The statistics for the African Fulbright Fellowship applications are perhaps most interesting for their confirmation of the typical narrative on American interest in Africa.
South Africa is the only country to receive over 100 applications on an annual basis. It receives almost twice as many applications as Africa’s runner-up, Kenya. Not surprisingly, Ghana, Kenya’s anglophone counterpart in West Africa, rings in at #3. No other country has received more than 50 applications for each of the last three years. However, it is surprising to see that Uganda and Tanzania each get roughly twice as many applications as Nigeria, which must frighten college students given the violence in the Niger Delta and the countless armed attacks of Boko Haram.
It is also interesting to note that neither Botswana or Namibia (which are no more popular than Zambia) are as popular destinations for Fulbright applicants as Rwanda. Perhaps the security that comes with an autocratic government combined with the recent memory of violence that is fresh but abstract does not scare college students away. Meanwhile, the number of applicants over the past three years with projects in the DRC, which has a population almost 15 times as large as Namibia and Botswana combined, can be counted on two hands.
Further confirming the American narrative on Africa, Senegal is the most popular Francophone destination, attracting more applications than Nigeria. What’s most troubling however is that the number of Fulbright applications in Africa has progressively dropped over the last three years, certainly an unexpected development given that other federal funding opportunities for graduate students have been axed in recent years. Does that also reflect America’s Africa narrative?