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China to Open More Confucius Institutes in Africa

"China is cool. I'm very interested in it, so I chose to study the Chinese Language," Lukaka, a class monitor in the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi, said.

He also noted in a composition in Chinese that "China has great traditional culture and it has a growing influence on the world".

Citing Lukaka's letter, an official with China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (NOCFL) said in Beijing that China's greater influence and presence has explained the popularity of the Confucius Institute in the African continent.

The Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi, the first non-profit school specializing in Chinese language and culture education in Africa, was officially launched on December 10, 2005. The number of students increased from 20 to more than 60 in just two months.

The Confucius Institute - a non-profit public institution whose overseas branches teach the Chinese language and culture - serves as a bridge for African countries to learn about China, he said.

In 2002, the NOCFL under the Education Ministry set up a number of Chinese-learning institutions overseas to enhance the understanding of the Chinese culture among Chinese learners outside of China.

In March 2004, the institutions were brought under one umbrella and named the Confucius Institute. By June 2006, a total of 75 Confucius institutes had been set up or were under construction in more than 35 countries and regions.

The total number of institutes overseas is projected to surpass 100 by the end of 2006.

There are three Confucius Institutes established or under construction in Africa; the one in Nairobi, a Chinese Language and Culture Center in Stellenbosch University in South Africa and a Confucius institute in Rwanda. Another five universities and colleges are currently applying, the NOCFL said.

Statistics from China's Ministry of Education show there are over 8,000 African students learning Chinese and the number is on the rise.

Nearly 120 schools in 16 African countries had opened Chinese courses by July 1, 2005, and to meet the increasing need of African students, China has sent nearly 200 teachers to Africa.

China has also assisted African countries such as Cameroon, Egypt and Mauritius in building linguistic laboratories for Chinese language learning and provided Chinese books as well.

(Xinhua News Agency June 21, 2006)

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