Exchange programmes could help address Africa’s challenges

Investing in education is not merely a choice, but a necessity, and a path towards a brighter future, says the writer. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Investing in education is not merely a choice, but a necessity, and a path towards a brighter future, says the writer. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 15, 2024


Yaya Moussa

Investing in education is not merely a choice, but a necessity, and a path towards a brighter future.

While the idea of educational partnerships and student exchanges is not new, there is a compelling argument for nurturing the transformative power of these programmes. Their benefits are not limited to individual growth, but extend to the economic and diplomatic realms.

International experience further prepares students for the global workforce.

Exchange programmes serve as effective tools for building international bridges, influencing diplomatic decisions and advancing economic interests.

A report by Universities UK International in 2017 found that participants in exchange programmes experience a 20% higher likelihood of securing employment within six months of graduation.

However, these skills do not stop at economics; they also help make friends across borders, fostering better international relationships.

Academic Abdullah Atalar highlights their impact on global interactions, contending that in the 21st-century era of globalisation, businesses seek employees with skills that enhance international market competitiveness and the ability to interact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

China's two-way engagement with African students exemplifies this impact, with Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe ranking as the top five African countries sending students to China, and approximately half a million international students in China were from Africa alone.

This interaction and mobility will contribute positively to Sino-African diplomatic engagement for decades to come, and is a model others should follow. African students stand to gain significantly from exposure to diverse educational systems and approaches, providing them with a competitive edge in the global job market.

Recent findings from the Institute for the Study of Labour indicate that African leaders who have some education abroad have a more positive impact on their country's political, civic and economic growth, attracting more sustained foreign investment to their home countries compared to those trained exclusively locally.

It is about much more than just getting a degree; it’s about building social capital, the web of social relationships that extends education into the professional world – a key factor in driving economic development and attracting foreign direct investment to Africa.

Historical precedent demonstrates the value of study abroad for African students, particularly during pre-independence times when many ventured overseas, often to their former colonial power, to pursue higher education.

Notable among them is Jomo Kenyatta, the first Kenyan president, who studied economics in Moscow before enrolling in the London School of Economics to study social anthropology in 1935. In that same transformative year, Kwame Nkrumah, who led the Gold Coast to its independence, also entered the American Pennsylvania University. These leaders represent a selected few whose early global education experiences shaped impactful contributions to their home countries.

This circular pattern of migration has persisted post-independence, with Africans studying in Europe and the US often returning home to promote democracy, development and peace.

Fast forward to the present, and education in Africa is once again drawing attention from other continents, albeit with a current emphasis on “partnerships” rather than aid, with initiatives like Student Exchange Africa.

This is where medical students gain clinical experience in public hospitals, enriching their academic journey and contributing towards communities by strengthening health-care infrastructure. While global student exchanges have brought significant benefits, the potential for equally advantageous opportunities lie in harnessing regional exchanges within Africa and promoting educational and sustainable development on the continent.

The Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme (2022–2027), part of the Youth Mobility for Africa initiative, hosted by the European Commission, aims to enhance Africa's development. It focuses on competencies in climate change and green sectors. The programme addresses capacity-building, co-operation with businesses, knowledge transfer and many more skills that contribute to Africa's long-term educational and sustainable development.

By addressing challenges head-on, Africa can fortify intra-continental exchange programmes, transforming them into a driving force for lasting growth and development.

* Moussa is an entrepreneur, finance specialist and founder of Africa Prime, an online video streaming service that provides African talent with a platform to showcase their work internationally.

Cape Times

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Higher Education