Malaysia has developed a market for private higher education in the past few decades. Education turned into a commercial product, which is advertised by the universities’ marketing departments and offered internationally. On a hot and hazy afternoon, Sandra and I drove to Cyberjaya, a satellite town in the Klang Valley in the periphery of Kuala Lumpur, planned as the Malaysian Silicon Valley. There is the main campus of Limkokwing University, a pioneering institution that sticks out with its rather aggressive marketing strategy. As visitors, we got the impression that the whole idea behind this university is a big image campaign. The university opened up branch campuses around the world, not only in Southeast Asia but also in Africa and the Middle East.
In September 2011, the Zambians voted for change - a new government led by President Michael Sata from the Patriotic Front (PF). Michael Sata was well known as the ‘China basher’ in his first election campaign in 2006, which culminated in threats of an earlier Chinese ambassador to cut ties with Zambia, if Sata becomes the new president. At that point, Sata promised to recognize Taiwan as an independent country. He failed to win the election and toned his rhetoric down in the second run. But still, one pillar of Sata’s election campaign in 2011 was promises in favor of workers – job creation and paving roads. Although security standards and labor conditions increased in the mines in general, the ‘Chinese’ mines still challenge these improvements.
While caught up in a regular traffic jam in the minibus to Lusaka city centre we had plenty of time to observe the people around us. We were struck by the modern life style, the variety of smart phones and fashion awareness. Thus, we were wondering about how it could be that OECD still classifies Zambia among ‘least developed countries’. Something was missing in the story.
As outlined before, the economic dimension is one of the driving forces for Sino-African relations. However, there are also various other fields of engagement, and higher education is one of them. While everyone has heard of Confucius Institutes there are also a number of other initiatives.