by Raphail Mvogo
YAOUNDE, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- African academics hailed the establishment of Confucius institutes in the continent at a seminar opened Thursday in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, saying the institutions are serving as a bridge of culture and partnership between African and China.
"These Confucius institutes can effectively serve as a bridge of exchange between the African and Chinese cultures," said Mohammed Salhi, vice-doyen of the faculty of letters at Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco.
Salhi made the comments in an interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of a two-day conference of the heads of Confucius institutes set up in Africa. The annual meeting is the third of its kind after the first in Beijing, China in 2008 and the second in Nairobi, Kenya.
A total of 25 Confucius institutes have been opened in 18 African countries.
"When we open to China, we also open our own history, our own past which is very rich with cultures and native languages. This is for me something very colorful and very positive," Salhi said.
In Morocco, the Confucius Institute opened its door in September 2009 with the support of the faculty of letters of Mohammed V University. There is only one Chinese professor and 200 students despite strong demand.
"Every day, I receive more than 50 appeals from all cities of Morocco," Salhi said, announcing a decision by all responsible persons to have three new professors by 2011.
Rwandadeclared the opening of the Confucius Institute in its capital Kigali last year. There are about 100 students, "but there are also women and men from institutes of tourism who want to come to the institute," Dr. Beatrice Yanzigiye disclosed.
Yanzigiye said the presence of the centers of linguistic training and the diffusion of Chinese culture is by no mean any sign of new colonization of Africa by China.
"It's very important," she said, "to learn the Chinese language because China is a country which is open to Africa and the entire world."
"And it's a country which have much to share with Africa," she said, adding China is now an economic power although it was poor not long ago. "We have much to learn from China," she declared.
The view is shared by Malian scholar Fayera Sissoko. "Africa and China are friends and this friendship does not begin today. There was a Chinese navigator who discovered African well before the Europeans. Since independence, we have been assisted by China. Today who can ignore the weight of China in international affairs? " he asked.
Sissoko said his country was among the pioneers in Africa to introduce the Chinese language into the national education system. "Since 1972, we have taught the Chinese language in Mali practically in all the high schools. I am a fruit myself," he said.
Atafei Pewissi from Togo said, "The language is the vehicle of all culture and all knowledge. On this basis, learning Chinese becomes a means of acquisition of knowledge about China. African countries have much to learn from China as it is part of big powers of today, admired by Europe, America and other continents."
In this regard, "the Chinese language is part of the elements which we should incorporate in what we have already as in culture in view to create new values of development," said Pewissi.
"Africa should attach to China to learn how it has gone out of its state of under-development to take off as a world power," he added.
In the eyes of Alpha Bah from Liberia, "there are changes in general life. The 21st century is that of China. So, people can try to establish contact with China. We have tried with the United States, Europe. We should have multiform experiences. We should not follow only one line as in the colonial epoch. We would like to diversify the partnership with the rest of the world."
He said, "Without doubt, China wants to have a greater influence in the world, but it does not dictate us in our affairs, contrary to our colonialist rulers who imposed decisions on us without giving us the possibility of making a choice."
"With China, it is different. It asks us: 'What would you like, a point here or a grand route there?' With them, it is us who lead our army and our government," Bah said.