Monday, 21 October 2013

(76): University education and generational change in Africa VI

The second source of funding that will help universities in Africa is inter-regional consolidation. If you take countries like Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and emerging oil economies like Angola, they do better in comparison to other African countries. Equally important are the free trade zones, as well as lack of travel restrictions among African regions such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Southern African Development Community (SADEC) provide ample opportunities for exploring the potential of African universities, and generating more income. Institutions like Bayero University, Ahmadu Bello University or the University of Ibadan have every potential to explore the educational market in neighboring countries like Benin, Niger, Chad, Cameroon etc. the expansion of market and economic activities should not just be restricted to material goods and services, education should be the  most important commodity that should be transferred across borders.

The good news is that there is thirst for higher education almost everywhere, what is difficult is affordability, so if you take these institutions to the door step of these neighboring countries you will be in position to consolidate your income, and most importantly provide educational services. It is not as easy as it sounds, but when you have chief executives that have the foresight to pursue long term initiatives that will bring both quality and income, it is doable. The University I was teaching until few months back, Northumbria University in North East England, is now the largest provider of university education in Hong Kong, and making similar in roads in Singapore. These are countries in faraway Asia; and that business strategy started not long ago. Within short period the university saw its income rise, and began to recruit top class academics around the world, and began to compete with the best universities in Britain.

Other Universities from United States and the United Kingdom are opening campuses in Malaysia, the Gulf Region, China and North Africa. African universities should explore the potential within them, otherwise within short period, with the proliferation of private universities, and the European and American Universities seeking ways to maximize their incomes, our universities, which at the moment are attended by our brothers and sisters only, while the elites send their kids abroad, will become like public primary and secondary schools. I hope it never happens. About nine years ago, one of the Professors in Nigerian Universities, currently holding an executive position told me that, there is every possibility that in the next few years our universities will become like public primary and secondary schools.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw some pictures on the state of Nigerian campuses published recently in the Newsletter of ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities-Nigeria). Without exaggeration, some refugee camps are better equipped than the condition students learn in our universities. And these graduates are expected to compete with those in the Ivy League universities around the world.

The final strategy to help African universities is the need to create regional educational hubs in Africa. Here I mean, in each region, from the North to South, East to West and Central Africa, top class universities need to be produced that will serve the economic needs of that region. To do that, a political decision needs to be made. The African Union should be the one to make that political decision. In this regard I will suggest, that All African Heads of State agree to a Marshal plan on the development of education which will support these educational hubs to develop for at least 20 to 30 years, until African Universities are in the position to compete with  other universities around the world. One great mistake that Africa will make is to allow the current state of higher education to continue as it is.

Gone should be the days when universities simply produce glorified-literate individuals who can only join government services and append their signatures on documents to release money or approve contracts. African States should think of universities that produce innovators along our value system. In coming up with this Marshal plan, African philanthropists should be involved, and we are not short of them, many are racing to feature in Forbes  list of dollar billionaires. Left to me the effort of people like Mr Mo Ibrahim to give award to African leaders, which in recent years are difficult to find, I will rather suggest he gives that money to one African university to develop its infrastructure; that way good leaders can be produced who may not even need an award, but who see service to humanity as their reward.

Note: Please visit my blog:  to read the previous editions as I have made some modifications especially to some errors my attention was drawn to after publication.




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