The African Higher Education Summit to be held in March 2015 in Senegal will provide an energising space for African political and university leaders, experts and organisations – and friends of the continent – to revitalise interest in the sector and talk about the future. “This is a call to action. The summit will mark the beginning of a new agenda for higher education in Africa,” says Dr Tendai Murisa, director of the summit’s lead organiser TrustAfrica.Number of visits: 1712
The African Higher Education Summit to be held in March 2015 in Senegal will provide an energising space for African political and university leaders, experts and organisations – and friends of the continent – to revitalise interest in the sector and talk about the future. “This is a call to action. The summit will mark the beginning of a new agenda for higher education in Africa,” says Dr Tendai Murisa, director of the summit’s lead organiser TrustAfrica.
“At TrustAfrica we do not claim expertise on higher education. We claim expertise in bringing Africans and friends of Africa to a space where they can talk,” Murisa says. In this case, it will be a gathering of all higher education actors.
“We see dots that are not connected. There are many disparate activities taking place. That’s why we came up with the idea of a continental summit that can link the dots and maybe create a new synergy.”
Also on board with organising the summit is the African Union Commission, Association of African Universities, CODESRIA – Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa – the UN African Institute for Economic Development and Planning, South Africa’s National Research Foundation and the African Development Bank.
The government of Senegal is the host. “From the North we’ve got the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the MasterCard Foundation and World Bank,” says Murisa, who took over the leadership of TrustAfrica last Wednesday 1 October.
“We think all these organisations are movers and shakers in their own right, and that by bringing them together into a place we can revitalise interest and try to make sure that higher education is back on the policy agenda."
The African Higher Education Summit will be held in Dakar from 10-12 March 2015 under the theme “Revitalising Higher Education for Africa’s Future”. It will be limited to around 500 participants.
Summit aims and organisation
“One of the key processes that as TrustAfrica we are keen on influencing is the African Union-led Africa 2063 agenda – what Africa should look like in 50 years time. We think that higher education should be part of that kind of conversation,” Murisa explains.
“If higher education is going to play a central role for Africa’s transformation, what kind of investment is needed. And if higher education is going to contribute to increased growth, what kind of graduates do we need? What does the relationship between the marketplace and the university in Africa look like, and what needs to be done?”
The summit organisers are in the preliminary stages of reaching out to people, Murisa says. “We have been pleasantly surprised at the response of the government of Senegal, which has not only accepted being the official host but has also committed itself financially to the summit and is helping us to invite African heads of state.
“That has helped us to make sure that the summit is considered official. It is now appearing on the African Union calendar as an important event. So at a political level there is huge buy-in, which is what we were hoping for. This is one of the major milestones we have had in terms of preparing for the summit.”
The summit is making room for 500 delegates but is going to struggle to contain the numbers. The partners alone have 250 guests they would like to invite. “We cannot have more than 500 people or the summit will become difficult to manage,” Murisa stresses.
“There is overwhelming interest and we’re going to be seeing more. Our fear is that we are going to be overwhelmed by the demand from people who want to be at this meeting.”
In a way, says Murisa, the conference has already started. Papers have been commissioned and a team created to solicit input into what will be called the African Declaration on Higher Education.
The organisers are talking to lecturer and non-academic staff unions, universities and students across the continent, seeking wide input as there will be space for only limited representation in Dakar. “We’re trying to ensure that we get representation of all the different stakeholders.”
The summit itself will not be about presenting papers but about holding lively panels that provoke discussion. The website will feature background papers that participants – those in Dakar and those who cannot physically be there – can engage with and make input into.
“Our website will be live throughout the conference and will be used as a platform for soliciting inputs into the declaration and the other processes,” says Murisa. The main sessions will be live-streamed; there will be podcasts and feedback will be enabled and encouraged.
“One of the advocacy points is to make sure that African higher education gets to the top of the African Union’s agenda and that national governments also reprioritise. We’re hoping that what we do will trigger action beyond the two days.”
For more information about the summit visit http://summit.trustafrica.org/