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This 23-Year-Old Angolan Scientist Is China-Trained And Leading COVID-19 Labs In Angola

valdemar tchipenhe angola covid19 scientist africans on china
Credit: Ver Angola

A 23-year-old Angolan, named Valdemar Tchipenhe, who obtained his degree in biotechnology from China, is now back home to coordinate the COVID-19 diagnostic laboratories being set up in the country.

At age 17 in 2014, Tchipenhe won a Chinese scholarship and enrolled in eastern China’s Zhejiang Normal University after a year of intensive Chinese studies. Speaking about his experience of adapting to the Chinese environment, the China-trained scientist is reported by Shine.Cn News to have mentioned that “it is a completely different culture. I was 17 years old and it was the first time I left my comfort zone. I left my family, my friends, and the whole world in Angola to go to an unknown country.”

To be successful in learning mandarin at the beginning, the young Angolan said “I told myself that either I had the opportunity to continue speaking Portuguese or to deal with people who didn’t speak my language to force me to speak in English and Chinese. I isolated myself from the Lusophone population — Angolans, Cape Verdeans, and Mozambicans — and join people who spoke English in order to learn. It was a process that I thought would be good for me and I ended up learning Chinese and English at the same time. Since it’s in the rain, it’s better to really get wet.”

Tchipenhe, who plans to continue his studies in China in the future, is currently back in his home country to train the technicians who will process the samples at the newly opened Center for Laboratory Diagnosis in Viana. The center is part of the Huoyan (Eye of Fire) project of Shenzhen-based biology company BGI for the detection of COVID-19, Shine News said.

The Huoyan (Eye of Fire) project of Shenzhen has already been implemented in Togo and Gabon. As the third African country to host the laboratories, Angola’s center is able to process up to 6,000 tests per day and neutralize the dangerousness of the samples collected. Tchipenhe among the other 9 members is responsible for the creation of the laboratories, installing the devices and equipment, and train technicians. 

Tchipenhe who believes it is “only by testing can we avoid contamination and contain the virus,” established that the Chinese laboratories will increase 10 times the testing capacity. According to Shine News, Tchipenhe said “China has helped some countries, especially African nations, not only in terms of laboratories for detection but also offering equipment and training new technicians who will be able to act in the future in the detection of other pathologies.”

The Angola center, which costs US$7 million, is located in the Special Economic Zone in Viana, on the outskirts of Luanda. It was inaugurated on September 10. Besides Luanda, molecular biology and serology laboratories will be installed in the provinces of Huambo, Lunda Norte, and Uíje.

Sino-Africa Human Resource Development Cooperation

Tchipenhe is among the thousands of African human resources that Beijing has granted scholarship opportunities for them to study in China. These mostly young Africans are being trained in different fields.  

The Chinese government has undertaken tremendous efforts to help Africa’s youth through education. A UNESCO report highlighted China is set to offer 12,000 scholarships to African students in the coming academic year. This is more than the leading western governments combined. 

China can be expected to keep increasing scholarships for African students for many years to come, says Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at Oxford university. According to a CGTN Report, in 2018, the number of African students in China reached an all-time high with 16% percent of all international students in the country being from the continent. 

Do you know of other ways that Africans trained in China are making great contributions to Africa’s social-economic and sustainable development?

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