Migration of African Muslim Students to West-Malaysia

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Frauke-Katrin Kandale.

Frauke-Katrin Kandale is a postdoctoral researcher in the transdisciplinary research project “Africa’s Asian Option” and a lecturer at the department of Southeast Asian Studies, Goethe University Frankfurt. Her current research investigates the migration of African students to West-Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley.

Malaysia as a Muslim majority society experiences an influx of students and migrants from different African countries. Compared to other preferred destinations for study and living, as the UK or US, growing numbers of African students opt for Malaysia due to comparably easy accessibility of entry visas and affordable living costs. Especially after September 11, 2001, Malaysia positioned itself as an alternative study destination for those international students from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa who were not able to enter North American universities because of their Islamic religion. For the Malaysian private higher education sector, African students from upper middle class backgrounds turned out to be a well-paying target group. Approximately 25 000 African students are currently enrolled at public and private institutions of higher education in Malaysia. The Islamic religion, as well as English as the language of instruction, become important pull-factors when choosing Malaysia for study.

Although Malaysia is a multireligious and multiethnic society, African students are still a new phenomenon. Thus, they are sometimes labelled as Awang Hitam (black guy) actively engaged in the black market and in dark businesses. In this process of Othering, African migrants are being stereotyped as bogeyman by the Malaysian media. This paper will give insights in the lives and the coping strategies of young Africans from Nigeria and Sudan studying and working in the Klang Valley.

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