Thursday 10th March 2022
The Chairman of the African Education Trust Fund (AETF) Committee, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, has led a three-member delegation comprising Dr. Jeannine Uwimana- Nicol (Snr Researcher, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, South Africa) and Prof. Goski Alabi (President of Laweh Open University, Ghana) to meet with the Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), Prof. Olusola Oyewole at the AAU Secretariat in Accra, Ghana. Accompanying the delegation was Mr. Wendell Addy, Chairman of the African Private Sector Summit (APSS), the organisation mandated by the AAU and Pan African Chamber of Commerce to implement a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two bodies which, among others, set up the AETF. The AETF was set up by the AAU and the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PACCI) to transform tertiary education in Africa and scale up the skills set of the continent for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The exploratory visit, according to Dr. Spio-Garbrah, was to consult with the AAU on ideas to make the Committee’s task successful. He affirmed the open-mindedness of the Committee in taking on board all views garnered to structure the objectives of the Fund. It was in light of this that the AAU would be officially written to by the Committee to consider gender, linguistic and professional expertise in the future enlargement of the Committee’s membership.
Welcoming the delegation, Prof. Oyewole expressed his confidence in the Committee due to the quality, experience and expertise each member brings on board to the fundraising effort to support Africa’s development through education and the private sector. He advised the Committee to deliberate thoroughly on whether the Funds would be used to wholly support higher education, including technical and vocational education in Africa or include basic and secondary levels of education, for which the consent of African governments would have to be sought.
His postulation on the application of the Fund for higher education included supporting mentorship programmes for African academics through secondment to industry, support for annual African innovation fairs that showcase African inventions and innovations and postgraduate scholarships and research grants, among others.
Prof. Oyewole also shared his vision of harnessing African expertise through the establishment of an African brain bank through which databases of experts would be built for industry, policy makers and other stakeholders to tap into the skills bank of academics for synergetic relationships.
Wrapping up, the AAU Secretary General paid glowing tribute to Mr. Wendell Addy for his perseverance is seeing to the implementation of the MOU between AAU and PACCI which has led to the establishment of the AETF.
The meeting agreed to undertake a baseline survey on the critical skills need for the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as well as to implement the other activities to be rolled out under the Fund, which like a baby in conception, would need to be resourced and housed when it is born. Prof. Oyewole offered AAU’s support to locate the Trust Fund at its Secretariat and in future have a full-time administrator for it when funding is secured. However, he advised against ownership of the Fund by either AAU or PACCI, which would betray the purpose of its establishment. All agreed that to ensure credibility and integrity, the AETF would require a higher level of management and proper governance, with the AAU Secretary-General advocating for the establishment of a 7-member Board to oversee it. He proposed the membership to include the AAU, PACCI, the APSS and the AETF Committee.
To ensure sustainability, it was also agreed that the relevance and impact of activities to be implemented must be felt and, as a private sector driven initiative, the AETF stood a better chance of sustainability unlike many funds established by wealthy individuals which go extinct with the demise of the philanthropists.
Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah expressed his gratitude for the exchange of ideas to streamline the work of the Committee and promised more engagement with the AAU in other steps of the Committee’s tasks.