment, the private sector offers more chances, especially for those who can use their language skills to connect to the rapidly recovering Chinese economy.

Making it Through

Loneliness remains a key challenge to African students both during their studies in China and afterwards. Dr. Samuel Kwadwo Frimpong said finding a sense of home is key. He said that integrating into the African community in China made it easy to adjust to his new environment. Finding a similar sense of home after going through life-changing experiences abroad can also be tricky, and the issue is finding one’s community both in China and after returning.

The event was the first in a series of bi-monthly talks jointly presented by the Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations and the China-Trained African Professionals Network, focusing on the experiences of Africans from across the continent in China.

Pamela Carslake is the executive director of the Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations in Accra, Ghana

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