China Attaches Special Importance To Young People In Its Space Cooperation With Africa

Prosper Oshomame, a 20-year-old Nigerian artist, is closer than ever to fulfilling his childhood dream of exploring space. His painting Shared Aspirations travelled to space with the Shenzhou-16 mission, which ran from May to October 2023. 

The artwork from the young Nigerian depicts an astronaut in a circle formed by the Chinese and Nigerian national flags and surrounded by stars, illustrating China-Africa collaboration based on a common goal. His painting, which gives an artistic expression to space exploration, was one of the 10 most awarded works in the My Dream Painting Competition for African Youth in 2023, and was exhibited at the China’s Tiangong space station. 

In total, more than 2,000 young Africans like Oshomame took part in the competition, which was organised in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Chinese Follow-up Committee of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) and several Chinese embassies in Africa. 

This activity is part of a series of initiatives to promote China-Africa exchanges and cooperation in the field of space exploration, which plays a key role in bringing people on both sides, especially young people, closer. 

Sowing the seeds of friendship 

China is not the only technological and industrial power in the world, but why has it taken the initiative to promote the “African dream” in space? The reason probably lies in China’s unique approach to space exploration. At a press conference before his fourth journey into space, Jing Haipeng, commander of Shenzhou-16, stated that exploring the immensity of the universe is the common cause and dream of all mankind, regardless of race, age or origin. The Chinese astronauts, who are commonly referred to as taikonauts, are ready to contribute to the building of a better future together with all those who strive for peace. “We will sow the seeds of science, friendship and dreams in the Chinese space station to take root, germinate, blossom and bear fruit,” he added. 

The Nigerian winner was deeply moved by Jing’s remarks. “Mankind has always had the desire to explore the universe, and young Africans are of no exception. China has made tremendous progress in space exploration. The pioneering spirit of the Chinese taikonauts encourages young Africans to pursue their dream of space,” Oshomame said, explaining the idea and inspiration behind his work. 

Hailing from a humble background, the young man sees art as a way of telling stories and making impossible dreams come true. In times of difficulty, Oshomame said he managed to turn his precarious living conditions into a sanctuary of inspiration, and his works reflect the resilience and determination to overcome adversity, like the astronauts who persevere in their quest for space. 

This sentiment was echoed by Rawda Ahmed Ali Al-Shawadfy, an Egyptian winner. Her painting China Is Africa’s Hope Towards Space depicts a handshake between a Chinese astronaut and an African astronaut on the moon, symbolising the deep cooperation between Africa and China. “China’s achievements in scientific and technological development are admirable, and I hope that African countries and China will work in synergy in the field of space exploration and make progress together,” said the first-year student in the Chinese Department at Suez Canal University. 

She also highlighted the impact of the first international painting exhibition at the Chinese space station, which not only showcases China-Africa friendship, but also spreads the ideals and dreams of humanity into the immensity of space. “I thank the Chinese taikonauts for connecting our youth and dreams with space exploration. I believe that these beautiful wishes will become reality,” she added. 

Exciting journey 

The painting exhibition helps to give young Africans a voice. Through their colourful and vibrant works, the participants reveal their personal dreams, ranging from a call for peace to education for all and harmony in diversity, and highlight their interest in knowledge, science, philosophy, travel and reflection. 

China continues to put young people at the heart of its space cooperation with Africa. At another major event Tiangong Dialogue – Talk with Taikonauts held in September 2022, young African people were in the spotlight as they had the chance to talk directly with crew members Shenzhou-14, benefitting from the fruits and development opportunities shared between China and Africa. 

Organised by the Chinese Mission to the AU, the CMSA and the AU Commission, the event provided a unique opportunity for young space enthusiasts from eight African countries to gain first-hand experience in space science and exploration. 

This meeting rekindled the ambitions of many young Africans with a passion for space exploration, such as Abdi Kumsa, an Ethiopian student. The launch of the ETRSS-1 satellite by Ethiopia in partnership with China in 2019 bolstered his hopes of realising his space ambitions. He said the event brought him closer to his dream of becoming a future African astronaut. 

This is not the first instance of taikonauts engaging with young Africans. During their visit to Namibia in 2019, taikonauts Chen Dong and Liu Yang interacted with local high school and university students. “Although this is my first visit to Namibia, I have flown over the country more than 200 times on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft. When I came here to meet you, I felt like I was reuniting with old friends,” recalled Liu, the first Chinese woman taikonaut in space.

Liu Yang (fifth left, middle row), China’s first female taikonaut in space, and her colleague Chen Dong (fourth left, middle row) pose for a group photo with local students during an interactive event in the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia on 19 August 2019. Photo: Xinhua

“Young people are the future and hope of a country, and the driving force behind Sino-African cooperation,” said Wu Peng, director general of the Department of African Affairs of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the painting competition’s awarding ceremony last September. “Your aspirations for a better life and your commitment to the development of China-Africa relations are the source of motivation for perpetuating and strengthening the traditional friendship between China and Africa.” 

Commander Jing echoed this sentiment, stating that the African dream is just the beginning for space exploration. He added that future China-Africa space cooperation will be an exciting journey. “If the younger generations are equipped with ideals and commitment, the country will have a bright future, the nation will have hope, and the China-Africa friendship will be promising.”

African Times has published this article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine.



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