AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES ADDRESS DECLINE

SIX southern African universities, including the University of Stellenbosch , will today sign a memorandum of understanding aimed at reversing the decline of scholarship in Africa.

Africa is becoming increasingly “integrated” into the global economy and needs to change the underpinning of its economy from the extraction and supply of raw materials to high-order skills and knowledge-based production and trade, project co-ordinator Johann Groenewald said.

The agreement is being signed on African University Day, initiated by the African Union’s Association of African Universities in 2000, and forges a partnership between Stellenbosch University and the universities of Botswana, Makerere (Uganda), Malawi, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Nairobi (Kenya).

There are 31 doctoral students from 11 African countries enrolled in the programme at Stellenbosch.

African research is dominated by SA, Egypt and Nigeria, according to this year’s Thomson Reuters Global Research report. From 1999 to 2008, Egypt produced nearly 30000 papers, Nigeria just over 10000 and SA nearly 47000 .

Thomson Reuters found that many of Africa’s best students take their higher degrees at universities in Europe, Asia and North America, with few returning. This was in part due to a chronic lack of investment in facilities for research and teaching , it said.

The United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation said in a 2007 report that science and technology were critical to Africa’s economic prosperity and to solving problems such as food security and disease control.

The 225-member Association of African Universities hopes that its Partnership for Africa’s Next Generation of Academics, formed by today’s signing, will help reverse the brain drain , Prof Groenewald said. “If we don’t get involved in Africa we’re doing ourselves and the continent a disservice.”

Makerere University arts faculty dean Prof A Byaruhanga Rukooko said that universities face new challenges in the 21st century, based on highly specialised knowledge and superior-order skills.

“These can be best achieved and sustained through higher education and training, research, innovation and policy development that are marshalled by universities,” Prof Rukooko said.

Article by Business Day



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