AFRICA: Sociologist to lead donor's regional programmes

N igerian sociologist Dr Omotade "Tade" Akin Aina has been selected as programme director of higher education in Africa for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It was announced last week that Aina - whose widely recognised research has investigated urban poverty, governance and development - would "refine and implement the corporation's strategy to accelerate economic and social development in Africa by strengthening teaching, research, scholarship and leadership".

Aina, who for the past decade has been the Ford Foundation's regional representative for East Africa based in Kenya, will join Carnegie Corporation in September. Both Ford and Carnegie are founding members of the Partnership for Higher Education in Africa, a consortium of foundations that are investing $300 million over the decade to 2010 in higher education on the continent. The partnership has been supporting the development of university infrastructure and capacity, especially information technologies and internet connectivity.

"Africa's vibrant universities are helping to prepare a new generation of leaders in civil society, industry and government who can meet the continent's many needs," said Aina in a Carnegie Corporation statement. "We must continue to find innovative approaches to strengthening these institutions while pioneering new ways of linking them to offer the highest quality instruction to scholars, scientists and humanists."

Aina studied sociology at the University of Lagos and the London School of Economics, and has a doctorate from the University of Sussex. He became a professor specialising in urban poverty, governance and development at the University of Lagos, and published widely on a range of issues. He was also an activist, co-founding the Nigerian Environmental Study Team and the Lagos Group for the Study of Human Settlements.

Before joining the Ford Foundation in 1998, Aina was deputy executive secretary of the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. He has spoken and written about African universities, including authoring a monograph critically assessing the history of higher education on the continent, Quality and Relevance: African Universities in the 21st Century.

"Tade's grasp of Africa's complex development needs, the difficult questions he asks and the truths he seeks will help the Corporation better understand the challenges in building human capacity," said Carnegie's president, Vartan Gregorian.

"Throughout his career as a scholar and administrator, he has worked with determination to develop routes toward deepening democratisation, reforming public policy and building civil society." Gregorian added that Aina was selected after an international search for a leader who understands the imperative for human resource development in Africa, and champions the role of universities in development.

Created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding", the corporation's capital fund had a market value of US$3 billion last year. In Africa, Carnegie is working in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria, investing in initiatives that include networks of scholars and institutional support for universities and libraries.