Western Sahara was the last colonised African country. Like Spain, which colonised it, Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium and a number of other countries in the global north scrambled for the partitioning of Africa during the colonial period. The partitioning was largely driven by natural resources that abound on the continent, which colonial masters believe would help them in their industrial growth and development agenda.
The exit of the colonialists meant that Africans are free to lead and govern themselves. But, they are not totally free when one looks at varying foreign policies being implemented in the last 61 years. The policies cut across socioeconomic and political spheres of every African country. During the colonial era, the scrambling, as argued earlier, was on exploration of natural resources and possible importation of the finished products into the continent.
Then, foreign direct investment as an international trade instrument known today was not in existence. Export of raw materials and import of finished products by the colonial traders and few African business people dominated. In our check, there is no evidence that China colonised any African country. Yet, the country leads the United States of America, France, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom in the area of foreign direct investment flow into Africa. Between 2014 and 2018, 16% of FDI into Africa came from China.
As countries in the global north pull their resources together and singlehanded towards capturing emerging markets in Africa, they are not relenting about getting intellectuals to their side. A number of the countries have centres, institutes and courses that are related to African culture, norms, traditions and knowledge in their higher institutions.
Since 2000, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and other countries in the global north have increased their graduate and postgraduate scholarships including grants to African scholars and professionals. In its bid of having significant influence on Africa, apart from its ‘loan-giving dominance’ China [ despite being in the global south] has recently pursued China-Africa education policy agenda that promotes its sociocultural interest in relation to economy agenda.
Africans are moving to the global north in throes, according to our analyst, because of the various challenges facing the higher education sector. A number of countries on the continent are still struggling in the area of adequate infrastructure provision and funding, the loopholes the countries in the global north are using to attract intellectuals from the continent.
From Erasmus Mundus to Fulbright Visiting Scholarship and DAAD – Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, a significant number of African scholars have been scouted by the countries that established these organisations in the last 10 years. “Each year roughly 850 faculty and professionals from around the world receive Fulbright Scholar awards for advanced research and university lecturing in the United States. Individual awards are available to scholars from over 100 countries. Since its inception in 1946, over 400,000 Fulbrighters have participated from over 160 countries.”
Apart from scholarships, African scholars are being attracted with visiting scholar programmes and postgraduate research fellowships to boost their career by providing full funding, stipend for personal maintenance during research, extra knowledge from senior researchers and others.
According to a 2015 data, 926 scholars have benefited from the Fulbright Visiting Scholars Programme. Over 3% of the scholars are from Africa. More than 23% from East Asia and the Pacific, 41.9% are from the Europe and Eurasia. North Africa and the Middle East had 7.1%, while South and Central Asia and Western Hemisphere had 13.7% and 9.9% respectively. Though Africa had a small share of the figure, analysis indicates that organisation usually targets Africa in its research agenda.
In their continued socioeconomic war, the United States and China are not relenting in dishing out scholarship and research funding opportunities to Africa. For example, as of April 7, 2021 [starting from 2016], academic institutions and private organisations have 383 opportunities for scholars and professionals across the world. Again, analysis reveals that Africa is in the hearts of the funders. Already, for Q1 and Q2 of 2021, the United States has released 106 research fellowships including visiting scholar grants, small grants for doctoral research students. Out of these opportunities, 29 are postdoctoral research fellowships.
Indeed, the global north wants African scholars. But, hardly, scholars of the global north visit for residential research purposes despite the need for collaboration on global issues. African scholars, who were attracted to the global north, also hardly return to Africa due to issues previously identified.
Exhibit 1: Number of Opportunities by Fellowship Category