Kigali, June 6, 2017 – Given the size of the African continent, in terms of land mass and population (1.2 billion), it is surprising that none of its many institutions of tertiary education feature on recent top international university rankings. Only as few as 10 of the world’s top 1000 universities are in Africa, eight of which are located in a single country – South Africa.
The highest ranked African university, the University of Cape Town, ranks only number 148 in the world today. Undoubtedly, for Africa to compete on the global stage, as well as for its countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, there is an urgent need to improve the quality of higher education across the continent.
It is against this backdrop that a conference was recently held in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital by the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa (SDGC/A), in Mobilising African Intellectuals Towards Quality Tertiary Education.
The challenge for Africa is to turn its demographic growth and youth bulge into real economic potential with a positive impact on development across the continent. Currently, many youths in Africa who have graduated from its tertiary education institutions are often not sufficiently equipped for the labour market and find themselves unemployed. Moreover, youth account for 60 percent of all Africans who are unemployed, with women representing an even higher percentage.
The conference in Rwanda was attended by the country’s president, H.E Paul Kagame and 300 participants from 23 countries in Africa, including the NEPAD Agency, represented by Prof Diran Makinde, Senior Advisor in the NEPAD Industrialisation, Science, Technology and Innovation Hub.
The conference concluded with the resolution to mobilise African leaders and African society to invest heavily and consistently in the upgrading of Africa’s tertiary education, with the goal of creating a high-level of performance throughout Africa by 2030. The aim is to achieve at least 25 African universities within the top 300 universities ranked worldwide by 2030 based on international rankings and evaluations that are relevant for Africa’s needs.
The other resolutions of this initiative are to:
- Foster the leadership of Africa’s universities toward the achievement of the SDGs and Agenda 2063, through revised curricula, degree programs, executive training, research, entrepreneurship, and policy advising;
- Create a Network of Vice Chancellors of African universities to promote the Kigali Initiative, with a Secretariat at the SDG Center for Africa, that will incubate and promote the Kigali Initiative and seek its adoption by the African leaders and other relevant bodies;
- Seek the support of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and other ongoing networks on behalf of the Kigali Initiative, including the promotion of the Kigali Initiative within the United Nations and its agencies;
- Mobilise African intellectuals, business leaders, and the diaspora, to support the Kigali Initiative and to contribute to its success;
- Prepare a Roadmap for Action with a potential for including a proposal for funding by the end of 2017 to be adopted by the Network of Vice Chancellors and to be presented to the leadership at the next meeting of the African Union in January 2018, as well as to other relevant bodies.