Mr Gareth Thomas, British Minister for International Development, yesterday announced that the Department for International Development (DfID) would contribute 3.5 million pounds over the next four years to help to establish a new programme of support for higher education in Africa.
Mr Thomas, who was speaking at a meeting with officials of the Association of African Universities (AAU), noted that the programme was designed to help higher education to act as a catalyst for poverty reduction and underpin the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDAs). The UK launched a new phase of its Development Partnership in Higher Education programme on May 15 2006.
The Minister said AAU in Accra would manage the fund, which would build on what the AAU was already doing to promote the revitalisation of higher education in Africa through the Africa Union and with other key partners like the Africa Capacity Building Foundation, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the International Development Research Centre and Partnerships for Higher Education in Africa.
It would enable the Accra-based AAU to further enhance regional partnerships in line with recommendations highlighted by the Commission for Africa.
Mr Thomas said higher education institutions had a vital role to play in revitalising education across Africa. In doing so they needed to be tied in more closely with national programmes for helping developing nations reach key Millennium Development Goals especially in the acceleration of efforts to make better progress in improving the quality of education in primary schools.
"This programme was designed to act as a catalyst in the fight against poverty in Africa and underpin the achievement of the MDGs."
Professor Akilagba Sawyerr, Secretary-General of the AAU, said, a revitalised higher education system was now generally recognised as critical to the overall development of Africa.
He said while the burden of revitalisation rested principally with African higher education institutions themselves and their governments, the task would be greatly facilitated by collective action at the regional level on common problems and opportunities, as well as by support from development partners.
"This is recognised in the African Union's Draft Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015) as it was in the report of the Commission for Africa."
Prof Sawyerr said money would not be shared but the kind of programmes developed would determine the amount of money to be invested in a particular programme. He said governments also have the role to financially support the development of higher education.