Mobility of African students – Europe losing ground

Students from Africa account for more than one in 10 students worldwide studying abroad – a mobility rate twice as high as the global average – with about a fifth from North Africa, and more than a half from countries where French is spoken. Half choose Europe as their study destination, but Europe is losing ground to other African countries and the Middle East.

These are among findings in the Note La Mobilité Internationale des Étudiants Africains by Campus France, the agency that promotes French higher education to attract foreign students.

Campus France drew on existing UNESCO statistics, referring to 2013, and newer 2015 figures from the French government.

African student mobility – The figures

In 2013, UNESCO calculates that 373,303 African students were studying in a country other than their own, representing about 10.5% of global student mobility.

The number of these students fell by 10% from 2011, when they numbered 412,516, while global mobility rose by 2.6%. So the percentage of Africans studying abroad is gradually declining, accounting for 10.6% in 2011 compared with 13.7% in 2003, reported Campus France.

However, it said, in spite of this fall the Sub-Saharan Africa student mobility rate of 3.5% is twice as high as the world average.

For some, studying abroad can result from a wish to be open to the world, while for others it is necessary to find work abroad because there are no opportunities at home.

Middle Eastern countries have recently grown in popularity following a specific offer of study grants at Islamic universities, while in ‘extreme’ cases such as Somalia and Eritrea studies abroad can provide an opportunity to escape economic crisis, famine or armed conflict, says the Note.

The 12 leading destination countries for African students abroad in 2013 were: France (92,205 students, 26.5%); South Africa (33,053, 9.5%); United Kingdom (32,454, 9.3%); United States (32,212, 9.3%); Germany (13,915, 4%); Saudi Arabia (12,728, 3.7%); Canada (11,640, 3.4%); Malaysia (11,270, 3.2%); Ghana (10,009, 2.9%); Italy (8,964, 2.6%); Australia (6,976, 2%) and Morocco (6,958, 2%).

Geographically, 170,432 African students came to the 28 European Union countries (49.1%), followed by African countries other than their own (69,226 or 19.9%); North America (43,852 or 12.6%); Middle East (22,179 or 6.4%); Asia (18,527 or 5.3%); the rest of Europe (9,224 or 2.7%); Oceania (7,386 or 2.1%); and South and Central America (6,496 or 1.9%).