Where do Africans study abroad?

The majority of African students studying abroad are choosing China as their destination. 

This information is in a report by Development Reimagined, an international consultancy based in China. It notes that every year between 2011 and 2016 the number of African students that went to China on average grew 14% faster than the number of Asian students studying in that country. Asia includes Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mongolia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia and the Koreas.

During the same period the number of African students choosing to study abroad grew by 111%. 

As many African countries are developing rapidly, the number of African, internationally mobile students is also set to rise just as fast in the future, the report notes. But the number of South Africans deciding to study abroad was not as high as those from countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. 

According to 2017 statistics, 1 495 South Africans were studying in the United Kingdom, more than 2 000 were in the United States and about 2 600 were in China. 


France had 29 000 Moroccan students, followed by students from Algeria and Tunisia. There were more than 17 000 Nigerian students in the UK followed by students from Egypt and Kenya. In the US there were about 12 000 Nigerian students followed by students from Egypt and Kenya. And in China there were 6 500 Ghanaian students followed by students from Nigeria and Ethiopia. 

Back in 2011, the majority of South African students studying abroad were in the US, but by 2017 more students chose to go to China.

(John McCann/M&G)

“Trends also predict that by 2022 Nigeria will favour China more than the UK or the US,” reads the report.

It further notes that trends suggest that by 2021, Asian students are still likely to be the largest student population in China despite the fact that the number of African students has since 2016, increased 17% faster than the number of Asian students.

Between 2011 and 2016 Asian students were undoubtedly the largest student population in China. Each year there were on average 359% more Asian students in China than African students. But the number of African students in China grew faster than the number of students studying anywhere else in the world. Current trends indicate that by 2021 China will be the top studying destination for African students, with numbers expected to reach 174 978. This will be 54% more than the number of African students likely to be studying in France.

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M&G Data Desk
The Data Desk is the centre for data journalism at Mail & Guardian

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