SA varsities join forces with Africa’s best

2015-03-10 15:58

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Six South African universities have been chosen to be part of the African Research Universities Alliance, which was launched today in Dakar, Senegal.

The alliance was launched at the African Higher Education Summit, whose aim is to use the pan-African network as a platform through which to strengthen research and postgraduate training on the continent.

The local institutions include: the universities of the Witwatersrand, KwaZulu-Natal, Stellenbosch, Rhodes, Pretoria and Cape Town. Altogether, 15 universities were chosen.

“The primary focus of the African Research Universities Alliance is to build indigenous research excellence with the intention of asserting Africa as a powerful global force,” said Professor Adam Habib, who is also the vice-chancellor and principal at Wits as well as a co-initiator of the alliance.

The alliance, he said, can only be successful if there is commitment and support from key stakeholders – the government, the higher education sector, and local and global funding agencies.

“Africa’s time is now – this is an opportunity for Africans to thrive and to contribute towards finding the solutions to the complex problems facing the development of our continent today, and in the future,” he said.

Dr Max Price, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town, who also co-initiated the alliance, said: “The intention is to bring together our distinctive fields of expertise to achieve complementary and coordinated programmes of research and training, including addressing the key development priorities of the African continent.”

These are the five challenges confronting African universities and which the alliance will seek to address:

» The complex economic, social and development problems of the continent that cannot be addressed by institutions working in isolation;

» Transnational public policy and developmental strategies;

» The need to compete in the global knowledge economy using innovation and technology to foster development, led by locally trained postgraduate students;

» Opportunities for postgraduates to train at excellent universities in Africa without losing them to the global North; and

» The need to recognise that academic talent, state-of-the-art research facilities and financial resources are all limited and cannot be duplicated at individual institutions. Moreover, it is only viable to support a limited number of globally competitive research universities on the continent.

The following universities are also part of the initiative.

» Nigeria: University of Lagos, University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University

» Ghana: University of Ghana

» Tanzania: University of Dar es Salaam

» Kenya: University of Nairobi

» Rwanda: National University of Rwanda

» Senegal: Université Cheikh Anta Diop

» Uganda: Makerere University

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