Stories from Ikenna Emewu from Jinhua
There is no way you won’t feel excited as an African to find yourself at the Jinhua Quibin Primary School and are welcome by Chinese children playing African drums for you and doing African dance steps.
Kids in this school do wonders with African arts, fabric designs, hair weaving, sculpting and African musical instrument they even play and dance joyfully at.
At an introduction welcoming you, they would inform that the project is the brainchild of Prof. Liu Hongwu, a scholar so passionate about Africa that he had to set up the project in the school in the same city where he is the Director of African Studies in the Zhejian Normal University, in Jinhua.
If that thrills you, then you would have more shock to hear that Liu had to even enroll and get a certificate in African History at the University of Lagos. He deliberately did that to get a good grounding in African culture, history and art. Today, with the Forum on China African Cooperation (FOCAC) that has been so prominent in the past 16 years, Prof. Liu’s project has become a major rave in China.
It is the institute that pilots the China Africa Think Tank Forum that holds in the commercial city of Yiwu, another city in the same Zhejian Province known for international trade and where Africans make up 30% of the aliens’ content. Yiwu has a population of 2.5 million people and the largest small commodity market in the world.
At the Jinhua (pronounced Tinhua) school, the professor and the teachers together with the pupils were elated to have a team of 22 African journalists pay them visit after the African Think Tank Forum.
As they banged away on their talking drums, the young girls and boys sang also in African tones and welcomed the visitors with garlands and paintings laced with African beads and in African art forms made by them.
After the declaration by President Xi Jinping of China last year in Johannesburg that the China Africa cooperation is a business so total and so serious far more than what the two sides imagined earlier, the professor’s project at the primary school has become the masterpiece for the government of China. It is so dear to them that they had to factor in the visit of the African journalists fellows after the fifth Forum.
It is a passion so total that the principal of the school in her address noted on a seriocomic mood that she looked forward to the project maturing to visits by the children to Africa soon to spend time and learn more about the people, resulting in more inter racial China-Africa marriages.
The school kids welcomed the journalists to their posh school with dances, African garlands and proceeded to take us to their African outdoor gallery of arts. There, the works are sculpted and carved African animals, masks, paintings, country names, fabrics, raffia works and woven straw mats. After walking through the pavilion, you get more surprise to meet some of the children with African drums made of wood and animal skin diaphragm with straps girded round their waists drumming and dancing. They have created an African museum with even photos of visitors in the past teaching them African hair weaving, painting an others.
The musical instruments collection includes even so many that are no longer seen in Africa from guitars made from iron spikes, and calabash to wooden xylophones, clatters and cymbals to drums of various sizes, wooden gongs and many more. And because of the African culture focus of the school, it has become a celebrity place of sorts, attracting many Chinese and African leaders who visit from time to time.
The peculiar school with all Chinese pupils has 67 teachers that handle the 1600 kids in their various classes.
At the reception for the African journalists, Prof. Liu said the project was aimed at deepening the China Africa friendship for the future. He also noted that the project was meant to challenge African countries and scholars to do the same in Africa to also promote Chinese culture among the young people of Africa.
He boasted that there was no way the children of the school would grow and be ignorant of African identity and ways of life.
A report by a local journalist, Jin Lu, about the school after the African garden was set up and during an exchange visit by school children from central Africa noted that after one of the Jinhua kids had listened to the children from Africa tell stories of lovely beaches in their town, a girl, Hu Lianwen, volunteered she wanted to go to Africa and see the beautiful places.
The people are certain that any day any African school starts coaching African children on Chinese culture, it would elicit the same passion to visit China and know more about the country with the largest number of human beings and through that create a better future friendship between the two parts of the world that make up about 2.5 billion of the world’s population.
China’s ambitious project to set up first African varsity
The fifth China Africa Think Tank Forum ended Saturday last week after three days of intellectual deep banters by over 300 experts from all countries of Africa and China.
The forum holds at the behest of the Zhejian Normal University of Jinhua. But it holds in Yiwu.
Yiwu, a city of 2.5 million people boasts of the largest small commodity market in the world. According to the deputy mayor of the city, the market is so large that it will take a shopper one and half years to go round the market ,spending just three minutes at every shop.
In fact, a large percentage of small commodities that China exports to the world emanate from the Yiwu dry port that moves an average of 1000 container loads of commodities everyday.
What would surprise you most is that more than 70% of Christmas gifts used all over the world every year emanate from Yiwu. As the trend of e-commerce grows, Yiwu explores it to the optimum and about 37 e-commerce clusters exist there that handle 16 million parcels throughout China every day and another 400,000 others to other parts of the world daily. The e-commerce trend started here some few years ago with seven households that had 2700 e-commerce outlets just from their computers.
The authorities indicated that 23% of businesses in Yiwu is with Africa and has increased about 20 times in five years while exports from Africa also increased 30 times within the same period. The market is so structured that every country has a stand or pavilion at least where goods from the country are sold.
The population of Africans in the city is 25% of all foreigners, reason the government of China has made it a hub for brainstorm on how to better Africa China economy, environment, agriculture, technology, education and every conceivable area.
The forum last week hosted at least 70 experts of various fields from Africa from the academia to banking, the media, engineering and many others.
It featured over 128 papers and discussions from the plenary to the panels.
It was during the opening of the Forum that the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who is the leader of the city declared an intention by the government of China to build an African University there.
The party scribe, Sheng Quiping, in his address noted that President Xi Jinping few years ago made reference to Yiwu as the real place the China Africa business friendship is reflected with over 13,000 African businesses owned by businesspersons from 29 countries are located. The largest single African country stakeholder in Yiwu business cluster is of course Nigeria, according the local authorities.
He assured that over time, the city administration has created a lot of incentives for Africans to make them feel safe and comfortable to do their businesses including schools for their children and business factors that make their work and stay in Yiwu more productive.
And he said the Zhejian Normal University in the next city to Yiwu and in the same province is the first in China to have a full African research institute. However, that effort would be furthered with a plan to build the first African university in China in the city and will do much more than that in the future to further the friendship between the two sides.
At the Forum, experts discussed myriad of issues about Africa and China cooperation and the way to help Africa move forward.
With about $20 billion aid announced by President Xi in helping Africa this year, the world’s largest country and second largest economy seems truly committed to helping lift Africa in technological advancement.
While China tasks Africa to pick up the challenge and push itself harder, the participants, speaking for the government of China noted that the country did not take the resolve lightly to assist Africa in agriculture, technological advancement education, healthcare, industrialisation and transportation. China announced that the Forum was part of the resolutions of the FOCAC in South Africa that held in December last year. The Think Tank fine tunes the issues deliberated on at the FOCAC to give it a direction and put it on implementation tracks.
The government of China noted that since year 2000, the China Africa friendship had been getting stronger in culture, media, educational and other exchanges and visit by government officials of both sides and professionals who learn from each other’s experiences.
For instance, the Director General at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Lin Songtian, who is also the head of the China Sub-Sahara Africa Initiative said the people of China in addition to the government knew Africa as their true friends from the historic times and share a lot in common. He challenged Africa to rise to the task and make a difference with the assistance from China. “We are not those that plundered or colonised Africa. We are the true friends of Africa. We understand that we have a lot in common with African nations. We went through the deprivation and scorn of the other worlds, who felt they were better and would always be better.
They also believed and treated us as people that can never do well. So, we understand how it feels. Since we created and charted a new course for ourselves that brought us to this level, we task Africa to also do the same.”