The Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School in Tanzania began giving courses in mid-June to aspiring leaders from six southern African countries. Particularity of this establishment: Beijing has invested 40 million dollars there and it resembles the schools that have trained generations of Chinese Communist Party cadres. These are school benches like no other. They are reserved for the future political elite of several southern African countries and have been co-financed by China. It is the first Beijing-sponsored regional political school on the African continent. The first students of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School, Tanzania, started attending classes there since mid-June. They were greeted with a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping himself, who wished them “to take an active part in promoting China-Africa friendship and carry the spirit of cooperation [entre la Chine et le continent africain]”. Six countries historically linked to ChinaIn all, 120 attend this brand new establishment, inaugurated on February 22, which occupies 10 hectares of land in Kibaha, on the outskirts of the port city of Dar es Salaam. These aspiring leaders come from six countries – South Africa, Tanzania, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia – all of which have one thing in common: a historically strong link between the ruling parties and China Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School was inaugurated today. HE President Samia Suluhu Hassan together with other leaders of the six parties in southern Africa, namely CCM, ANC, FRELIMO, SWAPO, MPLA & ZANU-PF, and me witnessed the important moment. @SuluhuSamia @ccm_tanzania pic.twitter .com/kMr2gg49aN— Chen Mingjian 陈明健 (@ChenMingjian_CN) February 23, 2022 It is therefore no coincidence that this political training center was born in Tanzania. “Relations between the two countries are a special case: the Chinese Communist Party (P CC) and Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) [le parti au pouvoir en Tanzanie, NDLR] have continuously maintained close relations since the post-colonial period. The relationship between the two countries was described in Beijing as ‘friendship for every season’, which is the accepted formula for designating a reliable and lasting partner”, underlines Daniela Caruso, specialist in Sino-African relations at the United Nations University for Peace, in Costa Rica. Before Tanzania, China had also supported another school of the same kind, set up by the African National Congress (ANC), in South Africa in 2014. “But it it was only a local center, whereas there, the ambition is really regional because the school aims to train the leaders of six countries, and not just any one”, underlines Lina Benabdallah, researcher at the Wake Forest University in North Carolina (USA), which has been working for a decade on Chinese political soft power in Africa. In all these countries, the leaders belong to parties that have held power since the struggles for independence and “who are also the main champions in Africa of a cert form of socialism appearing to be close to the official Chinese ideology”, explains Adams Bodomo, professor of African studies at the University of Vienna and member of the Center for Sino-African International Relations. For Beijing, it is therefore “a way to have a platform at low cost to promote the Chinese model of governance in Africa”, says Lina Benabdallah. China is already in friendly territory, spending just $40 million to help build this political training center, a drop in the ocean of the billions Beijing has invested in loans to develop infrastructure in Africa. Courses with vague outlines And this establishment has everything of an “African branch of the schools of the Communist Party which have been training generations of leaders in China for decades”, estimates Obert Hodzi, specialist in the role of China in Africa at the University of Liverpool. For Beijing, “the goal is clearly to influence African youth to make them more understanding of the Chinese-style governance model, and perhaps to promote it in their respective countries,” adds Adams Bodomo. But concretely, what is the content of these courses supposed to put future African leaders on a Sino-compatible path? It’s hard to know: the links on the school’s website to the subjects taught don’t work and everything is done to minimize the role of China. Also, no information is provided on the teachers. Only the director of the establishment, Marcellina Mvula Chijoriga, is presented. This economist was a professor of finance and management at the University of Dar es Salaam before joining the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School. “We can imagine that part of the course will emphasize the heritage of the liberation movements in these countries and the importance of cooperation between governments during the era of the struggle against apartheid in Africa. of the South while recalling the friendship of China,” said Adams Bodomo. “It should also be noted that everything concerning this establishment depends, in China, on the international liaison department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, which is in charge to develop relations with ‘friendly’ political parties abroad and is not bound by the same diplomatic constraints as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for example”, underlines Obert Hodzi, of the University of Liverpool. In other words, the Chinese trainers who intervene may very well disregard the famous doctrine of non-interference advocated by Beijing and give governance advice. “It should be about how to deal with the opposition, maintain social peace and how Chinese-style governance can help economic development in African countries,” the researcher continues. “Win-win” for Beijing and Africa For Beijing, participating in this way “in the training of the future ruling classes in these countries is also a way of protecting its economic and political interests”, assures Daniela Caruso. If the students who have attended this training center go on to occupy positions of responsibility, they will be more understanding of the way Beijing does business in their country. At least that is what the CCP can hope for.” It is also a way to deepen friendly relations with countries in order to have more reliable allies on the international scene, and who will be more understanding with certain Chinese policies, in particular with regard to the Muslim minority of the Uyghurs”, adds Lina Benabdallah, the researcher of Wake Forest. But it should not be believed that this school was imposed on African countries which did not want it. “This is what Xi Jinping would call a win-win initiative,” said Adams Bodomo. The governments of the six associated countries are “very interested in learning more about a model of governance with a single party which has been so successful economically”, assures Lina Benabdallah. These courses also come at a pivotal moment in the political life of these African countries. “All of these ruling parties are, to one degree or another, under pressure from the opposition and are at risk of losing power. the matter”, explains Obert Hodzi. It is not only the economy in Africa for ChinaThe very existence of this school is also a reminder that China does not act only by economic interest in Africa. China’s “New Silk Roads” and huge investments in infrastructure, such as the port of Djibouti or the railway linking Tanzania to Zambia, have made it seem like it’s all dollars, rail and concrete in Africa for Beijing. As soft power becomes more and more important. But “for anyone who studies Chinese diplomacy, it is no wonder to see Beijing occupying this ground. For years hundreds of young Africans have been invited to study in China”, assures Lina Benabdallah. It is simply a less bling-bling approach than that of the loans granted with the shovel and a more long-term process. “This training center is proof that these efforts are starting to pay off,” adds the expert. same as “other countries that have promoted similar initiatives, such as Britain and the Program for African Leadership (PfAL) at the London School of Economics”. Former US President Barack Obama also launched the Young African Leaders Initiative (Yali) in 2010, which pursues a similar goal but for the benefit of different values. the African youth that is currently being played out”, summarizes Adams Bodomo. The main difference is that “China sees things bigger than, for example, the United States with its Yali program, which does not concern more than a hundred people a year”, notes Lina Benabdallah. This center of political training in Tanzania is, moreover, perhaps only the beginning. “China is making diplomatic efforts at the best time for it,” said Obert Hodzi. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Beijing appeared to be much more willing to provide vaccines than the United States, and “the war in Ukraine left many African countries with the impression that the West was only helping a lot timidly its Ukrainian ally”, emphasizes Obert Hodzi. The more the American aura in Africa fades, the more China’s rating can potentially rise with African countries seeking alternatives. A school, like the one in Tanzania, can then become a showcase for Chinese-style soft power.