The Confucius Institute: An essential partner in the new era of China-Ghana relations
At the core of the new phase of relations between China and Africa are fruitful collaborations between African governments and Chinese companies, geared towards socio-economic progress for both China and Africa.
In Ghana for example, there are a number of such collaborations.
In the area of hydro electric power generation, a Chinese-owned solar power generating company, BXC, recently completed work on a 30 million dollar solar plant in the Western Region of Ghana, which is expected to add 20 megawatts of energy to the national grid.
The Yanjian Group, a Chinese construction company, is also credited with construction of the new office block of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ghana University of Allied Sciences in the Volta Region, the Fortune City project for 100 Villas, and the KAAF University College, all in Ghana.
The Aveyime Harvest Farm, established in 2010 to serve as a model farm and research centre to improve farming methods in Aveyime and the country as a whole, is also another example of China-Ghana collaboration.
As Ghana-China relations grow, more Chinese companies and organizations, set up bases throughout Ghana to work hand in hand with their Ghanaian counterparts for the benefit of both countries.
Whilst these companies come in with some basic staff, they typically employ the much -needed Ghanaian expertise.
With Ghana being a new territory to them, these companies find it very useful employing Ghanaians, because that facilitates their movements and activities within the country.
These Chinese companies sometimes have staff that only speak Chinese, with little or no English at all.
A Ghanaian employee who speaks both English and Chinese, with a good understanding of Chinese culture, is therefore a great asset to such companies, once they find themselves doing business in Ghana.
Effectively, therefore, the new phase of collaboration between Ghana and China, also offers new outlets for employment.
Being a Ghanaian, and having good command over the English language, as well as being able to speak good Chinese, raises one’s chances of being employed by these companies.
Presently, there is one key institution in the country, which educates people on the Chinese language and culture, which is the Confucius Institute.
Co-hosted by the University of Ghana and the Zhejiang University of Technology in China, the Confucius Institute at the University of Ghana, is similar to organizations such as the British Council, and basically seeks to promote progressive relations between Ghana and China.
The Institute which was established in May 2013 and started running in April, 2014, offers courses on Chinese language Proficiency, Business Chinese, Chinese Calligraphy and Chinese Taichi.
The rest are Chinese Medicine, Chinese Tea Culture and HSK preparation.
The HSK is an examination that provides students the opportunity to gain various scholarships to study in China.
In the past year, the institute has established a Chinese Centrer in the Ga East Municipal Assembly.
It has also created teaching sites at the University of Ghana Basic Schools, the Ghana Institute of Languages, and the Rising Sun Montessori School, offering Chinese classes to about 1,700 students.
The Confucius Institute has also set up the only HSK center in Ghana, providing Ghanaians the opportunity to gain scholarships to study in China.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Dr Meilian Mei, Director of the Confucius Institute, said the Institute would continue to promote the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture, which apart from serving the educational needs of students, also strengthens relations between the two countries.
Dr. Meilian noted that presently, Chinese companies were developing interest in Ghana, as a result of the conducive atmosphere pertaining in the country.
“We have had lots of enquiries from these companies on the possibility of hiring Ghanaians who could speak both English and Chinese,” she said, adding that a number of young graduates had already gotten employed by some Chinese companies, yielding them an opportunity for quite a good start in life.
Dr. Meilian said one advantage a person could gain from studying at the Confucius Institute, was the opportunity to be employed by some of the several Chinese companies in the country, because the Institute teaches students both Chinese language and Chinese culture.
She said presently, fruitful bilateral relations exist between Ghana and China, and would remain so for many years to come by all indications, which meant that it was quite a good venture, for any Ghanaian to invest into having some education in Chinese language and Chinese culture.
By Robert Anane