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The biennial Conference for Rectors, Vice Chancellors, and Presidents of African Universities (COREVIP) is underway in Windhoek, Namibia, under the theme: “Advancing Excellence in African Higher Education”. Organised by the Association of African Universities (AAU) and hosted by the University of Namibia, the conference has assembled over 400 chief executive officers of African universities and other high-profile representatives from industry, development partner institutions, and strategic partner organisations from Africa and beyond. AAU’s capacity to convene Africa’s higher education community remains unmatched, as demonstrated at the ongoing COREVIP, through its ability to bring together stakeholders with diverse backgrounds from 52 countries, for purposeful deliberations on transforming the landscape of higher education across the continent.
The critical sub-themes guiding discussions at the conference are – Doctoral Education; Partnerships/Cooperation and Internationalisation; Institutional Differentiation; University-Industry Linkages; Role of the Intellectual Diaspora; and Funding and Financing. By addressing these topics during the diverse range of interactive sessions, including sessions for scientific paper presentations, the 22nd COREVIP is expected to shed light on the current challenges faced by African universities while celebrating the successes achieved thus far. The primary focus remains on generating tangible outcomes and sustainable solutions that will shape a brighter future for the continent.
AAU President Appreciates Stakeholders for Supporting the Advancement of African Higher Education
In his welcome address, Professor Saeed Bakri Osman, the President of the Governing Board of AAU, expressed his gratitude to attendees, esteemed partners, and stakeholders for their unwavering support towards the Association and its mission of enhancing the African higher education sector. He highlighted the importance of the conference through its provision of a unique platform to foster engaging discussions, spotlight successful initiatives, and generate key recommendations towards ensuring sustainable progress in Africa’s higher education sector.
Professor Oyewole Emphasises Global Collaboration and Highlights the Launching of Key Initiatives
For his part, the Secretary-General of AAU, Prof. Olusola Oyewole, said the conference also provides an opportunity to strengthen collaboration within and outside Africa. According to him, the participation of delegates from Latin America, the Republic of China, and other non-African countries demonstrates AAU’s commitment to foster global partnerships. He highlighted some key launch events taking place at the conference in collaboration with various partner organisations, including the launch of the Harmonisation of African Higher Education, Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA3) programme, a flagship initiative of the Global Gateway Package of the European Union and African Union Commission. The Africa Charter for Transformative Research Collaborations co-created by the University of Bristol, African higher education and research bodies and the China-Africa Consortium of Universities Exchange Mechanism, were all highlighted.
Namibia’s Commitment to Higher Education highlighted by Dr. Itah-Kandji Muragi as she addresses challenges and prioritization of investment
Declaring the conference open, on July 4, 2023, the Minister of Higher Education, Innovation and Technology of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Itah-Kandji Muragi, emphasized the deep sense of honor experienced by the country, represented by the esteemed University of Namibia (UNAM), in being selected as the host for the conference. She reminded the delegation about the role of higher education systems as seats of knowledge creation, skills development, invention generation, especially through research and innovations.
In her speech, Dr. Itah-Kandji Muragi informed the gathering that since its independence in 1990, Namibia has prioritised investment in higher education. She cited the example of an allocation of 3.8 billion Namibian dollars, representing 28.4% of the national budget for education. According to her, this investment makes Namibia one of the countries with the highest expenditure on education in the world. She reflected that despite this investment, access with equity remains a challenge, as funding to meet the demand for quality and equitable higher education still requires attention to effectively respond to the need to produce the requisite workforce in this digital era. She therefore concluded that “the conference has come at an opportune time to foster the sharing of international experiences, forge links and collaboration as we interrogate the challenges that confront the African higher education system”.
Prof. Kenneth Matengu Urges Action to Advance Excellence in African Higher Education
Addressing participants in a presentation titled, “Why Advancing Excellence in Higher Education Is Important”, Prof. Kenneth Matengu, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Namibia profiled and examined Africa’s position, vis-à-vis the rest of the world on key issues including research production, literacy rate, enrolment in higher education, university ranking performance, higher education spending, access to electricity, and the number of African Noble Prize Laureates. Africa’s scores, percentages, and numbers unfortunately remain weak, even lower than the global average in most instances, as Prof. Matengu showed in his presentation.
Highlighting the huge youth population of Africa, Prof. Matengu called on the gathering of intellectuals to put in place drastic and strategic measures to change the narrative and prepare for the future.
Concluding his delivery, he stressed the need for stakeholders to advance excellence in higher education and to share best practices on increasing doctoral education, strengthen south-south-north cooperation, and move away from being technology consumers to being its producers. Prof. Matengu also appealed to African governments and other key stakeholders to commit to financing Research and Development and student and staff mobility and for the diaspora to play its part, too.
Distinguished Academics Honoured with Recognition Awards for Making Impact on Africa’s Higher Education
Day one of the gatherings of academics, national leaders, and distinguished guests featured the presentation of awards to exceptional individuals who have made impactful contributions to Africa’s higher education. These were Honourable Prof. Peter Hitjitevi Katjavivi (former Vice Chancellor of the University of Namibia, and speaker of Namibia’s National Assembly) and Honourable Angula Nahas Gideon Angula (first Minister of Education, Culture and Sport in independent Namibia). The Association of African Universities also honoured key individuals and presented awards to its regional and some thematic focused Ambassadors. These were Emeritus Professor Peter Okebukola, AAU Higher Education Ambassador for West Africa; Professor Kenneth Matengu, Vice Chancellor, University of Namibia and AAU Higher Education Ambassador for Southern Africa; and Professor El Meteini Mahmoud, President of Ain Shams University, Egypt, and AAU Higher Education Ambassador for North Africa. The distinguished academics awarded also included Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede, AAU Higher Education Ambassador for Open and Distance Learning, and Professor Peter Katjavivi, AAU Goodwill Ambassador.
Looking Ahead – COREVIP holds the Promise of Igniting Transformative change in African Higher Education
The conference proceedings and resulting recommendations are anticipated to serve as a catalyst for the realization of a shared vision, driving the growth and development of African higher education. With eager anticipation, conference participants are poised for fruitful engagements and meaningful collaborations that will undoubtedly shape the trajectory of African higher education. As the conference sets the stage for advancing excellence, it is expected to play a crucial role in realizing the aspirations of “The Africa We Want“.
The journey has just begun, and the stage is set for the next three days of COREVIP —a transformative event that paves the way for advancing excellence in African higher education.
As the conference continues, the participants eagerly look forward to the forthcoming days, brimming with productive engagements, knowledge sharing, and collaborative endeavours. With each passing day, the conference is expected to shape the future of African higher education and contribute towards the realization of “The Africa We Want”.
Written by: Felicia Nkrumah Kuagbedzi, Senior Communications and Publications Officer
Reviewed by: The AAU Communications Team