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14.12.2011 Africa

AUC Chairperson Launches Pan-African University and Commends Laureates of 2011 AU Kwame Nkrumah Awards

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, December 14, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Jean Ping, on 14 December 2011, at the AUC Headquarters in Addis Ababa, formally launched the Pan-African University (PAU), in a twin event that also included the 3rd annual award ceremony of the African Union Kwame Nkrumah Awards for Outstanding Women in Science.

In his opening remarks, the Chairperson expressed his joy and pride to see the Year 2011 end in such a high note and described the Pan-African University as a big adventure to which he is personally committed. It is incumbent on Africa, as the cradle of humanity, to cultivate excellence and strive to take its rightful place on the world stage, he added.

Chairperson Ping further stated that in a global context characterized by successive crises and the consequent shrinking of the Continent's financial and human resources, the AU has met the challenge of creating Centres for African Excellence in Higher Education, thanks to the collaboration of Member States, thus reinforcing the Pan-Africanist spirit and vision of Africa and its Peoples.

Dr. Ping recalled that African Heads of State have taken important decisions in recent Summits, aimed at speeding up the development and regional integration of the Continent, leading to the increased visibility of science and technology in official discourse at the highest level.

“The creation of the African Union in 2002,” the Chairperson further recalled, “was accompanied by the setting up within the Commission of eight technical departments, including the Department for Human Resources, Science and Technology, whose mission includes leading, promoting and coordinating the AU's science and technology programmes. This was followed by the creation of the African Ministerial Conference of Science and Technology (AMCOST), as a forum for regular debates on the importance of science and technology in the Continent.”

Chairperson Ping further pointed out the subsequent key moments in the history of the development and implementation of the concept of a Pan-African University, culminating in the launch of the first three of the University's five thematic Institutes.

He observed that one of the major challenges to Africa's development is the lack of highly qualified human resources and that has slowed down progress towards the achievement of the Continent's Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

As the overarching rationale for the creation of the PAU, the Chairperson stated:

“The lack of adequately trained academic staff has rendered African universities globally less competitive, leading to a brain drain from the Continent. According to a 2008 ranking of world universities, only four African universities featured among the top 500… and despite the influx of students into African universities, only 6% of Africans have access to higher education, compared to a world average of 30%. This is regrettable, given the acknowledged correlation between the percentage of a society's university-educated population and the society's social and economic progress.”

Recalling that the strategic vision of the Pan-African University is to create institutions for excellence in science, technological innovation, social sciences, humanities and governance, which will constitute a solid foundation for higher studies and research, Dr. Ping expressed the hope that the PAU will enable Africa to take its rightful place in the global knowledge economy.

The three institutions launched today are:

1. The Institute for Governance, the Humanities and Social Sciences of Central Africa, based at the University of Yaoundé II, in Soa, Cameroon;

2. The Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation of East Africa, based at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Juja, Kenya;

3. The Institute for Life and Earth Sciences (including Health and Agriculture) of West Africa, based at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

The Chairperson expressed his immense appreciation to the five Partners – Germany, Belgium, Sweden, the European Union and India – for their concrete commitments to support the Pan-African University.

The leaders of all three institutions were presented to the Chairperson, who commended and commissioned them to lead with excellence and integrity.

With regard to the award ceremony, Dr. Ping warmly congratulated the seven winners of the 2011 African Union Kwame Nkrumah Awards for Outstanding Women in Science, noting that their achievements fully valid the proposition that women in general and African women in particular can excel and fully develop their potential in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He lauded the women as role models, especially for African girls and young ladies.

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