The African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Board of Executive Directors approved on Wednesday, July 24 an African Development Fund (ADF) grant of US$ 45 million to support the creation of a Pan African University (PAU). The new university consisting of five Pan African Institutes will focus mainly on science, technology and innovation.
The new university would be a groundbreaking step in strengthening higher education and building human capital in Africa. Africa has been slow to develop its science and technology sectors and commercialize its innovations. Currently the best African university ranks just 113th globally. Of the 400 top universities worldwide, only four are in Africa, all of which are in the Republic of South Africa.Also, while Africa accounts for 13.4 per centof the world’s people, it produces only 1.1 per cent of world scientific knowledge
The PAU will establish an academic network of already existing post-graduate and research institutions intended to serve all African countries. Consisting of five thematic institutes based in East, West, Central, North and Southern Africa the PAU will deliver programs in:
- Basic sciences, technology and innovation (East Africa)
- Earth and life sciences including health and agriculture (West Africa)
- Governance, humanities and social sciences (Central Africa)
- Water and energy sciences including climate change (North Africa)
- Space sciences (Southern Africa)
“Thousands of students all over Africa will benefit from this project. This is truly an amazing regional effort to help African universities achieve world-class status. It will increase the pool of African scientists and researchers not only to serve the needs of the continent but to help youth become competitive in international labour markets,” said Agnes Soucat, Director of the Human Development Department, AfDB.
The project will contribute to the skills needed by African countries to add value to their natural resources and enhance competitiveness and youth employment contributing to the AfDB’s overall objectives of inclusive and green growth.The PAU is also major step towards establishing the African Higher Education and Research Space by contributing to: (i) Efficient regional higher education governance system; (ii) Improved quality of higher education at the regional level creating strong links with the labour market; (iii) equitable access to quality higher education in science, technology and engineering fields; and (iv) increased number of institutions achieving world-class status.
This project will also help set up the governance structure of the PAU at central and country levels as well as academic and research capacity. The first three three PAU thematic institutes will be based in Kenya, Nigeria and Cameroon:
- PAU Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (Kenya)
- PAU Institute for Life and Earth Sciences (Nigeria)
- PAU Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences (Cameroon).
This important operation is a response to a request from the African Union for technical assistance and financial resources for the design and operation of a network of hubs of excellence in higher education to help meet the need for education, training and research in five key areas of African development.
Africa has only 35 scientists and engineers per million inhabitants, compared with 168 for Brazil, 2,457 for Europe and 4,103 for the United States. Shortage of skills has been a major constraint to Africa’s progress in science, technology and innovation. Due to low investment in research and development, Africa ranks low in global competitiveness and productivity. African students tend to opt for economics, business, law and social sciences rather than science, engineering and technology, hampering the continent’s competitiveness and growth. The result is a mismatch between skills produced and private sector jobs.
This project is in line with the Bank’s newly approved Ten Year Strategy for 2013-2022 and responds to the Regional Integration and Skills and Technology Core Operational Priorities of the Bank’s 2013-2022 Strategy. It also addresses the strategy’s areas of special emphasis such as Gender and Food Security. It is also fully in line with the Bank’s draft Human Capital Strategy and New Education Model in Africa (NEMA).