US$20 million for university’s Confucius centre upgrade

The government of China is investing a massive US$20 million in the University of Nairobi’s Confucius Institute, one of the big education projects by the Chinese in Africa.

The investment – also one of the largest in any Kenyan university – will translate into new lecture theatres, office facilities, a dormitory and other public areas such as halls, cafés and restaurants.

Construction of the facilities will commence in March 2017, according to a post on the university website, with the project being completed in the last quarter of 2018, should everything run smoothly.

The Chinese government is also partly financing construction of a multi-million dollar Kenyatta University Teaching and Referral Hospital, the third such facility linked to a Kenyan university.

Confucius institutes exist in 35 countries on the African continent. South Africa leads the way with five institutes in five different universities and three Confucius classrooms. It is followed by Kenya with four institutes in four universities while Ethiopia has two institutes and two Confucius classrooms.

A major deal

The announcement of the deal comes after months of negotiations and signing of various agreements between the university, Kenya’s Ministry of Finance, and the Chinese government, the first having been inked in 2005.

The final stage of the preparatory process took place on 24 June at the Executive Bureau of International Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Commerce offices in Beijing during a visit by a University of Nairobi delegation led by Vice-Chancellor Peter Mbithi that met Chinese officials led by Nairobi-based Confucius Institute Director Guo Hong.

Earlier in 2015, Kenyan National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich announced that the project was to receive US$12 million from the Chinese government and indicated that the project costs may have scaled upwards.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi was launched in 2005. Since 2006 more than 200 students have had an opportunity to study in China, according to the institute’s website.

The university partners with Tianjin Normal University in a collaboration that includes the exchange of students and lecturers, with Chinese lecturers teaching the Chinese language at the University of Nairobi while a University of Nairobi lecturer teaches Kiswahili at Tianjin.