The vision of the African Union (AU) is “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, an Africa driven and managed by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international area.”
Education is the most important tool for equipping African peoples with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitude to be able to drive this vision. Quality Higher education in particular is imperative if Africa has to attain this vision, generate home-grown solutions to African challenges according to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) philosophy; and participate fully in the global knowledge economy.
Unfortunately, during the decades of the 80’s and 90’s, support for education in Africa was focused at primary and secondary levels, thus negating some of the gains that had been made in the late 60’s and 70’s in African higher education.
Consequently, investments in the higher education sector have not been commensurate with the increasing enrollment, leading to many challenges especially in quality.
The quality of many African higher education institutions has been further adversely affected in recent years by harsh economic, social, political and even conflict situations on the continent. According to a UNESCO report, African publications referenced in the Science Citation Index stagnated at 1.4 percent between 1981 and 2000 while research and development expenditures experienced a nose -dive from 1.3 to 0.8 percent.
In the meantime, higher education has also been hard hit by the endemic phenomenon of brain drain, which deprives the continent of some of its finest intellectual capital. Indeed, as a result of low salary scales and poor working conditions, many lecturers leave their universities for under qualified positions abroad and almost half of young persons who complete doctoral studies outside Africa do not return. Worse still, at the national level, the alarming rate at which lecturers leave universities for lucrative administrative positions in the central administration is glaring.
As pointed out in the African Union Strategic Vision document, universities and other educational and research institutions do not frequently exchange students or academic staff within the continent. Moreover, collaborative projects are often driven by external donors, and usually focused on problems which are of limited relevance to the continent. The last decade has seen a net increase in the mobility of lecturers between African universities, but this has been restricted to linguistic or geographic sub regions.
Fortunately, with the launch of NEPAD and the creation of the African Union, there is currently an “awareness by Africans that the Continent has arrived at a cross roads, and that it is absolutely necessary to change its future and infuse renewed hopes in the daughters and sons of Africa”. Africa’s children envision a continent whose people live without fear, and live sheltered from needs. In this regard, the African Union has set some strategic objectives whose realization strongly depends on the development of higher education.
After all, higher education is a fundamental tool for building consensus around a shared vision and agenda in the continent, promoting the emergence of an African society based on the principles of law, good governance and human security, addressing the structural causes of poverty and under-development, and enhancing the dynamism of African culture and creativity.
This is the reason why the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union launched the Second Decade of Education for Africa EX/CL/224 (VIII) Rev.2 which identified tertiary level education as one of the seven priorities to be focused on for the time period 2006-2015. Note that the worldwide programmes and projects such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Education for All (EFA) only emphasized basic education and universal primary education, and this has adversely affected support to higher education in Africa.
In the Addis-Ababa Declaration 2007, Assembly/AU/Decl.5(VIII), the Conference of Heads of State and Government made themselves more explicit by calling for ‘’the revitalization of African Universities’’ in their decision adopting the Consolidated Plan of Action for Science and Technology in Africa (2008-2013).
Higher education and research in Africa therefore need to be resuscitated, rehabilitated and strengthened. But the renewal process must be purpose-driven and anchored in the collective vision of the African Union, including the Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa.
One way to meet those preoccupations of the Assembly is to develop a continent wide network of high quality universities and research institutions: this approach is clearly corroborated by the Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa and the Consolidated Plan of Action for Science and Technology in Africa (CPA), that call for enhanced collaboration amongst higher institutions of learning and research in order to create a global pool of knowledge and innovation; and better links with industry in order to enhance relevance and contribute to addressing local challenges.
It is for these reasons that the African Union Commission (AUC) proposed, in 2008, the creation of the Pan African University (PAU). The PAU aims to promote network and develop programs and research centers within selected existing high quality universities in the five geographic sub-regions, namely Northern, Western, Eastern, Central Northern and Southern Africa. Each sub-region will host a thematic component of the PAU which will be committed to select and to network high quality centers developing similar programs and to serve as a coordinating hub for those institutions.
The strategic vision of the Pan African University is to develop institutions of excellence in science, technology, innovation, social sciences and governance, which would constitute the bedrock for an African pool of higher education and research. This would usher in a new generation of leaders trained to take the best advantage of African human and material resources, imbued with a common vision of a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa.
Mission and Scope
To realise the strategic vision, six missions have been defined for the Pan African University:
Develop continental-wide and world-class graduate and post-graduate programmes in science, technology, innovation, human and social sciences;
Stimulate collaborative, internationally competitive, cutting-edge fundamental and development oriented research, in areas having a direct bearing on the technical, economic and social development of Africa;
Enhance the mobility of students, lecturers, researchers and administrative staff between African universities to improve on teaching, leadership, and collaborative research;
Contribute to the capacity building of present and future African Union stakeholders;
Enhance the attractiveness of African higher education and research institutions for effective development and retention of young African talent, while attracting the best intellectual capital from across the globe, including the African Diaspora;
Invigorate dynamic and productive partnership with public and private sectors
The Pan African University is based on the following guiding principles:
Excellence and international partnerships in academic and research activities;
Academic freedom, autonomy, quality assurance and accountability; iii. Strengthening capacity of existing African institutions;
Encouraging intra-African mobility of students, academic and research staff;
Offering the African Diaspora an innovative continental framework to contribute towards the development of higher education and research in Africa;
Promoting inter-disciplinary and multidisciplinary research programmes integrated into development policy at continental and national levels;
Enhancing and optimizing use of Information and Communication Technologies for pedagogy, research and management;
Promoting innovation through technology incubation and patenting to ensure value addition.
Courtesy: African Union
Comment on this article!