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U.S. seeks to boost international student numbers hailing from Sub-Saharan Africa

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With sights set on Africa as an emerging market with boundless potential in higher education, the USA has launched its first ever education trade network in Africa including 25 prestigious US colleges and universities.

The scheme will incorporate visits to South Africa, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in the hopes of recruiting high-quality African students to enrol overseas at a US institution, and build partnerships between universities in Africa and the USA.

According to official statistics from the Institute of International Education (IIE), there were almost one million international students studying overseas in the US during academic year 2014-15, but only 34,000 (3%) of these students derived from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many African universities are accompanied by facilities that are well below par, but lack sufficient funding to improve these conditions. A significant number also suffer from classroom overcrowding, frequent lecturer strikes and poor graduate prospects, all of which combine to mean the quality of higher education on the continent is compromised.

“For many young Africans,” notes University World News, “Studying abroad will be less about education quality than securing a better life.”

According to the Open Doors Report, Nigeria was number 15 on the list of the top places of origin for international students in the USA in 2015, but the region has not been included in America’s most recent collaboration with Africa.

There were 9,500 Nigerian students studying in the US in 2014-15, up 20 percent on figures from the previous year, making Nigeria one of the fastest growing overseas student populations in America.

The US recruitment drive was initiated in Johannesburg earlier this week, where Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Analysis and leader of the American contingent, Marcus Jadotte, introduced the Career Indaba Education Fair 2016, which was attended by 16,000 South African students.

“Degrees from colleges and universities in the United States are recognised around the world by companies who are increasingly interested in an innovative workforce and well-trained job candidates,” said Jadotte in a recent embassy release.

“In addition, international students are highly valued in the United States because they bring with them a rich and diverse perspective, which improves the learning experience for all students.”

A number of US institutions also came equipped with scholarship opportunities to make higher education in the US more accessible to prospective African students.

Throughout the visit, Assistant secretary Jadotte is scheduled to meet with representatives of the South African Government, as well as officials from South African schools and businesses.

“Africa presents a number of opportunities for US institutions seeking to globalise their campuses,” said Jadotte. “Outwardly mobile students make up 25% of all students on the African continent – the highest rate in the world.”

Additional reporting by University World News.

Image via Shutterstock.

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