People-to-people relations provide an opportunity to explore other cultures, traditions, customs, beliefs, languages, economy, and much more. It also creates opportunities for people to learn and to work with others to overcome shared challenges and ensure a secure and prosperous future for all. It creates future leaders who instinctively appreciate the value of international collaboration and understanding.
Today, Ethiopia and China still continue to carry out many cultural exchange programs and multiple partnerships at provincial/regional, city and higher educational institutions and think-tank levels since the establishment of their diplomatic ties over half a century ago enhancing mutual understanding and recognition.
These cultural exchanges and partnerships have witnessed their fair share of continuous growth under the frameworks of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since their establishment by the Chinese government in 2000 and in 2013, respectively. And they have been immensely boosted to even a higher level since the two countries elevated their diplomatic relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership (CSCP) in 2017.
As a result, the two countries cultural and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation delivered many fruitful outcomes and the two sides have signed a number of cooperation documents on strengthening ties in student exchanges, promoting language and cultural exchanges, providing medical aid and enhancing research and development cooperation, enhancing sharing and exchanges of technical knowledge and skills, facilitating cooperation in tourism and hospitality and encouraging technological cooperation, amongst many. To mention some of the most recent developments, last year in October 2021, Addis Ababa University (AAU), in collaboration with the Confucius Institute, announced that it has finalized preparations to launch its first-ever Master of Arts (MA) program in the Chinese language in Ethiopia, which is going to be the first MA program in the Chinese language in the East Africa. The Confucius Institute in AAU, which started operation in Ethiopia back in 2012, has so far registered tens of thousands of students who passed through various levels of Chinese language studies at different facilities across the country. And according to figures from the institute, among them, more than hundreds were able to get their Bachelor’s degrees in the Chinese language, most of whom had the experience to study in China and now actively engaging in facilitating the ever-expanding Ethiopia-China relations.
In addition to the federal Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Institute, Chinese language studies are now provided in four other public universities across Ethiopia, namely Addis Ababa University (AAU) in the capital, Bahir Dar University in north western Ethiopia, Mekelle University in northern Ethiopia, Hawassa University in Southern Ethiopia, as well as Arsi University in Ethiopia’s largest Oromia regional state. And most recently, on April 20, 2022, AAU in collaboration with the Confusions Institute celebrated the United Nations Chinese Language Day celebration by performing various cultural activities.
Furthermore, during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Ethiopia and China in 2020, one of the top leading Universities in China, Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) officially upgraded its Amharic language course from optional (elective course) to a full undergraduate degree program. And on March 11, 2022, Ambassador Teshome Toga – Ethiopian Ambassador to P.R China, held bilateral talks with Mr. Zhang Xu – Chinese vice Minister of Culture and Tourism, on ways of further strengthening the cultural and people to people ties between the two countries.
Cultural and People to people Exchange Programs under the FOCAC Framework
Strengthening the cultural and people-to-people exchange program is one of the nine major initiatives both Africa and China are highly engaged on to achieve under the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) framework announced during the 8th ministerial FOCAC conference that was held in Dakar, Senegal in 2021 as well as under the consecutive previous forums. And accordingly, it focuses on strengthening five major areas of cooperation between African countries and China namely, culture; press and media; academia and think tanks; people-to-people exchanges; and youth and women.
People-to-people Connectivity under the BRI
Under the people-to-people connectivity priority of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China and member States are working to enhance international cooperation by building closer collaboration partnerships through strengthened physical, institutional and people-to-people exchanges and connectivity among all member countries. They also acknowledge the natural and cultural diversity of the world and recognizing that all cultures and civilizations can contribute to sustainable development making pathway for harmony and inclusiveness. And to this effect, Ethiopia will continue to actively participate and stay highly engaged to make good use out of the people-to-people connectivity priorities put forth under both FOCAC and BRI initiatives.