• Four years ago, the network France Alumni was officially launched in Kenya and having been initiated by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the network now gathers more than 370 000 alumni from French universities all around the world.
• AFRAKEN is an association for all Kenyan students who have ever travelled to France for their postgraduate, master and PhD studies.
On Thursday, the Association of French Alumni in Kenya (AFRAKEN) celebrated the first edition of France Alumni Day in Kenya in a colourful event at the Residence of France in Nairobi.
Four years ago, the network France Alumni was officially launched in Kenya and having been initiated by the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the network now gathers more than 370 000 alumni from French universities all around the world.
It also aims at establishing a recurring event for former international students from French universities all over the world where they meet and celebrate together.
Here in Kenya, the celebration of the alumni was organized as a tour of different cities.
It started with an oratory event at Moi University in Eldoret where alumni shared their experiences and memories of France.
It was then followed by a culinary demonstration performed by three alumnae from Le Cordon Bleu in Mombasa.
The tour continued in Nairobi with an exhibition of the creative work by Mutana Wanjira, a USIU and Audencia Business School alumnus.
The French Ambassador to Kenya and Somalia, Arnaud Suquet who graced the event said the France Alumni Day is a perfect occasion to showcase brilliant profiles and achievements in a range of fields
These include teaching and academics, research, gastronomy, creative and cultural industries, diplomacy, as well as business and management.
He added that the day marked the close of festivities with a job fair at the residence.
“With more than 400,000 international students, France ranks among the top ten destination countries for higher studies,” Suquet said.
“It is the first choice for sub-Saharan students, who accounted for a quarter of all foreign students in the country last academic year.”
He added that while France is particularly attractive to French-speaking students, there is still a need to increase awareness about French higher education institutions and programs taught in English among Anglophone students.
“This was the message conveyed by President Macron during his visit to Kenya in March 2019 where he reaffirmed that young Kenyans are most welcome in our universities, be it to pursue a degree, to participate in an academic exchange or to conduct research,” Suquet said.
Vice-chancellors from Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Moi University, Strathmore University, Technical University of Kenya, University of Nairobi, and USIU were present for the celebration.
AFRAKEN was also celebrating 12 years of existence within the country.
The association was founded in 2011 by Ambrose Kiprop who is an Organic Chemistry professor at Moi University.
AFRAKEN is an association for all Kenyan students who have ever travelled to France for their postgraduate, master's and PhD studies.
Kenyan students who are currently in France as also members of the association.
AFRAKEN President Viola Kosgei said that plans are underway to recruit undergraduate students and students who are under other programmes such as assistant de langue.
The aim of the organisation is to create networks for past, current and future alumni for innovation, technology and education.
Some of the main activities of the organisations include membership linkages, mentorships while incorporating the French touch, pieces of training and holding after-work social events.
Speaking during the event, Kosgei appreciated the French embassy and the ambassador for the continued support that the association gets.
“He really makes us feel like we are in France while we are in Kenya. If there is any activity that he might want us to be part of, he always calls us and we are grateful for all the help we get,” she said.
LIFE IN FRANCE
Viola Kosgei is a biochemist by profession and a lecturer at Moi University where she chairs the Chemistry and Biochemistry department.
In 2014, courtesy of a scholarship from the French government, Kosgei went to study in France.
She undertook her Masters in Enzyme RNA sciences at the University of Lorraine, for one year.
She also studied for another three years at the same university but undertook a PhD in life and health sciences with a specialisation in the biochemistry of cardiovascular diseases.
While living in France, Kosgei received financial support from the French government and was introduced to two different families that supported her with whatever she needed.
Studying in France was a nice experience for me, as everything I needed was availed to me from research materials, equipment and even facilitation to attend high-level conferences.
“When I went to France, I didn’t know how to speak French but when I got there, I took up free evening classes where I learnt and perfected the language. Thanks to the classes, I did a diploma in animal experimentation that was taught in French,” she said.
“I had a little bit of culture shock but I was prepared before I left Kenya. I went to Alliance Francaise, Eldoret for four months and then to the Embassy where I was told to use just three words in order to survive for some time; Bonjour, S'il vous plaît and Merci.”
Kosgei added that learning the language made life easy for her as interacting with the French made her understand that they were good people.
She, however, added that the Kenyan government needs to keep checking and supporting students who go to study in France.
“During the Covid period, they reached out to see if we were okay but it was not enough. In as much as the hosting country makes life easy for us, the Kenyan government can also create a community for Kenyan students and organise something that keeps us in touch with each other,” Kosgei said.
In September, AFRAKEN is planning to hold its first marathon that focuses on the sensitization of climate change, resilience and adaptation.
Moving forward, Kosgei said that they want to have more members join the association and ultimately become a link between the Kenyan and French governments.