CampusFrance’s 2017 study on international mobility of African students: the European Community remains on top of the list

africa-paxter-icsia-sStudying student mobility is specifically important in the context of the internationalization of higher education, and the outbound mobility ratio (scale between the total number of students going abroad and the total percentage of students at a same level of education) is systematically analyzed by the UIS (UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics) on a global scale. With a strong paradox at its core, since student mobility can be a factor of regional integration and development as well as the demonstration of a brain drain phenomenon[1].

CampusFrance recently published a regionalized note on the subject, which focuses on the « international mobility of African students ». This special focus on the area shows that one in ten students around the world comes from Africa. Among the destination areas of this student mobility flow, it is interesting to note that the European Community remains on top of the list, although it drops from 57.4% to 49.1% in the proportion of students accepted (page #4). This decline benefits to African intracontinental mobility, which has increased by 5% (from 14.7% to 19.9%) over the same period.

This development has been accompanied by the emergence of regional hubs for higher education, such as South Africa, representing 48% of the intracontinental flow. Other secondary poles are emerging in the shadow of this giant, among which Mauritius, whose number of foreign students hosted in percentage of enrolment in higher education is very close to its South-African neighbour (4% vs. 4.2%)[2]. Indeed, at the beginning of the 2010s, the Mauritian government expressed its strategic intention to position the country – whose development path shares, in an African context, many similarities with Singapore’s – as an important regional hub for education, mainly oriented towards the Indian Ocean, Eastern and Southern Africa.

Further analysis by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) level, specifies the characteristics of intracontinental student mobility flows for 2012[3], noting that the preferred curricula are the following: business and management, social sciences, law and education. This region is especially interesting thanks to its student mobility rate, which is high (5.8% in 2009, compared with 4.9% in sub-Saharan Africa and 2% on a world average). This may be the result of a long-standing effort to facilitate mobility (Article 7 of SADC Protocol on Education and Training 1997[4]).

Teachers and students’ mobility in an African area of higher education should be facilitated by the implementation of the « Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Certificates, Diplomas, Degrees and Other Qualifications in Higher Education in States of Africa » (Arusha Convention of 1981, revised in Addis Ababa on December 12th, 2014[5]). The construction of national and regional apprenticeship certifications (national and regional qualification frameworks) can also make an important contribution to promoting these flows.



[1] This is reflected in the communication issued at the World Conference on Higher Education in 2009, in which UNESCO is committed to « encouraging mobility and international exchange of students and Developing strategies to address the negative impact of brain drain ».

[2] Institut des Statistiques de l’UNESCO,




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