A look at some regional initiatives

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Although there are many academic alliances between universities in the global North and universities in Africa, regional and Pan-African initiatives are also on the rise.

Two examples that come to my mind are the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA). The IUCEA brings together higher education institutions in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Similarly, SARUA aims to create a regional higher education sector for its 57 member countries. These include Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, South Africa and Tanzania. Regional initiatives have the potential to create mutually-beneficial relationships that strengthen the higher education system without uni-directional flows of funding, faculty or students.

However, not all higher education systems within each region are equal. For example, South Africa is one of the wealthier and more economically stable countries in SADC and so quite often, South Africa enters into agreements with other regional partners to ‘train’ their faculty (see Jansen, 2008 for more details). Similarly, within East Africa, Kenya has been the most economically stable and has invested substantially in strengthening the capacity and quality of its higher education system.

Individual universities across the continent may also be more eager to invest in international linkages with universities in the global North, in order to gain prestige or benefit from the capacity in Science and Technology education. A lot of funding is available for such linkages, from the UK, the US and other countries in the global North. Thus these partnerships become more financially attractive than regional partnerships, which are limited in their sources of funding. Increasingly, the Association of African Universities is becoming a key player in Pan-African university support and development – AAU conferences can attract faculty and ‘Development’ and ‘Foundation’ staff from all over the world!

So regional or international? What are the pros and cons? It’s a balancing act for sure!!

If you want to read some more about South African higher education:

Jansen, J., McLellan, C., & Greene, R. (2008). South africa. In D. Teferra, & J. Knight (Eds.), Higher education in Africa (pp. 386-420). Boston: Center for International Higher Education, Boston College and Association of African Universities.

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