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Turkish language centres attract learners in Africa

Turkey’s international cultural and language body, the Yunus Emre Enstitüsü,  has recorded progress in its latest forays into sub-Saharan Africa, where in 2017 it established new learning centres in Ethiopia and South Africa.

Turkey is hoping the YEE institutes will fly its flag in countries far and wide. Photo: Flickr/ bareknuckleyellow

YEE also runs centres in Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria

Ethiopian universities report an enrolment of 900 students in 2018, just months after teaching of Turkish language commenced in three universities in the country.

“Students who are successful will participate in the Turkish Summer School”

The universities, including Addis Ababa, Mekelle and Wollo, started admitting students into Turkish language classes in January, a year after the Turkish language and cultural institute opened a hub in the country.

Students are learning Turkish, alongside programs in law, social sciences, accounting and engineering, with the hope of winning scholarships for graduate studies in Turkey, or with the hope of getting employment in Turkish companies that are increasingly investing in Africa.

The apparent success is the result of a cooperation agreement between the two countries signed by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Ethiopian counterpart Mulatu Teshome, in February 2017. It is part of efforts to promote Turkish “cultural heritage to the world, through Turkish language by way of academic cooperation,” according to the YEE website.

“Students who are successful in the program will also be eligible to participate in the Turkish Summer School organised by YEE”, said the institute, adding that teaching staff in the universities will also be taught the language.

The news come as Turkey, an increasingly visible trading partner with Africa, announced that YEE was set to open new centres in more African countries including in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique. This follows the opening of a centre in South Africa, where a cultural and language hub is operating in Johannesburg.

The Johannesburg centre officially launched in October 2017 had enrolled 49 learners as of April 2018.

The Yunus Emre Institute follows in the steps of Confucius Institutes and others, who have aimed to teach language and culture in Africa, and have seen success.  The Chinese Confucius Institutes have enrolled thousands of African students in tens of universities across the continent.

In Africa the YEE also runs centres in Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria, and according to the institute, the Turkish language was being taught in 85 universities worldwide, with 4,785 students in 2017 alone.

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