China-Mali: education and culture for strengthening mutual understanding

By Yoro Diallo – In this year of commemoration of 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Mali, a look into the contemporary history of the two countries reveals the excellence of bilateral cooperation in all areas of development, especially education and culture.

Teacher. Yoro DIALLO, Principal Researcher / Executive Director of the Center d’Etudes Francophones, and Director of the African Museum, Institute of African Studies

On May 15, 1963, the signing of the cultural cooperation agreement between Mali and China in Beijing lays the foundation for fruitful cultural cooperation. On May 4, 1964, a Malian cultural delegation led by the Minister of Youth, Moussa Keita on tour in China was received by the Prime Minister of the Council of State Affairs, Zhou Enlai.

China thus expressed its attachment to cultural exchanges between the Chinese and Malian peoples. Therefore, as a tool for communication, for strengthening reciprocal esteem and bonds of friendship, said exchanges will actively continue. They promote fruitful dialogue, contribute to strengthening mutual understanding and promote fruitful win-win cooperation. Thanks to cultural exchanges, China and Mali come closer, develop a mutual appreciation, a cordial attachment borrowed from respect and reciprocal consideration.

In 2000, the creation of the Forum on Sino-African Cooperation in Beijing, offers the two countries an ideal platform to further formalize, with the African and Malian brothers, a multifaceted cooperation framework. The Beijing Plan of Action 2006 adopts three important initiatives. Namely: implementing bilateral exchange programs between governments; promote and support art exhibitions and performances at local level and between peoples; set up an African Cultural Visitors Program. Thanks to the efforts of the various parties, these initiatives will be implemented with pragmatism in all the targeted areas.

In recent years more than 900 members of Chinese art troupes have performed in Africa during art festivals or worship events organized by African countries including Mali. China has invited hundreds of African artists to visit China and perform at international cultural festivals. Since 2010, the “ African Cultural Visitors Program Is experiencing remarkable growth.

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The Ministry of Culture of China is working towards the realization of the said program by inviting personalities and men of culture from Africa to go to China to participate in activities such as round tables and the project “ Africa Guets Painters Visits », In order to deepen cultural exchanges between African countries and China. In 2019, the Malian painter Abdoulaye Konate, former Director of the Balla Fasséké Training Center, participated in an Arts exhibition in Hangzhou as part of this program. Activities «Cultures in Focus» have become highlights of cultural exchanges that artists and men of culture in Mali should exploit. Chinese and African cultures are highlighted by the activities ” Focus on Chinese culture “And” Focus on African cultures».

Activities ” Cultures in Focus Undoubtedly have a highly strategic meaning presenting opportunities for Malians. In this regard, we fully share the vision of President Xi Jinping when he declares: “ We must give more importance to cultural exchanges between China and Africa, strengthen mutual understanding and knowledge between Chinese and Africans, strengthen the social foundation of the cause of China-Africa friendship. Sino-African relations mark a work oriented towards the future, a work that needs the tireless efforts of young people with noble aspirations, from generation to generation. The two parties must push forward the exchanges between young people so that they do not lack successors in the work of Sino-African friendship “. The Chinese and Malians joining forces, cultural exchanges between the two countries will flourish to strengthen understanding between the two peoples.

City of Ségou in Mali

The field of education (universities, higher education and training) occupies a prominent place in cultural cooperation between China and Mali. In this area, cooperation is in line with the Chinese adage according to which, “ it is nice to give a friend fish, but it is better to teach him how to fish “. Since 1965, China has been implementing a real training program which has enabled thousands of Malians to access scholarships offered by the Chinese Government. In the 1970s, Chinese teachers were deployed in Mali, particularly in the schools of Badalabougou in Bamako, Banankoro and Markala in Ségou, and Sikasso.

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It was at the Lycée de Banankoro (Segou) where I took the Malian baccalaureate (1st part), then at the Lycée de Badalabougou (2nd part) that I got in touch with the Chinese language and culture. The study of the Chinese language has shaped my philosophical thinking, my militant commitment, in particular through the channel of Mao Zedong’s little red book that I received as a gift from my Chinese teacher. This book has greatly contributed to the awakening of consciousness of the militant of the student movement that I was. He later led me to discover Karl Marx, Lenin, Friedrich Engels, Fidel Castro, Ernesto Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, Modibo Keita, Kwame N’Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, etc….

In 60 years of friendly relations, China has trained more than 2,000 Malians in various fields of science. Since 2016, it has steadily increased year after year the number of government scholarships awarded to Mali and strengthens the sharing of experiences. China currently has more than 82,000 African students, most of whom are Chinese government scholars, including 216 Malians. Young Malians should keep in mind that China presents scholarship opportunities outside the government stream. Chinese provinces, universities, Chinese companies and foundations offer training scholarships.

China has opened the Confucius Institute and the Confucius Class at the University of Bamako, enabling many Malians with the invaluable contribution of Chinese teachers to learn the Chinese language and soak up the culture of the country. The vocational training center, the pilot center for agricultural technologies and Atelier Luban offer various platforms to young Malians. In the field of the press and communication, training programs and material support strengthen the working tools of professionals.

In the field of cultural, sports, university and training infrastructure, no partner in Mali has achieved as much as China across the country. The University of Kabala, the largest university infrastructure in West Africa, a real jewel remains the symbol of the fruitful Sino-Malian cultural cooperation.

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