Launching African youth's dream into space

Ethiopian teenager Abigail Berhanemeskel, whose artwork has won the second prize in the ‘My Dream’ painting competition for African youth, holds a certificate of honour while posing with Shen Qinmin, the minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 8, 2023. Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia. Pic: Xinhua

Ethiopian teenager Abigail Berhanemeskel, whose artwork has won the second prize in the ‘My Dream’ painting competition for African youth, holds a certificate of honour while posing with Shen Qinmin, the minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 8, 2023. Chinese Embassy in Ethiopia. Pic: Xinhua

Published Sep 22, 2023


"Art tells stories. So, even if I couldn't go to space to tell a story to others, my work is already there. It is already telling my story," said Prosper Oshoname Dania, a Nigerian college student whose painting was exhibited on China's Tiangong space station on Wednesday.

Dania is one of 10 African youths whose paintings were sent by the Shenzhou-16 mission to the Chinese space station at the end of May.

During Wednesday's exhibition, three Chinese astronauts, namely, Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, showed the world the passion of the African youth for space exploration, their commitment to peace and development, and how they cherish the profound China-Africa friendship.

"Launching African youth's dream into space is just a starting point and the prospect for China-Africa space cooperation is as broad as a starry sea," Jing, commander of the Shenzhou-16 mission, said via video link.

"If the young generation has ideals and commitment, the country will have promising prospects, the nation will have hope, and the China-Africa friendship will have a future," he said.


The "My Dream" painting competition for African youth, co-hosted by the Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China Manned Space Engineering Office and some Chinese embassies and consulates in African countries, received submissions from some 2,000 youths from over 40 African countries.

Out of these submissions, 10 works were selected as winners of the Tianhe Award, named after the core module of China's space station. These winning paintings had the unique opportunity to fly into space along with the crew of the Shenzhou-16 mission.

Dania was excited that his dream of traveling to space has finally come true, in a way. "It is every child's dream to go to space," and now, with his work in space, he feels like he is there already.

Dania's painting aimed to convey the shared aspirations of China and Nigeria, emphasizing unity.

"The dream of partnership between China and Africa in space is one that ignites hope and inspiration, a testament to the boundless possibilities that arise when nations unite for a common goal," Dania said.

Six-year-old Kawkib Mohamud from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, painted a dove in his painting titled "Peace."

Zhu said he was touched because this is the most innocent wish of a child. "Peace, like air and sunshine, is hardly noticed when people are benefiting from it... I sincerely hope that children all over the world will have a peaceful, happy and carefree childhood," said Zhu.

The cultural symbols embodied in the paintings "eventually intermingle in the universe," Gui said via video link. "From this I can see that the radiant civilizations of China and Africa are transcending time, space, as well as national boundaries."


Dania said his painting reflects a shared aspiration of Africa and China, adding that his work aims to help others understand that Africa is in space with the help of China.

Nicole Njanjari, a participant of the ‘My Dream’ painting competition for African youth, listens while a Chinese astronaut responds to her question during an awarding ceremony of the competition in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 13, 2023. Photo by Tafara Mugwara/Xinhua.

The works of Dania and other African youngsters as well as the collaborative efforts between China and African countries in space exploration symbolize a shared aspiration and a joint endeavor. Moreover, the cooperation between China and African nations in the field of space exploration has yielded tangible fruits.

In December 2017, Algeria launched its first communications satellite, Alcomsat-1, with China's assistance. This satellite, covering the entire territory of Algeria, has been employed in various sectors, including broadcasting, television, broadband access, mobile and emergency communications.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Alcomsat-1 played a crucial role in launching a tele-education system, providing students with remote learning opportunities.

In recent years, Alcomsat-1 has delivered crucial communication services to Algerian provinces, where network disruptions had occurred, thereby ensuring vital support for disaster relief efforts and maintaining essential daily life.

The satellite's significance is so profound that its image has been featured on Algeria's newly issued 500 Dinar banknotes, which shows national pride.

This June, Egypt received two prototype satellites for the MisrSat II satellite project with China's support. This project has allowed Egypt to assemble, integrate and test satellites independently.

The satellites are expected to contribute to agriculture, mineral resource exploration, urban planning and coastal monitoring.

Sherif Sedky, chief executive officer of the Egyptian Space Agency, said the project inaugurated the largest satellite assembly, integration and test centre in Africa as well as in the Middle East.

"The centre is the first of its kind to localize the satellite industry in Egypt. It also gives Egypt a leading role in transferring this technology to Africa," Sedky said.

Among other countries, Kenya has received the opportunity to conduct experiments on board China's space station. This collaborative effort extends to all United Nations member states, with a particular focus on developing countries.

Research in fields like space medicine, space life science, and biotechnology will be conducted on the space station, promoting international cooperation in space exploration.

"Exploring the unknown universe and developing space technology are the common endeavors of mankind. It is necessary to have the full cooperation of all countries in the world, including Africa," Zhu said Wednesday.


Exploring the universe is a shared dream of the whole world, regardless of race and age. The cooperation between China and African countries in space exploration represents a significant success, and it reflects the broader aspirations and hopes of the people involved.

Sinovuyo Khanyisile Mkula, a student of traditional Chinese medicine at the University of the Western Cape who won the First Prize in the ‘My Dream’ Painting Competition for African Youth with her artwork ‘Harmony,’ takes an interview in Cape Town, South Africa, on June 14, 2023. Confucius Institute at University of Western Cape. Pic: Xinhua.

Sinovuyo Khanyisile Mkula, a student of traditional Chinese medicine at the University of the Western Cape, expressed her dream through her painting named "Harmony."

She envisions using her knowledge and skills in Chinese medicine and acupuncture to help disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Her goal is not only to introduce traditional Chinese medical practices, however. "Hopefully, I can collaborate with the people from China too, so that we can build a better South Africa," she said.

Lisa Grace, whose ancestors came to Mauritius from China about 150 years ago, shared her dream of equal access to education for all.

Her painting embodies the aspiration that all children, regardless of different backgrounds, may have the opportunity to go to school.

"I was incredibly lucky to have a good education, but unfortunately this is not the case in other African countries, while in China the education is remarkable," Grace said.

These young artists' dreams and the symbolism in their paintings highlight the shared values of cooperation, cultural exchanges, and a better future for their nations and the world.

They demonstrate how initiatives like the cooperation between China and African countries in space exploration can inspire and empower youth to work towards positive change in their communities and beyond.

Besides aerospace, healthcare and education, the cooperation between China and African countries over the past decade has yielded a wide range of fruitful results across various sectors.

In terms of bilateral trade, China has remained Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. The two sides have together constructed and commissioned over 10,000 kilometres of railway, nearly 100,000 kilometres of highway, and an array of important infrastructure, including airports, docks, bridges and power plants, within platforms such as the Belt and Road Initiative.

"With deep friendship and close ties, China can help Africa in many ways," said Grace. "In the future, with my multicultural background, I can see myself becoming a link between the two continents."

Video reporters: Deng Min, Dai He, Tian Hongyi, Li Cheng, Ling Xin, Guo Jun, Yang Zhe, Yan Ran, Li Zhuoqun, Zhang Baoping, Liu Wanli, Li Hualing, Wang Guansen; Video editor: Zhang Qiru, Mu Xuyao, Hong Yan, Zheng Qingbin, Zheng Xin, Wang Han.