The Pandemic Caused a Huge Drop in U.S. Students Studying Abroad in Africa

The Institute for International Education’s new Open Doors report finds that due to the global pandemic, the number of American students who studied abroad in the 2019-2020 academic year dropped by more than 53 percent from the previous year. All told, 162,633 U.S. students studied abroad. Presumably the vast majority of these students went abroad in the fall 2019 semester before the pandemic began.

Of all U.S. students studying abroad, 5,444 attended universities in sub-Saharan Africa. This was down from 13,455 the previous year. In the 2019-2020 academic year, Sub-Saharan African nations sent seven times as many students to American universities as America sent to sub-Saharan African universities.

Among sub-Saharan African nations, South Africa was by far the most popular destination. In the 2019-20 academic year, 2,159 American students studied in South Africa. This was down 59 percent from the previous academic year. But American students in South Africa accounted for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. students who studied abroad in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana hosted 747 American students in the 2019-20 academic year, down nearly 63 percent from the previous year. More than 600 American students studied abroad in Tanzania. Kenya hosted nearly 500 American students and 318 American students studied in Uganda..

While the data does not reveal what percentage of American students studying abroad in Africa are African Americans, we do know that of the 162,633 American students studying abroad in all areas of the globe, about 5.5 percent, were African Americans. This percentage has slowly increased since the turn of the century but declined slightly this year.

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