KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama): More Africans are choosing Malaysia as their favourite destination to pursue their higher education in this country, says Egypt's ambassador to Malaysia, Gamal A. Metwally (pic).
He said education is one of the most important fields where cooperation could be strengthened between the 54 African countries and Malaysia.
Metwally said Malaysia's multiracial, multiethnic and multireligious composition are similar to African countries and is an advantage in attracting students from Africa, who are increasingly seeing Malaysia as a destination for good quality, yet affordable, education.
"Africans don't feel like strangers here. There is cultural tolerance here. Lifestyle is more or less the same. The cost of education and cost of living is much cheaper in Malaysia compared with other parts of the world like the United Kingdom, Australia or the United States," he said.
The Egyptian ambassador was speaking to Bernama International News Service on behalf of the 21 African heads of mission recently in conjunction with Africa Day, which was celebrated in Malaysia on June 27. Egypt is the current chair of the African Union (AU), which has 55 members.
Metwally said offers and provisions of more grants and scholarships on both sides would create more opportunities for cooperation between African countries and Malaysia in the field of education.
"Universities in Africa and Malaysia should also explore the possibility of launching programmes for exchanging professors, teaching staff and students and to explore short academic programmes and courses," he said.
Metwally estimates that there are currently between 20,000 to 25,000 African students in Malaysia and around 15,000 Malaysian students in Egypt.
"Education is a long term investment. For example, students who graduated from Al-Azhar in Egypt are in a very good position, once (they) returned to Malaysia, on how to further promote Malaysia-Egypt relations," he said.
Metwally said among the challenges facing the African continent – which has about a 1.3 billion population – is combating terrorism, climate change and its impact on African countries, funding for projects, and also the issue of poverty which he described as a major challenge even now although it is generally declining.
The ambassador also acknowledged the lack of awareness about Africa among Malaysians – mainly on its culture, political system, food and lifestyle.
He said Malaysia could help African countries in the empowerment of women as well as skills and human capacity development.
Regarding South-South Cooperation, he explained that Africa and Malaysia have good partnerships such as through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP), a mechanism which he described as playing an important role in fostering better people to people relations.
Metwally remarked that there is also a need to have more cooperation in the field of sports, culture and tourism, adding that Malaysia is increasingly an attractive destination for honeymoon among Africans.
"If there are direct flights between African major cities and Kuala Lumpur, I think the flow of people and interaction will be greater and (there will be) more growth in two-way tourism," he said. – Bernama