Over the next half century, Africa is projected to have the highest demand for higher education and the largest workforce, with Africans representing 40% of the global workforce, delegates at the event in Washington, DC heard.
In the opening plenary, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, associate provost at Case Western Reserve University, highlighted the “remarkable growth” of universities in Africa over the past two decades, but added that “student growth is outpacing faculty growth.”
“Funmi Olonisakin, vice president for international engagement and services at King’s College London, said that African migrants are among the most educated immigrants in their country of residence and that postgraduate education must focus on ‘faculty feeding.’
Olonisakin argued that universities need to re-examine the motivation for internationalisation. “We need to adapt and engage the post-Covid reality with the changing international student population,” she said.
“Future trends have emerged. And we need to mobilize strategically,” she admitted, stating that such a “problem-solving approach” means responding to individual and societal needs.
“It is a social responsibility and requires a long-term approach. It is a journey; it’s an experiment; but we cannot do it in isolation. It requires a partnership.”
Olonisakin offered a number of recommendations, including developing simpler credit transfer and transcript evaluation systems, moving from branch campuses to co-developed programs, and leveraging resources to meet the scale of the challenge.
“We need to rethink the TNE partnership structure”
“We need to rethink the TNE partnership structure so that it does not only cater to partners in the Global North.”
Speak with PIE News following the keynote, Olonisakin highlighted key insights to promote enhanced cooperation between the global North and South.
“We have the same needs. We have the same challenges locally and globally. We have some of the best students in the world who may not be able to afford higher education,” she said.
She recommended that to address this issue systematically, leaders must find local and global like-minded partners who are interested in working together. “We need to triangulate the partnership in a way that works. The challenges may be the same, but it’s the hit point that may be different. So how it’s important to build partnerships,” she noted.
The British Council also hosted a panel at the conference to present its Innovation for African Universities program and discuss the role of internationalization in strengthening university entrepreneurship ecosystems.
The regional director of higher education programs in sub-Saharan Africa for the British Council, Adetomi Soyinka, spoke of the “side hustle culture” that exploded during the pandemic as many schools closed and mass layoffs took place.
“Many young graduates have ended up unemployed or employed and underpaid, an interesting development that has become too crucial to be ignored, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic which has closed schools for long periods of time,” Soyinka said. IAU was developed to provide a platform for students to hone their entrepreneurial skills.
Duval van Zijl, climate director of the LaunchLab at Stellenbosch University, argued that although Africa contributes only 3% to global carbon emissions, “population growth projections suggest that the continent is set to start now, the process of adopting low-carbon products. ensure a secure future’.
From tackling climate change, to using drones to grow crops, to solar cookers built to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the panelists shared numerous innovative startups developed by students in the IAU program.
To date, IAU supports 35 projects in more than 80 universities with almost 400 partners and more than 7,000 students.
The IAU is one example of a highly effective practice that is strengthening Africa’s position in the HE sector. And the leaders called for an increase in similar partnerships and programs that strengthen Africa’s geopolitical position.
“There must be massive investment in capital and capacity to build Africa in the global economy,” Zeleza concluded.